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The various impacts of a short peace on the minds of soldiers

Demystifying the Christmas Truce

Duitse soldaten tussen Britten, Kerstmis 1914

StarGerman and British soldiers fraternize - Christmas 1914  

By Thomas Löwer
(Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany / Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA, USA)

“But, however, looking back on it all, I wouldn’t have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything.”[1]

The English soldier Bruce Bairnsfather looked back on an event in which he had taken part. This small excerpt shows quite clearly that something extraordinary and unexpected must have happened. Bairnsfather talks about the Christmas Truce, which happened in 1914. After almost six month of war, soldiers fighting for the Entente powers and soldiers fighting for the “Mittelmächte” met in No Man’s Land and celebrated Christmas together.

Christmas Burial in No Man's LandThe soldiers exchanged gifts, sometimes addresses, and drank together. Often the truce started with a request to bury the dead comrades lying between the trenches (picture on the right).

The Christmas Truce was a small peaceful episode in a cruel environment. Certainly, Bairnsfather’s statement is a bit too generalized because it did not occur along the whole frontline. Mostly English and German soldiers took part in the Christmas fraternization, but also in some cases French, Belgian, Austrian and Russian soldiers took part.[2] 

In the following years the Christmas Truce was mystified as an act of humanity in an inhuman war. Jorgensen and Harrison-Lever published a picture book for children with the Christmas Truce as the background.

In this book (picture on the right) a young soldier sees a nice colored small bird which was captured in barbed wire. He decides to leave his trench to free the bird, and no enemy shoots at him. The publisher’s text on the back introduces this book with the words:

“Early on Christmas morning the guns stop firing. A deathly silence creeps over the pitted and ruined landscape.

A young soldier peers through a periscope over the top of the trench. Way out in no-man’s land, he sees a small red shape moving on the barbed wire. A brightly coloured robin is trapped. One wing is flapping helplessly.”[3]

The Christmas Truce of 1914 was mystified in another way. Not only was the soldiers’ humanity emphasized in retrospect, but the war was combined with an element of sport. Stories about a football match between German and English soldiers were quite common. Many war diaries report a football match occurring during the 1914 truce, but whether or not a match was really played is unclear. Historians are still debating if a match was really played or if the soldiers just dramatized the truce.[4] Contrary to in 1914, it is certain that a match between German and English soldiers occurred in 1915.[5]

Truce Appeals

From one perspective, the Christmas Truce was not unexpected. Several neutral powers tried to convince the warring nations to keep peace during Christmas and to show the minimum of Christianity. The most successful attempt to arrange a truce was the Pope’s appeal.[6] He appealed the European powers to keep peace at Christmas, which might have helped to arrange a treaty to end the war. Not surprisingly, the nations would only have accepted peace if they were not disadvantaged by it.[7] Not all nations agreed to a truce: Russia, for example, refused, because the orthodox Christmas is almost two weeks later than the catholic and protestant Christmas, making an official truce impossible.[8] On the other hand the truce came totally unexpectedly. Both headquarters forbade a truce and fraternizations and threatened those who ignored their orders with hard punishment.[9]

That it was not viewed well in the headquarters shows how the truce worked. It was not a happening ordered by the authorities, but a truce made by the average soldier. The view on the whole topic is the view at the bottom of the hierarchy, of the people who were only mentioned as numbers in causality reports. Therefore, in most World War I monographs, the Christmas Truce is ignored. One exception is Ekstein in his book Rites of Spring. Contrary to the common way, his approach to World War I is cultural historical.

The Propaganda War

This paper approaches the Christmas Truce within the context of the Propaganda War. It asks if the propaganda of the warring states influenced the soldiers who took part in the truce, and if so, in what ways. If the soldiers were influenced by the propaganda, did they change their opinion about their opponents in the trenches? Maybe the soldiers bought the propaganda and saw the evil the propaganda had claimed in their opponents.

To point out what impact the propaganda had on the soldiers, the first part investigates the different stereotypes which were created by the different propaganda departments. This part is mainly based on secondary literature, such as the Read’s book Atrocity Propaganda 1914-1919. International Propaganda and Communications and Roeter’s book The Art of Psychological Warfare. Primary sources written by propagandists round out this section.

