American soldiers. Thanks for the kind words. The Germans produced a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread. Well done. Even so, accounts of a Christmas Truce refer to a suspension of hostilities only between the British and the Germans. An American soldier and a Belgian woman fall in love during a brief holiday truce amid the Battle of the Bulge. Elisabeth returned all their weapons and the enemies shook hands and left, in opposite directions. Now, Researchers Found Another, Renewing Hope for the Species, The History Behind Amazon's 'One Night in Miami', Why I Captured This MRI of a Mother and Child, Fourteen Fun Facts About Love and Sex in the Animal Kingdom, The Rise and Fall of America's Lesbian Bars, Meet Joseph Rainey, the First Black Congressman, The State of American Craft Has Never Been Stronger. I understand Silent Night (the Lifetime movie) added a dramatic touch at the end which didn't happen, but, overall, it's based on this incident. In the midst of war and fighting, soldiers along the western front stopped fighting in an unofficial cease fire on Christmas. It was certainly not general—there are plenty of accounts of fighting continuing through the Christmas season in some sectors, and others of men fraternizing to the sound of guns firing nearby. I should think there were a couple of hundred taking part. Hello, wtaylorjr2001. The Christmas Truce of 1914 is one of the most interesting events that occurred during World War I. I am thankful I never served in a war but want to always remember the great cost of our freedom. Fritz's father stayed behind to work and visited them when he could. Joan Veronica Robertson from Concepcion, Chile on December 06, 2012: Hi David, another masterpiece! When asked whether they should instead go to Monschau, the corporal shook his head and said it was now in German hands. Generals on both sides, determined to prevent fraternization in future, saw to it that such activities would be severely punished and so there were no more Christmas truces the rest of that war or the next. A First World War soldier’s account of the Christmas truce of 1914 has been released for the first time, chronicling “one of the most extraordinary sights anyone has ever seen”. An other factor which could make it possible - the end of the war. Then again in my own language Sinhala (Native language of Sri Lanka) later. Hi UnnamedHarald. I'm glad you liked it and you are correct, I think, about sensationalizing it. New players: Download the game and use the code ARMISTICE for free goodies! But what was the real story behind the truce? His father was also a pastor and joined the Confessing Church led by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It was a very touching time when the pastor, my east German friend introduced me too, showed a small photo that was in his father's shirt pocket when his father was killed. By the time the meal was ready, the atmosphere was more relaxed. So, in fact, this story has been verified by several different sources. The truce lasted through the night and into the morning. Fritz Vincken also managed to later contact one of the other Americans, but none of the Germans. The Pastor is a story in itself. Ralph told Fritz “Your mother saved my life”. WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on November 29, 2012. It fits the season perfectly, doesn't it? In World War Two, there was no truce similar to the one that occurred during Christmas in 1914 in World War One. www.amazon.com/Silent-Night-Linda-Hamilton/dp/B000C8STSK/ref=pd_sim_sbs_mov_1, unsolvedmysteries.wikia.com/wiki/The_Friends_of_Fritz_Vincken, pulpitbytes.blogspot.com/2007_01_01_archive.html, ba-ez.org/educatn/LC/OralHist/vincken.htm. Question: Were there any other WWII truces? Great story, superbly written. David Hunt (author) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on September 27, 2015: Henry, here are some addresses I researched for this article. The Russians, on the Eastern Front, still adhered to the old Julian calendar in 1914, and hence did not celebrate Christmas until January 7, while the French were far more sensitive than their allies to the fact that the Germans were occupying about a third of France—and ruling French civilians with some harshness. British memorial commemorating the 1914 Christmas Truce Although disappointed to be far from home on Christmas Eve, Brewer at least took solace in the fact that … In English, he explained that the cold had prevented infection but he'd lost a lot of blood. They had been walking for three days while the sounds of battle echoed in the hills and valleys all around them. The Christmas truce which was a not official truce. Of course, not every man on either side was thrilled by the Christmas Truce, and official opposition squelched at least one proposed Anglo-German soccer match. Yeah, it can put a lump in your throat if you're not careful. Malcolm Brown & Shirley Seaton. It was simply a mêlee—nothing like the soccer that you see on television. There was a knock on the door. The Christmas Truce has become one of the most famous and mythologised events of the First World War. View of the type of terrain in the Huertgen Forest. Looking at the Americans' map, the corporal told them the best way to get back to their lines and provided them with a compass. Tom Ware from Sydney, Australia on September 01, 2015: This is a wonderful story. Dazed by these events, they slowly complied and Elisabeth went inside, demanding the same of the Americans. I was half-way through writing this when it occurred to me that it is a timely Christmas story. Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email. Several factors combined to produce the conditions for this Christmas Truce. As Elisabeth said grace, Fritz noticed tears in the exhausted soldiers' eyes-- both German and American. Everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves. While Elisabeth tended to the cooking, one of the German soldiers, an ex-medical student, examined the wounded American. Fritz and his parents survived the war. David Hunt (author) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on November 30, 2012: Alex, you are absolutely correct-- these were Wehrmacht ("ordinary") soldiers and, of course, totally different from the Waffen SS. Give a Gift. Muslims do not celebrate Chritsmas and v.v. Their Christmas meal would now have to wait for his arrival. In Frelinghien, a French village, there is a plaque dedicated solely to the Christmas truce … A tear in my eye here David. I had of course heard of the Christmas truce during WWI but had never heard this story before. The game ended 3-2 for Fritz.”, Exactly what happened between the Saxons and the Scots is difficult to say. On Christmas Eve in 1944, a young boy … The frozen ground was no great matter. David Hunt (author) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on December 29, 2016: The history of this story is also interesting. Poor Hermann, he had to be sacrificed for the greater good. I replied that this was … Whitehaven, Cumbria: Operation Plum Puddings, 2006; Marc Ferro et al. Riflemen Andrew and Grigg (center)—British troops from London—during the Christmas Truce with Saxons of the 104th and 106th Regiments of the Imperial German Army. Nicely done. The one in 1914 definitely was not official. The war diary of the Scots Guards records that a certain Private Murker “met a German Patrol and was given a glass of whisky and some cigars, and a message was sent back saying that if we didn’t fire at them, they would not fire at us.”. For now though I can only say thank you for sharing something that is worth studying. But for those who did survive, the truce was something that would never be forgotten. The Illustrated London News of January 9 1915. When I found a couple of sources that mentioned Hermann the rooster, there was no way I was going to leave him out of it. In Graves’s version, the score remains 3-2 to the Germans, but the writer adds a sardonic fictional flourish: “The Reverend Jolly, our padre, acted as ref too much Christian charity—their outside left shot the deciding goal, but he was miles offside and admitted it as soon as the whistle went.”. Perhaps it was inevitable that some men on both sides would produce a ball and—freed briefly from the confines of the trenches—take pleasure in kicking it about. It wasn't historically momentous like the unofficial 1914 truce-- but it was momentous at a human level. Privacy Statement I so love all the movies which come around Christmas time with soldiers being entertained and so on at Christmastime. By December 1914, the men in the trenches were veterans, familiar enough with the realities of combat to have lost much of the idealism that they had carried into war in August, and most longed for an end to bloodshed. The Christmas Truce of 1914 eventually ended, and the goodwill shared between enemies for a brief moment during WWI evaporated as fighting resumed. It is left to a fourth recollection, given in 1983 by Ernie Williams of the Cheshire Regiment, to supply a real idea of what soccer played between the trenches really meant. German-speaking British troops were scarce, but many Germans had been employed in Britain before the war, frequently in restaurants. That woman must be a saint now. I envy your experiences behind the iron curtain in the eighties, brus. The corporal asked sharply if there were Americans inside and she said there were three who were lost and cold like they were and one was wounded. David Hunt (author) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on December 06, 2012: Judi, thanks for commenting. The Christmas truce offers a glimpse of an alternative history: a 20th century in which, starting at Christmas 1914, everyone stops shooting and starts playing soccer. or So we kept up a running conversation with the Germans, all the while our hands ready on our rifles. I suggest contacting these guys. Yet there were still odd moments of joy and hope in the trenches of Flanders and France, and one of the most remarkable came during the first Christmas of the war, a few brief hours during which men from both sides on the Western Front laid down their arms, emerged from their trenches, and shared food, carols, games and comradeship. I grabbed my binoculars and looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of our soldiers exchanging cigarettes, schnapps and chocolate with the enemy. I met a Pastor there who's father was killed by the Americans but he shared how thankful he was for the help from the Americans to free them of the tyranny. Lieutenant C.E.M. Attempts were made in several