Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

The 1914 Christmas Truce Revisited

with 5 comments


The people in the above photograph are all dead. Most of them have been dead for decades, some of them more than likely were dead within a few years or less of the date when this photograph was taken. They are German and British troops on Christmas day, 1914. In the two years since I originally posted this image and below post I am more than ever convinced that people, left to their own devices, will get along just fine. When was the last time the gentle reader  went out and tried to kill their neighbours? I suspect that for most if not all readers, the answer is “never.” Yet as I type governments and insurgents around the world are killing people, most of them innocent of any wrongdoing. Organized mass murder is the most popular “sport” on the planet … and some wonder why the aliens haven’t contacted us yet?

In 1914 during the First World War, something remarkable happened. In parts of the front lines on the western front, soldiers on both sides declared an informal and unofficial truce on Christmas Day. After months of bloodshed and horror in the trenches like the world had never known, the protagonists not only laid down their arms, in many cases they fraternized and socialized together. As well they used the opportunity to both safely retrieve the dead from no man’s land, and safely transport the wounded away from the front lines. Leaders on both sides were so moved and shamed by their troops courage in seeking peace with their enemies, that they heeded the Pope’s call for a negotiated end to the war, thus saving countless lives and ending a bloody pointless war less than six months after it had started.

I jest. In actuality, leaders of both sides were horrified by the truce, and went to great lengths to downplay it, deny it, and make sure it never happened again. There were minor outbreaks of peace on subsequent Christmases, but widespread artillery bombardments on Christmas Eves did a pretty good job of discouraging the idea that their opponents were human beings. Such is the evil of war, that the leaders of both sides colluded to continue the slaughter rather than encourage peace.

On this Christmas Day I hope that the memory of this event serves to show us that people want peace, and left to their own devices peace is what they do. Most humans by nature would rather make love than war. It is our leaders, and their lies, madness, stupidity, and greed, that lead us into war. As the world slips further into insanity and yet another terrible world war looms on the horizon, I can only hope that enough people everywhere , of all faiths, choose peace rather than war. We are all brothers and sisters in God’s eyes, Dear God give us the strength to act like it.

The story of the Christmas Truce can be read here, with many links to other resources on this little known chapter in the history of peace. The last known survivor of the Christmas truce died in 2005, his story is here. God rest his soul.

And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

Luke 24:36

Since I wrote the preceding in 2008 I have become an atheist … and have become ever more passionate in my understanding that there is no such thing as a “just” war. Violence is the problem, not the solution. And all too often God is used to justify said violence, something that would bother him immensely if he actually existed. This is my favourite religious reading, and I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it before: God Angrily Clarifies “Don’t  Kill” rule.

25 December 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Peace on Earth and Good Will to All!

Doug

(The above image predates 1923 and is public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

December 25, 2010 at 12:43 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Killing is wrong.
    Merry Christmas, Dave!

    Carol Day

    December 25, 2010 at 1:02 pm

  2. their examples teach us that,
    the fastest way to end violence,
    is to not do anything violent.

    let the leaders kill each other.
    we will all be better for it.

    and, if they ask you to do it for them,
    simply, do otherwise…

    jeff

    December 25, 2010 at 3:16 pm

  3. Think of the boys and girls being misled into our neo-colonial wars.. and the extra-judicial killings of innocent people with our vaunted technology.

    Must we break so many eggs to make an omlet of the earth? Who benefits?

    Certainly 2011 will be a repeat of 2010. More hell for the average human, and more wealth for 1% of the worlds greedy.

    I shall pray for an end to the fractional reserve banking system, without which the plundering would have to stop. It is the root of so many of our current problems.

    ET

    December 26, 2010 at 9:35 am

  4. There was a French movie about this incident: joyeux noel. It’s only a few years old.

    Hyder

    December 27, 2010 at 5:50 am

  5. The spirit of the Christmas Truce lived on thoughout the war on quiet sectors of the line – in the British army it was known as “live and let live”.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_and_let_live_(World_War_I)

    The generals were, of course, vehemently opposed to such behaviour and would order regular raids on the enemy to take place to maintain “offensive spirit”.

    One such officer insisted on being sent a sample of enemy barbed wire with each raid report, to prove that it had really taken place. What he didn’t know is that his men had found a reel of the stuff on an early raid, so they could just snip off another few inches each time they were supposed to have gone over the top.

    Chris Hunt

    January 4, 2011 at 8:31 am


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