The second part will juxtapose how the soldiers adopted the propaganda or made their own opinions about their enemies. This part is very much based on primary sources. Letters of soldiers who took part in the truce will give information about their personal attitudes. Furthermore, both major books about the truce, Weintraub’s Silent Night and Brown’s Christmas Truce, are used.

The Pictures of the Enemy

That a truce in the trenches between the opponents could happen is more impressive if the Propaganda issues and common stereotypes are also focused on. On both sides, the propaganda was used to create the worst picture of the enemy. The Entente, as well as the Mittelmächte, maintained large Propaganda organizations. On both sides, intellectuals supported the stereotypes with countless publications about the rightness of going to war and to underline the others’ guilt. The German side saw in England a nation of shopkeepers who would do anything to keep their position in the world as the number one trade nation. The German Jew Ernst Lissauer created the Hymn of Hate against England, and received the Roten Adlerorden from the German Kaiser Wilhelm II for this patriotic act. In his poem he claimed England to be Germany’s worst enemy.

French and Russian they matter not;
A blow for blow, and a shot for a shot;
We love them not, we hate them not…
We have but one and only hate,
We love as one, we hate as one,
We have one foe and one alone.
He is known to you all, he is known to you all!
He crouches behind the dark gray flood,
Full of envy, of rage, of craft, of gall,
Cut off by waves that are thicker than blood…
We will never forgo our hate,
We have all but a single hate,
We love as one, we hate as one
We have one foe, and one alone - England [10]

This extremely anti-England poem was not only extraordinarily popular in Germany but it was also part of the German lessons in school. The German self-image is evident in the article, “The Kaiser and His People,” published in the Atlantic Monthly and written by Harvard Professor Kuno Francke (picture on the right).

According to Francke, Germany was a country with: “people brimming over with physical and intellectual vitality, flushed with military and industrial success, eager for activity in every field of enterprise and in all parts of the globe.” Furthermore, he takes all blame away from the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. The German Kaiser was not a cruel Hun, he had “Richard Wagner’s Parsifal and the Nietzschean Superman combined in him.” [11]

German Views

England, as Germany’s opposite, is portrayed as “nettled by German business smartness, alarmed by German naval strength, trying to isolate and check and hem in the upstart of every move.”[12] The poem by Lissauer and the article published by an American Professor of German origin portray the picture of an England which is only interested in its own economic well-being and which uses the moment to destroy a common concurrent. To avoid Germany’s competition with England for the best trade routes, England went to war. It was not to protect Belgium as claimed by the English officials, but to annihilate a concurrent.

The German view of the French had been fixed since the Franco-Prussian War. Francke described the German attitude toward France in his article:

“France unwilling to forget her national humiliation, unequivocally refusing to acknowledge the settlement of 1870 as final, incessantly preparing for the day of revenge, persistently attempting to form threatening alliances against her hated foe.”[13]

From the German point of view, France was a cowardly nation without a backbone. It needed a couple of allies to go to war against Germany. Therefore, France decided to go to war only with the help of England and Russia.

Both sides, the Franco-British and the German, accused each other of using an illegal kind of warfare. Since the second conference of The Hague, the use of flat-nosed bullets was illegal. Especially the German side tried to prove that their enemies used this kind of bullets frequently (picture on the right).[14]

On the allied side, the Germans were presented as Huns. This portrayal is based on a historical curiosity. The German Kaiser Wilhelm II compared the German soldiers he sent to China with Huns in a speech held in Bremerhaven on June 27, 1900.[15] The German people, with Kaiser Wilhelm II at the top, were seen as militarism personified. In particular in England, Germany was pictured as the Teutonic enemy and the hatred was so fierce, that a play about the resistance of an English family during a German invasion was the most popular play in 1909.[16]

France and England both underlined the brutality and inhumanity of the German nature. According to the allied propaganda, war prisoners were ill-treated, tortured and under-fed. German soldiers were purported by the allied forces to rape women and cut their breasts off. The hands of small boys were cut off to satisfy the Germans’ sadism and to prevent their service in the enemy’s forces. Furthermore, German soldiers were said to have burned civilians and babies alive.[17] Germany was also accused by France and England of taking hostages as human shields to prevent allied attacks.

