The Christmas Truce, which occurred primarily between the British and German soldiers along the Western Front in December 1914, is an event the official histories of the “Great War” leave out, and the Orwellian historians hide from the public. Stanley Weintraub has broken through this barrier of silence and written a moving account of this significant event by compiling letters sent home from the front, as well as diaries of the soldiers involved. His book is entitled Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce. The book contains many pictures of the actual events showing the opposing forces mixing and celebrating together that first Christmas of the war. This remarkable story begins to unfold, according to Weintraub, on the morning of December 19, 1914:
Lieutenant Geoffrey Heinekey, new to the 2nd Queen’s Westminister 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.”………….
As night fell on Christmas Eve the British soldiers noticed the Germans putting up small Christmas trees along with candles at the top of their trenches and many began to shout in English “We no shoot if you no shoot.” The firing stopped along the many miles of the trenches and the British began to notice that the Germans were coming out of the trenches toward the British who responded by coming out to meet them. They mixed and mingled in No Man’s Land and soon began to exchange chocolates for cigars and various newspaper accounts of the war which contained the propaganda from their respective homelands. Many of the officers on each side attempted to prevent the event from occurring but the soldiers ignored the risk of a court-martial or of being shot.
Some of the meetings reported in diaries were between Anglo-Saxons and German Saxons and the Germans joked that they should join together and fight the Prussians. The massive amount of fraternization, or maybe just the Christmas spirit, deterred the officers from taking action and many of them began to go out into No Man’s Land and exchange Christmas greetings with their opposing officers. Each side helped bury their dead and remove the wounded so that by Christmas morning there was a large open area about as wide as the size of two football fields separating the opposing trenches. The soldiers emerged again on Christmas morning and began singing Christmas carols, especially “Silent Night.” They recited the 23rd Psalm together and played soccer and football. Again, Christmas gifts were exchanged and meals were prepared openly and attended by the opposing forces. Weintraub quotes one soldier’s observation of the event: “Never … was I so keenly aware of the insanity of war.”……………
The last chapter of Weintraub’s book is entitled “What If— ?” This is counterfactual history at its best and he sets out what he believes the rest of the twentieth century would have been like if the soldiers had been able to cause the Christmas Truce of 1914 to stop the war at that point. Like many other historians, he believes that with an early end of the war in December of 1914, there probably would have been no Russian Revolution, no Communism, no Lenin, and no Stalin. Furthermore, there would have been no vicious peace imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty, and therefore, no Hitler, no Nazism, and no World War II. With the early truce there would have been no entry of America into the European War and America might have had a chance to remain, or return, to being a Republic rather than moving toward World War II, the “Cold” War (Korea and Vietnam), and our present status as the world bully.
Weintraub states that:
Franklin D. Roosevelt, only an obscure assistant secretary of the navy — of a fleet going nowhere militarily — would have returned to a boring law practice, and never have been the losing but attractive vice presidential candidate in 1920, a role earned by his war visibility. Wilson, who would not be campaigning for reelection in 1916 on a platform that he kept America out of war, would have lost (he only won narrowly) to a powerful new Republican president, Charles Evans Hughes.
He also suggests another result of the early peace:
Germany in peace rather than war would have become the dominant nation in Europe, possibly in the world, competitor to a more slowly awakening America, and to an increasingly ambitious and militant Japan. No Wilsonian League of Nations would have emerged. … Yet, a relatively benign, German-led, Commonwealth of Europe might have developed decades earlier than the European Community under leaders not destroyed in the war or its aftermath……….
The Great War killed over ten million soldiers and Weintraub states, “Following the final Armistice came an imposed peace in 1919 that created new instabilities ensuring another war.” This next war killed more than fifty million people, over half of whom were civilians. Weintruab writes:
To many, the end of the war and the failure of the peace would validate the Christmas ceasefire as the only meaningful episode in the apocalypse. It belied the bellicose slogans and suggested that the men fighting and often dying were, as usual, proxies for governments and issues that had little to do with their everyday lives. A candle lit in the darkness of Flanders, the truce flickered briefly and survives only in memoirs, letters, song, drama and story.
Weintraub concludes his remarkable book with the following:
A celebration of the human spirit, the Christmas Truce remains a moving manifestation of the absurdities of war. A very minor Scottish poet of Great War vintage, Frederick Niven, may have got it right in his “A Carol from Flanders,” which closed,
O ye who read this truthful rime From Flanders, kneel and say: God speed the time when every day Shall be as Christmas Day.
Read more at: When Christian Soldiers Refused To Fight - LewRockwell