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The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce

Last time I brought this up was a Christmas time post in 2006. Time to haul it out again.

640px Illustrated London News  Christmas Truce 1914
WWI Christmas Truce, 1914

From Wikipedia (a worthy cause to donate to this time of year)

The Christmas truce (German: Weihnachtsfrieden; French: Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914. In the week leading up to the holiday, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another, giving one of the most enduring images of the truce.

And: Soldiers Against War – The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by John V. Denson; Quoting from Stanley Weintraub, Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce.

“Lieutenant Geoffrey Heinekey, new to the 2nd Queen’s Westminster Rifles, wrote to his mother, ‘A most extraordinary thing happened. . . Some Germans came out and held up their hands and began to take in some of their wounded and so we ourselves immediately got out of our trenches and began bringing in our wounded also. The Germans then beckoned to us and a lot of us went over and talked to them and they helped us to bury our dead. This lasted the whole morning and I talked to several of them and I must say they seemed extraordinarily fine men . . . . It seemed too ironical for words. There, the night before we had been having a terrific battle and the morning after, there we were smoking their cigarettes and they smoking ours.”

“War is the health of the state,” Randolph Bourne, 1918. From Wendy McElroy:

The thrust of Bourne’s essays is to attack the sanctity of war by showing how it leads to the moral collapse of society by kicking out the props (the principles) of peaceful interaction upon which society rests.

In essence, Bourne addressed the moral consequences of war upon a post-war society which had abandoned individualism in favor of “the herd-machinery.” He eloquently argued that post-war America would be morally, intellectually, and psychologically impoverished. By this observation, Bourne did not mean that peace time America would struggle under the increased bureaucracy that never seems to roll-back to pre-war levels. Many historians have made this point. Bourne addressed the less tangible, though arguably more significant, costs of war. For example, post-1918 America would be burdened by intellectuals who had “forgotten that the real enemy is War rather than imperial Germany.” In converting World War I into a holy war, the intellectual and psychological groundwork was being laid for future instances of what he termed “the sport of the upper class” — global conflict.

Merry Christmas spirit.

Update: Turns out there’s a 2005 French film that tells the story. It’s not on Netflix, but it’s free streaming on Amazon Prime.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

10 Comments

  1. Rhonda on December 24, 2014 at 09:32

    The movie “Joyeux Noel” tells this story very well.

    Here’s a link about it: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0424205/

    • Richard Nikoley on December 24, 2014 at 09:43

      Thanks Rhonda.

      Wasn’t aware of that. Turns out it’s on Amazon Prime video, so we’ll watch it today or tomorrow for sure.



  2. Steven on December 24, 2014 at 10:44

    Shhhh, war is the health of the state…

    We need a healthy state. With out the state how would I know what is right or wrong? Who would legally steal my wealth? Who would build roads? WE NEED A LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD!!!

    I get nervous when I do not have anyone telling me how to live.

  3. gabkad on December 24, 2014 at 11:20

    Jesus was an anarchist. Merry Christmas to all.

  4. Thomas on December 24, 2014 at 11:26

    Merry mythmas everyone!

  5. Jew+Lee+Us+C+Czar on December 24, 2014 at 23:53

    Great story. I wish they could have realized that this was the way to settle it all.
    Sounds like they didn’t really want to fight at all…

  6. michael goroncy on December 27, 2014 at 16:30

    What do you see?
    To me, the photo of the ‘Truce’ is hypnotic.
    I see!
    (1) The cliché’ “When ships were made of wood, and men (women), were made of iron”.
    (2) The facial expressions, body language, stamina and gaits of these men is remarkable, compared to 21st Century man.
    (3) If I had to live in that terrain of fucking cold, slushy, muddy,icy and miserable conditions, I would want to curl up and die. Not to mention the food.

  7. Richard Nikoley on December 27, 2014 at 16:55

    “To me, the photo of the ‘Truce’ is hypnotic.”

    Not sure what the scare quotes mean (it’s factually true), but it’s not a photo, but an artist rendition.

  8. michael goroncy on December 27, 2014 at 19:18

    I say Yo! Richard
    I am guilty of being a tad abstract…as in “Art imitates life”.
    Through the ages, man has expressed his feeling in either Art, Paintings or Poetry. These people were genuine in expressing their vision and feelings with pure innocence. Look how Van Gough portrayed bad postured, tired peasants in the fields (and you can imagine that nobody in the Village could ‘crack a joke’) .

    There is nothing deep here, but purely a comparison of life then (and before) and how life is presently.

    (1) Technology, the access to information/knowledge. Convenience of everything that wasn’t there 30years ago, like fast food that harms us (although only the ignorant bear the brunt…80% (only a guess)…Extremes of good and bad.
    (2) In vino Veritas. On the third litre….excuse em oie.
    (3) Today..Gyms that are stuffy….go for a barefoot walk (preferably along the water) Grounding/Earthing. Supplements, Why? Because you think them beneficial…get educated and tweek what you need. The Nikoley (theme song) real food.
    (4) Drunks are always irritating…just fell of my chair.

  9. Kirsten Mortensen on January 2, 2015 at 06:28

    See also Faulkner’s novel, “A Fable.”

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