Intellectuals

Allied intellectuals also supported their governments’ justification of the war. The Academie de Science of France condemned the “pillages and executions approved by the leaders, the massacres of the wounded, of women and children.”[18] Fifteen of the sixteen French universities (Lille was occupied by Germany) asked in a manifest who was to blame for the war, who violated the Belgian neutrality and who destroyed the library in Louvain.[19] The French intellectuals questioned the status of Germany as a civilized country.

Duitse soldaten zingen kerstliederen, 1914The propaganda and the common stereotypes influenced a lot of the soldiers. In particular, young soldiers coming from school or university were extremely affected by the propaganda. On both sides, the young soldiers inspired by patriotism went to war.[20]

Picture: German soldiers in their trenches, Christmas 1914

In his book Rites of Spring Ekstein uses an interesting approach to why the Christmas Truce could happen over this backdrop of hate. After six months of war, a lot of reservists were at the front, who had a life besides the war. He considers this an essential reason for the truce. Elder soldiers with the responsibility for a family more often took part in fraternizations and were more open minded than their younger comrades, who were poisoned by hate.[21] Opposite to their younger comrades elder soldiers had more life experience and were not so easy to convince through propaganda. They had little enthusiasm to go to war, whereas young people, especially students, went with a high amount of nationalism and patriotism. Most young soldiers had a transfigured picture of the war.

Truce Offer Sometimes Rejected

There is no doubt that the propaganda of both sides influenced the soldiers’ attitude toward their enemies. On both sides, the offer of truce was refused. The reason for the refusal was their beliefs in the other’s guilt and in their just cause. A lieutenant from the German “Landwehr” wrote in a letter that

“ such a proposal in the past would have been accepted with pleasure, but at the present time, when we have clearly recognized England’s real character, we refuse to any such agreement. Also we do not doubt that you are men of honor, yet every feeling of ours revolts against any friendly intercourse towards the subjects of a nation which for years has, in underhand ways sought the friendship of all other nations, so that with their help annihilate us, a nation also which, while professing Christianity, is not ashamed to use dum-dum bullets; and whose greatest pleasure would be to see the political disappearance and social eclipse of Germany.[…] But all the same you are Englishmen, whose annihilate we consider as our most sacred duty. We therefore request you to take such action as will prevent your mercenaries, whom you call soldiers, from approaching our trenches in future.”[22]

Neither did the German philosophy student soldier Karl Aldag change his opinion about his English opponents. Although he had a great Christmas with his comrades in the trenches and a truce on New Year’s Eve to bury the dead, he noted that English soldiers were ”only mercenaries.”[23]

"The Only Truce They Deserve"

Similar feelings existed on the other side of the trenches. Captain Billy Congreve from the 3rd division noticed that the Germans did try to make a truce for Christmas.

christmas 1914, by Bruce BairnsfatherWe have issued strict orders to the men not to on any account allow a truce, as we have heard rumours that they will probably try to. The Germans did. They came over towards us singing. So we opened rapid fire on them, which is the only truce they deserve.”[24]

Bruce Bairnsfather described the Germans he met during the truce as “unimaginative products of perverted kulture” and as “these devils, […], all wanted to be friendly; but none of them possessed the open, frank geniality of our men.”[25] In his diary he labeled the Germans mostly as Huns.

Drawing made by Bruce Bairnsfather, Christmas 1914

The infantry Captain J.D.M. Beckett portrayed Germans as “very simple-minded creatures, and were much elated over alleged victories in Russia.”[26] In his letter which Beckett wrote about the meeting with the Germans he described them as arrogant and self-confident.

The Westminster Rifleman P.H. Jones wrote in his letter that, when the Germans came over toward their trenches, “this was all very well, but we had heard so many yarns about German treachery that we kept a very sharp look-out.”[27] The British lieutenant of the Cameronians emphasizes that trickery by the Germans was a common fear. He was warned not to allow the Germans to come too close to their trenches. Because the Germans did nothing without purpose, they feared the Germans would inspect the British trenches.[28]

Captain Sir Edward Hamilton from the Scots Guards wrote to his mother on December 28 1914 about his experiences of the truce. Although this letter shows a great understanding of each other - one German soldier gave him a letter for his English girl - both sides still stuck in their old patterns.

