Veterans for Peace Radio Hour

December 25, 2013

The Christmas Truce of 1914



On Christmas Eve, 1914, to the astonishment of French and British forces along the Western front, 5 months into The Great War, the strains of Stille Nacht, (Silent Night)came from the German trenches. Small trees with candles were placed on embankments. The British and French responded in their native tongues and the beginning of a truce was born. On Christmas day, some Germans emerged from their positions, unarmed and invited the British and French to meet on middle ground, “No Man’s Land”. There were exchanges of various kinds, chocolates, coffee, cigarettes, food. Discussions were begun on why this war was being fought in the first place; the line soldiers always question the orders from those who give them but never have to actually fight the battles. At this point, The Great War was in a position to end, armies ready to stack arms realizing they had more in common than differences.


Documented soccer games were played, the air was filled with what we would call military chivalry, the last time such an attitude would exist in war. WWI might have ended shortly after this truce with combatants refusing to fight on. But it was not to be so, a British Captain fired a shot and killed a German soldier, under orders from those who would never see the carnage from their HQ’s in chateaus, those who gave the orders would never come close to the trenches until well after the battles were over and the fields cleared of the dead and maimed. Just under 4 years later, with millions dead and destroyed physically and mentally, then war would end in a rail car with the Central Powers surrendering to the Allies. The terms of which were dictated by Field Marshal Foch set the stage for WWII. Foch wanted to crush Germany economically and he succeeded, the flu of 1918 added to the carnage, leaving just enough Europeans to repopulate and fight in the next generation, a mere 20 year later, on 1 Sept 1939, a former corporal in the German Army, born in Austria, sent some German soldiers, in Polish uniforms into Poland and had them fire into German territory creating the opportunity for hundreds of millions more to die around the world. Hitler could hold a grudge.


“The War To End All Wars”, has kept war going for 100 years. We should have gone far beyond this by now, learning that Peace is the great equalizer; we seem incapable of getting past our willingness to kill each other. We are a sad excuse for a species.



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