Deuce of Clubs Book Club: Books of the Weak

I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski

Guy Debord: Revolutionary

No Place to Hide

Command of Office

The Christ-Myth Theory And Its Problems

The Christian Delusion

Lincoln's Wrath

How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself

The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex

Bossypants

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

Catching the Big Fish

Dig Infinity

The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones

Crazy for God

Basin and Range

Anarchy Evolution

The File

John Ringo

The Supremes

End the Fed

Burning Book

The Hohokam Millenium

God's Middle Finger

Narcocorrido

In Heaven Everything Is Fine

The Shunning

Wisdom Sits in Places

The Marvelous Country

Hamilton's Curse

The Secret Life of Houdini

The Trouble with Being Born

Schulz and Peanuts

First Into Nagasaki

Joe Miller's Jests

Human Smoke

Dirty Tricks Cops Use

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

All For A Few Perfect Waves

Systemantics

Death in the Desert

American Signs

Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Constitutional Convention

Secrets Of A Stingy Scoundrel

The Self-Made Tapestry

A Constitutional History of Secession

The Neurotic's Notebook

Interrogation Machine

Monster Midway

The Harlot by the Side of the Road

Forced Into Glory

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

J. G. Ballard: Quotes

The Compleat Practical Joker

Laugh with Hugh Troy

Pranks!

A Liar's Autobiography

Cobb

Chasing Rainbows

Letters from Tucson, 1925-1927

The Five Fosters

The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World

How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker

World Famous Cults & Fanatics

That's Not All, Folks!

God's Problem

Will Christ Return By 1988?

Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology

The Whiskey Rebellion

FDR's Folly

Wilson's War

Bully Boy

[If] I Did It

The Dark Side

Secret Origins of the Bible

Godless

The End of Faith

Why I Became An Atheist

"Life's Calendar for 1922"

Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War

The Negro Cowboys

EXPECT RESISTANCE

Monty Python Speaks

Baseball Between the Numbers

The Psychopath's Bible

Satisfaction

J. G. Ballard: Conversations

Days of War, Nights of Love

Gospel Fictions and Who Wrote the Gospels?

The Real Deadwood

Deadwood

The Revolution: A Manifesto

45

The Secret Man

Stormin' Mormon

From Psyche to Soma

I'll Gather My Geese

The Osama bin Laden I Know

Alias "Paine"

A Man Without Words

The Wild Trees

The World Without Us

Arizona's Changing Rivers

The Phoenix Indian School

Realm of the Long Eyes

John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal

Buckey O'Neill: The Story of a Rough Rider

Thanks For Tuning In

Adventures in the Apache Country

Waylon: An Autobiography

My Life: Sunrise to Sunset

Mimes and Miners: A Historical Study of the Theater in Tombstone

The First 100 Years: A History of Arizona Blacks

Enter Without Knocking

City in the Sun: The Japanese Concentration Camp at Poston, Arizona

House by the Buckeye Road

Vanished Arizona

The Big Con

The Astronomy Cafe and Back to the Astronomy Cafe

A Handbook on Hanging

The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right

A Mind Restored

Mr. Show: What Happened?!

Reclaiming the American Revolution

Stumbling On Happiness

Treasure Maps of the Superstitions

Sunny Slope

Did Genesis Man Conquer Space?

Look Homeward, America

Radicals for Capitalism

Kayaker's Little Book of Wisdom

God Is Not Great

The Echoing Green

The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll

K Foundation Burn a Million Quid

The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes and The Tao of Willie

Just Six Numbers and Our Cosmic Habitat

Wild Goose Chronicles

Behind Bars: Surviving Prison

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce

The Gang They Couldn't Catch

Manhunt

A History of the End of the World

Al Sieber: Chief of Scouts

Apaches & Longhorns

Deep Survival

Captured

DINO

Sock

Bo: Pitching & Wooing

You Are Worthless

You And Your Hand

Access All Areas

Field Guide to the Apocalypse

The War on Terrorism

Those Idiots From Earth

September 11: An Oral History

Mortal Questions

The Heresy of Self-Love

The White Flag Principle

Medieval Panorama

An Honest President

Those Words

À rebours

Peterson's Incident Report Book

Boo! Culture, Experience, and the Startle Reflex

Victory Denied

Nothing, Arizona

A Porcine History of Philosophy and Religion

O Holy Cow!: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto

DOME COMPENDIUM OF TOPICAL TREATMENT IN PROCTOLOGY

¿Hablas conmigo

Thirty-three Candles

Black Monk Time

Men of Distinction

Alexander the Corrector

Space Viking

Mark These Men

Hallucinogenic Plants

Prohibition: An Adventure in Freedom

JESUS! He's Our President

LOVE

How to Watch Football on Television

Merrill Markoe's Guide to Love

Lincoln: The Man and The Car

Whatever Men Know About Women

Biographies of Italian War Heroes

ABC of Espionage

Art Colony Perverts

Devil-ution

Starting Right with Bees

Planet Earth is a Cult

Baseball Letters

Fetish

Dopey Doings

Democracy: The God That Failed

Handgrenade Talk

Hi, How Are You?

het zingen van het ijs

The Museum of Jurassic Technology Jubilee Catalogue

The Rector and the Rogue

Colorful Cacti of the American Deserts

Odd Jobs: The World of Deviant Work

The Hungry Man's Outdoor Grill Cookbook

How to Get Invited to the White House

How to Work for a Jerk

Never Work for a Jerk!