They think that our Press is to blame in working up feelings against them by publishing false “atrocity reports.” I told them of various sweet little cases which I have seen myself, and they told me of English prisoners whom put they have seen with soft-nosed bullets, and lead bullets with notches cut in the nose; we had a heated, and at the same time good-natured argument, and ended by hinting to each other that the other was lying.”[29]

Interestingly, Hamilton (picture on the right) reports no kind of hatred or mistrust of each other. They exchanged what they had heard about the each other. Stories and reports they had read or heard about the other’s illegal warfare were discussed. He believed the German soldiers when they told him that they were tired of fighting.

Trusting Each Other

Furthermore, this quote shows quite impressively that both sides trusted each other. Otherwise a conversation like this reported one would not be possible. People who hate their enemies or at least mistrust them will not discuss the propaganda stories they have heard. In the following sections of this letter, it becomes clear that both sides still went on with their fraternizations, and there is no kind of mistrust visible.[30]

Although it seems that Hamilton trusted the Germans, he called them in his diary, as Bairnsfather did, Huns, which means that a small part of the propaganda still worked.[31] In opposition to Bairnsfather, who uses the word Huns with a clear negative connotation, Hamilton uses this world only as different word for Germans.  The way Hamilton uses the description Huns is neutral and not an expression of mistrust and disdain against the Germans. 

Other soldiers like an officer from the Westminster Rifles, started thinking about the way the Germans were presented in the British press. In his letter, which was published first in The Daily News on December 30 and one day later in the New York Times, the officer described his impression of the truce with the Germans.

The Germans opposite us were awfully decent fellows – Saxons, intelligent, respectable-looking men. I had a quite decent talk with three or four have two names and addresses in my notebook. […] After our talk I really think a lot of our newspaper reports must be horribly exaggerated.”[32] 

Political Structure

The English officer R.J. Fairhead saw the evil, but not in the soldiers. They just had to fight. In his statement, he strongly attacked the political structure in Europe and looked above the taught national stereotypes.

Politicians do not listen to those whom they claim to represent and the failure to take notice of the fragile peace declared for that brief period led to the anti-government revolution throughout Europe.”[33]

His learned hatred for the Germans was converted to a general hate for the whole situation and the system which made a war like this possible. Lieutenant A.P. Sinkinson describes similar experiences:

As I walked slowly back to our own trenches I thought of Mr. Asquish’s sentence about not sheathing the sword until the enemy be finally crushed. It is all very well for Englishmen living comfortable at home to talk in flowing periods, but when you are out here you begin to realize that sustained hatred impossible.”[34]

Sinkinson saw that Germans were not worse people than himself. Only the people at home, far away from the cruelties, the brutalities, from death and from the war’s real grimace, could keep their hatred. That the opinion toward the enemies had changed after the truce is emphasized by Westminster Rifle Man Percy. The new experiences he had with the Germans whom he met made him rethink everything he had heard about them. He wrote that

they [Germans] where really magnificent in the whole thing [Christmas Truce] and jolly good sorts. I now have a different opinion of the German. Both sides have now started firing, and are deadly enemies again. Strange it all seems, doesn’t it?”[35]

Obviously Percy recognized how surreal the situation was. He started to rethink his attitude toward the Germans but he did not think about stopping fighting them.

English soldiers who fraternized with Germans tended not to see them as Prussians. Prussians were still seen as the evil ones known from the newspaper and all the cruel stories. The aforementioned Westminster Rifle officer portrayed the Germans he met as very decent people, but “those men were Saxons- not Prussians.”[36]

Picture: German and British soldiers fraternizing on the battlefield

That the British soldiers differentiated if their enemies were Prussians or other Germans was common. Brown quotes one officer of the Rifle Brigade who at first had big doubts if he should meet his enemies. The night before, he let his people shoot at the German Christmas trees and the next day he buried with the Germans their fallen comrades. This was possible because he recognized that their opponents were Saxons. Saxons were, in his mind, good fellows who played the game as fair as they did.[37]

The behavior of the British soldiers was shaped by the local origin of their German enemies. Saxons, Bavarians or Wurttembergs were not seen to be as bad as Prussians because they were not in charge of the German policy. British soldiers might see in a Prussian soldier the German Kaiser Wilhelm II and his arrogance. His family, the Hohenzollern, was seen as a family which wanted to rule over the whole of Europe.