spots to involve the Germans—the Queen’s Westminsters, one private soldier wrote home, “had a football out in front of the trenches and asked the Germans to send a team to play us, but either they considered the ground too hard, as it had been freezing all night and was a ploughed field, or their officers put the bar up.” But at least three, and perhaps four, other matches apparently took place between the armies. Thanks for reading and commenting. There was no referee and no score, no tally at all. The Germans contributed a bottle of red wine and a loaf of rye bread. On Dec. 25, 1915, the 28-year-old Colquhoun had written in his diary: “A German officer came forward and asked me for a truce for Christmas. Another indication of a good article is the good conversation in comments that has become a continuation of the article! I truly enjoyed reading this hub, Harald. Thank you for sharing and voting up. But up and down our line one heard the men answering that Christmas greeting from the enemy. “Demystifying the Christmas truce.” The Heritage of the Great War, accessed December 19, 2011; Stanley Weintraub. Thanks very much for your kind comment. Von Sinner then also fired two shots in the air and went back into his trench.”. And thanks, too, to Will Starr for sharing. The New York Times investigated it shortly after Reagan's speech, verifying it had appeared in the January 1973 edition of Reader's Digest and discovering that Reader's Digest had also done extensive research on such a hard-to-believe story. Voted up, of course and will share around. While it lasted, though, the truce was magical, leading even the sober Wall Street Journal to observe: “What appears from the winter fog and misery is a Christmas story, a fine Christmas story that is, in truth, the most faded and tattered of adjectives: inspiring.”, The first signs that something strange was happening occurred on Christmas Eve. The merchant sailors were probably around ten years older than us. The most detailed of these stories comes from the German side, and reports that the 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment played a game against Scottish troops. “We are Saxons, you are Anglo-Saxons,” one shouted across no man’s land. I was in that region in March, and they know their stuff for sure! Yet it seems the sheer misery of daily life … Hi Larry. I think this is okay in comments because I'm not actually promoting these other sites. Your own experience is also a reminder that, given the chance, ordinary people are capable of overlooking differences and being friends. The truce occurred along the Western Front. Although Williams was recalling a game played on New Year’s Eve, after there had been a thaw and plenty of rain, his description chimes with the little that is known for sure about the games played on Christmas Day: ball appeared from somewhere, I don’t know where, but it came from their side… They made up some goals and one fellow went in goal and then it was just a general kickabout. I served in Vietnam and there was no way this could have happened between us and the VC or the NVA! A couple of friends and I met some merchant sailors. Pavlo, I think you're right on both counts. Christopher Antony Meade from Gillingham Kent. I'm so glad some of them got to come together again. Elisabeth Vincken and her 12-year-old son, Fritz, had been hoping her husband would arrive to spend Christmas with them, but it was now too late. Continue London: Simon & Schuster, 2001. Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce - Kindle edition by Weintraub, Stanley. I'm glad I came across it when I did. rlbertoo, I hadn't heard of it either, although I knew there was nothing in WW2 like the truce in WW1. Men from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers meet their German counterparts in no man's land somewhere in the deadly Ypres Salient, December 26, 1914. “Stupidly I destroyed it—I was so angry. In a short while, all of us pretty drunk, we began singing Marshal Songs from WW2. Still, it could have gone quite the other way--look at the butchery at Malmady, where 80 Americans prisoners were machine gunned to death. Hey, Gus-- nice to hear from you. Terms of Use Compliments are being exchanged but am nevertheless taking all military precautions.” Further along the line, the two sides serenaded each other with carols—the German “Silent Night” being met with a British chorus of “The First Noel“—and scouts met, cautiously, in no man’s land, the shell-blasted waste between the trenches. It is a touching event, isn't it? I actually doubt it could happened if the representatives of absolutely different religions met. It's very possible that the draftees and other soldiers on both sides of the Civil War really did not want to be there, and that a typical soldier harbored precious little animosity toward his counterparts on the opposing side. So well written as is usual for you. Answer: The mother was able to provide a large roast chicken which was then made into a stew with potatoes and, perhaps, some other stored root vegetables. He needed food and rest. I'd not ever heard of this event, so I thank you, once again, for some new and interesting information. Not a shot was fired. Thank you faith, brus and isadore for your kind comments. Remembering the Christmas Truce. Voted