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Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce Paperback – October 29, 2002
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That informal truce began with small acts: here opposing Scottish and German troops would toss newspapers, ration tins, and friendly remarks across the lines; there ambulance parties, clearing the dead from the barbwire hell of no man's land, would stop to share cigarettes and handshakes. Soon it spread, so that by Christmas Eve the armies of France, England, and Germany were serenading each other with Christmas carols and sentimental ballads and denouncing the conflict with cries of "Á bas la guerre!" and "Nie wieder Krieg!" The truce was, writes Stanley Weintraub, a remarkable episode, and, though "dismissed in official histories as an aberration of no consequence," it was so compelling that many who observed it wrote in near-disbelief to their families and hometown newspapers to report the extraordinary event.
In the end, writes Weintraub, the truce ended with a few stray bullets that escalated into total war, and that would fill the air for just shy of four more Christmases to come; further, isolated attempts at informal peacemaking would fail. But what, Weintraub wonders at the close of this inspired study, would have happened if the soldiers on both sides had refused to take up arms again? His counterfactual scenarios are intriguing, and well worth pondering. -- Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Weintraub draws upon a wealth of primary sources (e.g. letters and diaries) in which firsthand accounts comment on the shared misery created by "shells, bombs, underground caves, corpses, liquor, mice, cats, artillery, filth, bullets, mortars, fire, and steel." I am reminded of movies such as All's Quiet on the Western Front and Paths of Glory in which the human misery portrayed is almost unbearable to watch. I had the same reaction when seeing more recent movies such as Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down.Read more ›
While the story is amazing, I found the book to be a broader study of fraternization between opposing soldiers. That has been going on through the centuries. In the Battle of Chattanooga during the US Civil War opposing soldiers sometimes crossed the Tennessee River for card games and dances together. This book explains how and why enemies can share time together in friendly pursuits.
I had always wondered about the language barrier in The Christmas Truce, but many of the German soldiers had worked in London as waiters and had learned English. One English soldier met his old barber among the German soldiers in the other trenches, and even got a haircut from him on the battlefield!
The book is very interesting to read and worth the time, although, I found the "What if..." chapter not that useful.
Still, despite the book's strengths in its core of solid primary research, I have to agree with several previous reviewers that it is poorly presented, poorly arranged, and at times methodologically challenged. IMHO, the book screams for some sort of analytical framework around which to hang the impressive data that W has collected. Instead, the reader is presented with a series of partly-chronological, partly topical chapters that contain no internal consistency. For instance, the chapter on the infamous football/soccer game(s) does not limit itself to that subject, nor does it adduce any compelling thesis or argument about the nexus of sport, warfare, the truce - or anything else, for that matter. It is a jumble of anecdotes, many of which touch on the soccer game(s?), but many of which do not. The rest of the book contains similar organizational problems: a surfeit of wonderful anecdotes without any controlling narrative or argument.
Yet I would not complain as much about the book were it not for what I found to be some serious methodological flaws. Weintraub introduces into each chapter anecdotes drawn from pop culture sources (plays, literature, songs, children's books, etc) composed, by and large, many years after the fact. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and, indeed, in the hands of another scholar might well have provided the basis for an entirely distinct monograph.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A truly amazing story that history gave us to point to universal truths and commonalities of man. We all share certain fundamental qualities that allow us to overcome even Hell on... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Scott Rich
This is a fascinating history of this interesting event, that event being the "Christmas truce" of 1914 during WW I. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Harold N. Orndorff
An average of 4 stars, balancing 5 stars for the detailed research, incorporating German and allied sources as well as references from popular culture, against 3 stars for the... Read morePublished 6 months ago by PhD Geezer