"We are not Prussians"

Non-Prussian Germans strongly emphasized that they were not Prussians. Captain Kenny from the Garhwal Rifles fraternized with a German regiment, and the soldiers with whom he talked said that they were Saxons & not Prussians.[38]

It is quite obvious that the soldiers differentiated between German origins because they still thought in their stereotypical patterns. On the one hand they recognized that the Germans whom they met were not as bad as they were told, but some Germans had to be bad, awful and cruel. Insomuch that the German Kaiser (picture on the right) was Prussian and the militaristic stereotype was a Prussian one, they thought that the Prussians has to be as bad as shown in their home propaganda.

Furthermore, some Saxons told the English soldiers not to trust the Prussians. They would not play fair and were nasty fellows. Contrary to that, Saxons were honest. Eckstein quotes a Saxon officer: “We are Saxons; you are Anglo-Saxons; word of a gentleman is for us as for you.”[39]

That it sometimes did not matter what nationality and from what part of Germany the Soldiers come from is shown by Captain Hamilton.He wrote in his letter that we all, English, Scots, Irish, Prussians, Wurttemberg, etc.,[40] sang various Christmas songs together. This case shows that the fraternization sometimes went over all boundaries of hate. The soldiers were not judged by their origins, but as humans and as nothing else.

Other Nationalities

In the most cases, German and British soldiers were engaged in the fraternization at the Western front during Christmas 1914. Fraternization between German and French soldiers occurred but with much less trust than between Germans and British. Often the mutual mistrust caused both to avoid fraternization.[41] Interestingly, when it occurred, the hatred of both was reflected on the British troops and the British government because England had nothing to do with the whole German-French antagonism.[42] In these cases of Franco-German fraternization or truce, both sides were surprised about the others’ humanity.[43]

Although there were a few truces between the Germans and French, the average Christmas of these enemies looked like the German student soldier Gotthold von Rohden described it. Von Rohden had to go on a patrol with seven comrades while the French side fired at him.[44] For both sides, Christmas 1914 meant nothing else then business as usual.

The Christmas Truce becomes really more remarkable if the antebellum stereotypes and the propaganda during the war are taken into account. Certainly some soldiers were so influenced by the propaganda that they refused to meet the enemy in No Man’s Land or even negated a truce proposal. These soldiers did not want to look above their horizons.

Others met with the enemy but still saw them with their propaganda poisoned eyes. Interestingly, they still talked with them and exchanged gifts. Their beliefs in their own government and their own press or in their own intellectuals were too strong to overcome their prejudice. The pictures they had in mind like this of the Germans as barbarous Huns and the English as conscienceless mercenaries was not questioned by them. These soldiers did not want to reflect their opinions about their enemies.

The Thinkers

The most remarkable group is the group of soldiers who, after having met the enemy between the trenches, started thinking about all they had read and heard about them.

For many, the former hatred was vanished. They now recognized the soldiers from the other side of the trenches as human as themselves. They were not mercenaries, no inhuman monsters eager for war, just humans. The stereotypes they know from the time before the war and before they met their enemies did not fit after meeting their enemies. Not all Germans acted like it was described in the newspaper and were not as arrogant as the German Kaiser. On the other hand not all the English soldiers were mercenaries fighting for material well-being.

These soldiers started to reflect their own experiences and started to compare their experiences with what they knew before about their enemies. The conclusion they made was that their prefabricated picture and the experiences they gained did not fit together. It was hard for the soldiers, faced with the reality of the war, to keep the black and white picture. The reality they saw was a grey picture with blurry boundries.

That this example of humanity did not occur again has several reasons. [45] One was definitely the change in warfare. Poison gas was used in 1915 for the first time and British cities were bombed by German Zeppelins. Furthermore, the hatred for the German inhumanity increased with the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine.[46] Moreover, the conventional warfare became crueler and the causalities on every side were much higher than in 1914. [47]

Another reason was that the headquarters were better prepared and used precautionary measures to prevent a truce. The punishment was on both sides more or less the death penalty.[48]


Bibliography

 

Primary Sources

Bairnsfather, Bruce. Bullets & Billets. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 1917.

Boisseau, H. E. The Prudential Staff and the Great War. London: The Prudential Assurance Company Limited 1938.

