Features

Published: Saturday June 28, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday June 30, 2014 MYT 11:23:53 AM

The Christmas truce: When the fighting stopped for one day

World War I disrupted half the planet, claimed 16 million lives, and wounded 20 million people. Yet in the midst of all that carnage, there were moments that showed that hope and humanity were not entirely lost.

The most famous of these are the unofficial ceasefires that took place during Christmas in 1914; they came to be known as Weihnachtsfrieden in Germany and Trêve de Noël in France, and famously included football matches played at several locations along the frontlines, in the no man’s land between the infamous trenches.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, German, British, and French soldiers unilate  rally ventured out of their trenches and mingled and exchanged food and souvenirs. They also conducted joint burial ceremonies and held several caroling sessions.

A letter written by a doctor attached to the Rifle Brigade was published in The Times in London on Jan 1, 1915, describing a football match that was played between German and British soldiers in front of the trenches.

On Jan 8, 1915, the front page of British newspaper The Daily Mirror featured a group photo of Allied and German soldiers under the headline An Historic Group. The caption states: 'Foes became friends on Christmas Day.'
On Jan 8, 1915, the front page of British newspaper The Daily Mirror featured a group  photo of Allied and German soldiers under the headline An Historic Group. The caption states: ‘Foes became friends on Christmas Day.’

According to smithsonianmag.com, the 133rd (German) Saxon Regiment’s war diary recorded another such an event: It began with the “droll scene of Tommy und Fritz” chasing hares between the lines, and, when a football was produced, this then “developed into a regulation football match with caps casually laid out as goals. The frozen ground was no great matter. Then we organized each side into teams, lining up in motley rows, the football in the center. The game ended 3-2 for Fritz.”

The matches and ceasefires were far from universal, as fighting continued along much of the frontlines. In 1915, a few units again arranged a truce during Christmas, but the ceasefires were not nearly as widespread as that magical time in 1914. 

Information sourced from smithsonianmag.com, bbc.co.uk, historicaleye.com, and dailymail.co.uk.

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Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, WWI, history, the Christmas Truce, Allies, British, Germans

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