up and interesting/beautiful. Two of the Germans were only sixteen; the corporal was 23. Advertising Notice The Famous Christmas Truce of 1914 _____ In the midst of heated battle during World War I, there was a brief moment of true “Peace on earth and good will toward men”. The Christmas Truce 1914: Operation Plum Puddings, Archaeologists Unearth Egyptian Queen's Tomb, 13-Foot 'Book of the Dead' Scroll, How Wolves Are Driving Down Mountain Lion Populations, Wolverine Captured on Yellowstone Trail Cameras for the First Time, Yes, Giant Technicolor Squirrels Actually Roam the Forests of Southern India, 3-D Reconstruction of Fossil Reveals Secret Sex Life of Dinosaurs, Caligula's Gardens, Long Hidden Beneath Italian Apartment Building, to Go on View, You Can Now Explore the CIA's 'Entire' Collection of UFO Documents Online, Monument to Coretta Scott and MLK Is Coming to Boston, City Where They Met, The Best Board Games of the Ancient World, The 'Last' Female Swinhoe's Softshell Turtle Died in 2019. My late grandfather was one of those soldiers. “I wish I had kept that signal,” he wrote years later. Good luck.”, Fighting erupted again the next day, though there were reports from some sectors of hostilities remaining suspended into the New Year. I imagine they had a lasting impact on your life. From what I've seen it's a beautiful place for tourists and hikers. It was only in the British sector, then, that troops noticed at dawn the Germans had placed small Christmas trees along parapets of their trenches. Hello David, This story we have shared with many and have a dear friend who worked in the hospital in Maryland at that time and attended Ralph there. Larry Fields from Northern California on November 30, 2012: Hi David. Congratulations! Understandably, there was a lot of fear and tension in the cabin as the Germans and Americans eyed each other warily, but the warmth and smell of roast Hermann and potatoes began to take the edge off. Just how widespread the truce was is hard to say. Gustave Kilthau from USA on November 29, 2012: Thank you very much for presenting such a meaningful and well-written story. He talked about the German truce. The night wore on to dawn—a night made easier by songs from the German trenches, the pipings of piccolos and from our broad lines laughter and Christmas carols. David Hunt (author) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on December 05, 2012: Thanks, fpherj48. The story only spread after the boy grew up and told the story to Reader's Digest (it became so famous that Ronald Reagan mentioned it in a speech when he visited Germany). Officers, fearing treachery, ordered the men to be silent. This is a copy of the original story written by Fritz Vincken as I remember it from Readers Digest 1973, http://storytruceintheforest.blogspot.com/. When fighting resumes, they promise to reunite on the first … The Vinckens had been bombed out of their home in Aachen, Germany and had managed to move into the hunting cabin in the Hurtgen Forest about four miles from Monschau near the Belgian border. Instead, they managed to locate Fritz's mother in Aachen, West Germany. Thanks for the comment, Saif. Fritz flew to Frederick in January 1996 and met with Ralph Blank, one of the American soldiers who still had the German compass and map. Hi, Graham. There was more singing, and in at least one spot presents were exchanged. Elisabeth blew out the candles and opened the door to find two enemy American soldiers standing at the door and a third lying in the snow. He told this story all the time. Hermann's namesake was Hermann Goering, the Nazi leader, who Elisabeth didn't care much for. It is like a miracle which can happen in the Chrtmas time only. Blood and peace, enmity and fraternity—war’s most amazing paradox. It turned out these guys were all U-boat crew only ten years earlier. Robert Wayne Voss. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. That whole region is the best for enjoying Germany outside of Bavaria, but I'm a huge history guy. Workmanship was far less sophisticated than it became later in the war, and the muddy conditions were terrible. However, 30 years later during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, a small Christmas truce happened for three American soldiers. Despite the initial massive success the Germans had when the attack started, it was a last, desperate gamble of an exhausted army, so the common soldier may have felt the war was becoming pointless. California Do Not Sell My Info For those entrenched in this war, there would be no Christmas truce like there had been during WWI. You tell wonderful stories in such an entertaining way.........UP+++. And it does not seem to have been uncommon for the resumption of the war to be marked with further displays of mutual respect between enemies. Eventually, this “developed into a regulation football match with caps casually laid out as goals. In the one detailed eyewitness account that survives—albeit in an interview not given until the 1960s—Lieutenant Johannes Niemann, a Saxon who served with the 133rd, recalled that on Christmas morning: the mist was slow to clear and suddenly my orderly threw himself into my dugout to say that both the German and Scottish soldiers had come out of their trenches and were fraternizing along the front. Knowing the penalty for harboring the enemy was execution, Elisabeth, white as a ghost, pushed past Fritz and stepped outside. Yet, the Christmas Truce … You can't afford to let men see your enemy as human or anything but monsters... or they won't kill each other as efficiently. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Far more common was an interest in “football”—soccer—which by then had been played professionally in Britain for a quarter-century and in Germany since the 1890s. Please forgive me. Suzie from Carson City on December 05, 2012: Harald This is an amazing and heartwarming story! Of course, only a few men involved in the truce could share reminiscences of London. David Hunt (author) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on April 14, 2015: That is amazing Anita A. I hope I did his story justice. Elisabeth didn't speak English and they didn't speak German, but they managed to communicate in broken French. A faded photo of the 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment's pre-war football team was one of the souvenirs presented to Lieutenant Ian Stewart of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. Many officers disapproved, and headquarters on both sides took strong steps to ensure that it could never happen again. My understanding is that an attempt on a much smaller scale was tried in Xmas 1915, but by then the war and the generals had their way. The story, Dave you have shared shows how even during war the power of the Spirit of Christmas can effect the hearts of all. Sadly, he died in on December 8, 2002, almost 58 years to the day of the Christmas truce. Hello, Leah. How could we resist wishing each other a Merry Christmas, even though we might be at each other’s throats immediately afterwards? I am planning on going to Germany next year at Christmas. Hi Joan. I was expecting a story about the incident during WW1 where a few American and German forces supposedly called a truce on the last Christmas day before the end of that war. David Hunt (author) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on January 06, 2013: Thanks christopheranton. Punishments were doled out and very harsh threats were made should it happen again. I will learn more about writing and one day produce something as moving and as powerful as this. They were armed and could have simply burst in, but they hadn't, so she invited them inside and they carried their wounded comrade into the warm cabin. It was superbly done. This story touches a part of my life too because of God's providence I spent a total of 5 weeks in the 80s behind the iron curtain and started a life time friendship with a couple of German families, one in the former DDR and one in free West Berlin. I had a go at the ball. Her son certainly was glad that his mother was remembered for her brave stance that night so many years ago. David Hunt (author) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on September 02, 2015: Thanks for taking the time to comment. For another British soldier, Private Frederick Heath, the truce began late that same night when “all down our line of trenches there came to our ears a greeting unique in war: ‘English soldier, English soldier, a merry Christmas, a merry Christmas!’” Then–as Heath wrote in a letter home–the voices added: ‘Come out, English soldier; come out here to us.’ For some little time we were cautious, and did not even answer. The pause in fighting was not universally … “What is there for us to fight about?” The most detailed estimate, made by Malcolm Brown of Britain’s Imperial War Museums, is that the truce extended along at least two-thirds of British-held trench line that scarred southern Belgium. I don't know if it was an official truce. Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914. United Kingdom on January 06, 2013: I love it when some beauty can obscure some of the horror that we sometimes make of this world. I'm guessing it wasn't official. They had to survive first. Sponsored by World of Tanks! For many, the Christmas Truce remains one of the most enduring and symbolic moments of World War One. Question: My father served overseas during WWII for 63 months. I read this story for the first time in a Reader's Digest when I was a kid. Vote Now! WW2: Battle of the Bulge, Young German soldiers, Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J28548/Henisch/CC-BY-SA. Stewart remembered that the Saxons were "very proud" of their team's quality. David Hunt (author) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on December 03, 2012: Hi, aethelthyth. David Hunt (author) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on November 18, 2015: I'm afraid I don't know if the cabin exists. Answer: Though there MAY have been other short-lived cessation of hostilities between very small groups of soldiers, I have not found any other documented instances of Christmas truces during the Second World War. I enjoyed it very much. it was wonderful to read again. A German trench in December 1914. It may well be that there … VIDEO: Defiance - The Story of FC Start - ESPN, Their truce–the famous Christmas Truce–was unofficial and illicit. Without knowing what her son had submitted, Mrs Vincken gave substantially the same account her son had written. 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