Congreve, Billy. Armageddon Road, A VC’s Diary, 1914-1916. Terry Norman ed., London: William Kimber 1982.

Francke, Kuno. “The Kaiser and His People.” Atlantic Monthly, Nr. 114. 1914, p. 599-570.

“Fraternization Between the Lines.” New York Times, 31 December 1914, 3.

Housman, Laurence, ed. War Letters of Fallen Englishmen. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd. 1930.

Sulzbach, Gunnar Herbert. With the German Guns. Handen: Archon Book.1981.

Witkop, Philipp, ed. German Students´ War Letters. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press 2002.

 

Secondary Sources

Books

Brown, Malcolm; Seaton, Shirley. The Christmas truce. Hippocrene Books London/New York. 1984.

Ekstein, Modris. Rites of Spring. The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age. Boston/New York: First Mariner Books 2000.

Feruguson, Neill. The Pity of War. New York. Basic Books 1999.

Jorgensen, Norman; Harrison-Lever, Brian. In Flanders Fields. Fremantle: Sandcastle Books 2002.

Read, James Morgen. Atrocity Propaganda 1914-1919. International Propaganda and Communications, New York : Arno Press 1941.

Roetter, Charles. The Art of Psychological Warfare, New York: Stein and Day 1974.

Weintraub, Stanley. Silent Night. The Remarkable 1914 Christmas Truce. New York: Free Press 2001.

Zechlin, Egmond. Deutsche Judenpolitik und die Juden im Ersten Weltkrieg. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1969.

Articles

Eggers, Erik. „Ausflüge in die Menschlichkeit.“ Frankfurter Rundschau. 20 December 2002. 16.

„Foes in Trenches Swap Pies for Wine, British and German Exchange Gifts During Christmas Truce on Firing Line.” New York Times, 31 December 1914, 3.

“Germany Was Ready For Christmas Truce.” New York Times, December 11 1914.

Goldstein, Richard. “Bertie Fealstead, 106, Soldier Who Joined a Timeout in War” New York Times, July 30 2001. 

“Lay Down Your Arms, The Pope’s Message.” New York Times, December 24 1914. 1.

“No Truce, Says Russia.” New York Times, December 12 1914. 5.

Terraine, John. “Christmas 1914, and after.” History Today [Great Britain] 1979 29(12): 781-789.

Weintraub, Stanley. “The Christmas Truce.” The Quarterly Journal of Military History 1993 5(2): 76-85.



Foot Notes

[1] Bairnsfather, Bruce. Bullets & Billets, (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1917), 69.

[2] Ekstein, Modris. Rites of Spring. The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age, (Boston/New York: First Mariner Books, 2000), 109-114.

[3] Jorgensen, Norman; Harrison-Lever, Brian. In Flanders Fields, (Fremantle: Sandcastle Books, 2002), 32.

[4] Brown and Ekstein do not believe that a football match was really played. Ekstein, Rites of Spring, 113, Brown, Christmas Truce, 134-135. Terraine and Weintraub do not negate that it might have happened. Terraine, “Christmas 1914 and After,” in History Today, No. 29 (12), 1979, p. 785, Weintraub, Stanley. Silent Night. The Remarkable 1914 Christmas Truce. (New York: Free Press, 2001), 120.

[5] Eggers, Erik, „Ausflüge in die Menschlichkeit.“ Frankfurter Rundschau. 20 December 2002. 16. and Goldstein, Richard. “Bertie Fealstead, 106, Soldier Who Joined a Timeout in War” New York Times, July 30 2001.

[6] Pope Benedict XV appealed the warring nations for peace on December 7. Another attempt to arrange a temporary peace was made by the American Senator Kenyon. Brown, Christmas Truce, 37.

[7] “Germany was Ready for Christmas Truce,” New York Times, Dec. 11 1914, 2.

[8] “No Truce, Says Russia,” New York Times, Dec. 12 1914, 5.

[9] Weintraub, Silent Night, 149, Brown, Christmas Truce, 158-159.

[10] Ousted in Brown, Christmas Truce, 5-6. The English translation loses some of the hatred which is underlined in the German original. The last lines are in German:

Wir werden dich hassen mit langem Haß,

Wir werden nicht lassen von unserem Haß,

Haß zu Wasser und Haß zu Land,

Haß der Hämmer und Haß der Kronen,

Drosselnender Hass von 70 Millionen,

Sie lieben vereint, sie hassen vereint,

Sie haben alle nur einen Feind:

England.

The German version is printed in Zechlin, Deutsche Judenpolitik und die Juden im Ersten Weltkrieg. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1969), 96. Fotenote. 76.

[11] Francke, Kuno, “The Kaiser and His People,” Atlantic Monthly, Nr. 114. 1914, 566.

[12] Ibid., 566.

[13] Ibid., 566.

[14] Read, James Morgan, Atrocity Propaganda 1914-1919. International Propaganda and Communications, (New York: Arno Press, 1941), 68-69.

[15] Wilhelm II held this speech when he sent soldiers to break of the Boxer Rebellion in China. He said in this speech that the German soldiers should give no pardon and they should behave like the Huns of the old. Interestingly, not only Germany sent forces to break of the Boxer Rebellion. They operated in an international intervention force with France, England and the United States. Roetter, Charles, The Art of Psychological Warfare, (New York: Stein and Day, 1974), 45-46.

[16] The play was called “An English Home”, Brown, Christmas Truce, 2.

[17] Roetter, Warfare, 44. and Read, Atrocity, 80.

[18] Quoted in Read, Atrocity, 76.

[19] Ibid., 76.

[20] Brown, Christmas Truce, 8-11.

[21] Ekstein, Rites of Spring, 116

[22] Letter of Lieut. der Landwehr, Quoted in Brown, Christmas Truce, p. 104-105, and Weintraub, Silent Night, 130.

[23] Aldag, Karl, in Witkop, Philipp, ed., German Students´ War Letters. (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 2002), 35.

[24] Billy Congreve, Armageddon Road, A VC’s Diary, 1914-1916, Terry Norman ed., (London: William Kimber, 1982), 96.

[25] Bairnsfather, Bullets and Billets, 79-80.

[26] Beckett, J.D.M., Quoted in Brown, Christmas Truce, 217-219.

[27] Jones, P.H., Quoted in Ibid., 65.

[28] Ibid., 51.

[29] Hamilton, Edward in Housman, Laurence, ed., War Letters of Fallen Englishmen, (London: Victor Gollancz, 1930), 145-146.

[30] The atmosphere as Hamilton describes it was very informal. The soldiers of both sides were making jokes, exchanging cigarettes and talking about their war experiences. Ibid., 146-147.

[31] Meanwhile Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Ibid., 146.

[32] “Fraternization Between the Lines,” New York Times, 31 December 1914, 3.

[33] Quoted in Brown, Christmas Truce, 191.

[34] Quoted in Ibid., 193.

[35] Percy, Westminster Rifle Man, in Boisseau, H. E., The Prudential Staff and the Great War, (London: The Prudential Assurance Company Limited, 1938), 18.

[36] Fraternization, New York Times, 3.

[37] Actually, the officer described the war as a game. Brown, Christmas Truce, 84.

[38] Captain W.G.S. Kenny, Quoted in Ibid., 221-222.

[39] Eckstein, Rites of Spring, 127.

[40] Hamilton, in Fallen Englishmen, 147.

[41] Weintraub, Silent Night, 66.

[42] Ibid., 68.

[43] Brown, Christmas Truce, 146.

[44] Rohden, von, in: Student Soldiers, 156-159.

[45] Actually, signs of humanity were seen in the following year, too. Sulzbach, Gunnar Herbert, With German Guns, Four Years on the Western Front 1914-1918, (Connecticut: Archon Books, 1981), 65.

[46] Brown, Christmas Truce, 196.

[47] The Change of Warfare and the increase of causalities, Feruguson, Neill. The Pity of War. (New York. Basic Books, 1999), 290-303.

[48] German soldiers who would have left the trenches to fraternize with the enemy would get shot. Brown, Christmas Truce, 198-200.

 

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  If you want to visit Thomas Löwer's homepage, please click here (website in German language).

  Or, if you want to comment on this article and send Thomas Löwer an e-mail, please click here.

  Another article on the Christmas Truces is here (in Dutch language only)

 The last known survivor of the Christmas Truce died in November 2005. Read here what Alfred Anderson told a year before he died.

  Back to the frontpage of The Heritage of the Great War.