The Mentality of Apes

Your Vigor for Life Appalls Me

Dr. Strange: Sorceror Supreme

Nautical Notions for Nibbling

A Short Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity

The Fake Revolt

Coup D'Etat

History of the Town of Felicity

Hood of Death

Dolls' House Bathrooms: Lots of Little Loos

Border Security / Anti-Infiltration Operations

Living on Light

God is for Real, Man

Did the Apostle Paul Visit Britain?

Twin Peaks

2001

Power Phrases

The Truth About Wagner

The Life of the Bee

Tombstone

Science Looks at Smoking

The Chiricahuas

The New Dark Ages Conspiracy

The Big Question

Everybody's Book of Epitaphs

The Death of the Fuhrer

Mindfuckers

Gorbachev! Has the Real Antichrist Come?

The World's Worst Poet

Alyssa Milano: She's the Boss

Home is the Desert

Nine Lives: From Stripper to Schoolteacher

How to Start Your Own Country

How to Found Your Own Religion

Sex Objects in the Sky

Indian Oratory

Bastard Without Portfolio

The Bedside Book of Bastards

Hopeless -- Yet There Is Hope

Bible in Pocket, Gun in Hand

Margie Asks WHY

Death of a Hippie

Wake Up or Blow Up

Feeling and Form

Guilt

A Mile in His Moccasins

Mojave Desert Ramblings

Passing of the Outhouse

This Way to Happiness

The Happy Life

Young Only Once

The Monkey Gland Affair

Bert Bacharach's Book for Men

The Two Babylons

For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes...

Why Christians Crack Up!

Why Do Christians Break Down?

Hava Nagila!

Beethoven or Bust

How to Abandon Ship

Livin' in Joe's World

The Last Democrat

Salvation Mountain

The Varmint and Crow Hunter's Bible

Love in the Western World

Jack the Ripper: Light-Hearted Friend

Little Men of the NFL

No One May Ever Have The Same Knowledge Again

The Secret Museum of Mankind

James Bond's World of Values

We Did Not Plummet Into Space

The Boy Who Didn't Believe IN CHRISTMAS

The Great Escape From Your Dead-End Job

All About Tipping

My Loser Godfrey

A Haircut in Horse Town

Mucusless Diet Healing System

Jefferson Returns

Lincoln Returns

Churchill Returns

Corporation Freak

Null Bock auf DDR

So You're Going on a Mission?

Nudes in My Camera

Why I Hate the Nazis

Flesh, Metal & Glass

The James Beard Cookbook

Mortal Refrains

Deadbolt

Amy Grant: A Biography

The X Cars

We Were Five

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder

Hello ... Wrong Number

I'll Kill You Next!

Murder in Vegas

Did MAN Just Happen?

Terror at the Atlanta Olympics

Criswell Predicts

Your Next Ten Years

They Pay Me to Catch Footballs

The Phantom Menace

Just For Fellows

The Lopsided Gal

Astrology and Horse Racing

The Cokesbury Stunt Book

The Origin of Things

Remarks on the History of Things

U.S. Government Sewing Book

Funeral Tributes II

Blinky, the Friendly Hen

The Serbs Choose War

My Mystery Castle

Iggy

Funeral Customs the World Over

The Right to be Let Alone

Mormonism and the Negro

The Church and the Negro

Preacher with a Billy Club

Fighting Parson of the Old West

Invisibility: Mastering the Art of Vanishing

How to Disappear Completely

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man

Langenscheidts Konversationsbuch

Marlene Dietrich's ABC

The Bible in the Hands of Its Creators


Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce

Stanley Weintraub (YEAR)

 

In December 1914, on both sides of the front lines in Flanders, astride the borders of Belgium and France, soldiers of two of Queen Victoria's grandsons, Kaiser Wilhelm II and George V, faced off from rows of trenches that augured a long war of attrition. (1)

Opposite, the British applauded each song, and a "big voice" responded from the German parapets, "Blease come mit us into the chorus." After a killjoy on the British side shouted back, "We'd rather die than sing German," the big voice boomed, in English, "It would kill us if you did." (13)

Rightly, the Germans assumed that the other side could not read traditional gothic lettering, and that few English understood spoken German. "YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT" was the most frequently employed German message. (25)

A French soldier wrote to his mother that after they first met with the enemy, they chorused, each in his own language, "A bas la guerre!"—Down with the war! (32)

Toward midnight, firing ceased and soldiers from both sides met halfway between their positions. "Never," wrote Muhlegg, "was I as keenly aware of the insanity of war." (33)

Christmas helped—at least for the moment . . . to bring together men who really, they recognized, didn't hate each other. Their fraternization, dangerously unwarlike from the headquarters perspective, seemed unstoppable. (51)

Soon few would care about higher authority. (57)

In the aftermath of the failed attack, the Oberstleutnant had realized that the young officer, who lay beyond medical aid, was struggling to get something out of a tunic pocket. The German bent to help, and saw it was a photograph of the dying man's wife. "I held it before him, and he lay looking at it till he died a few minutes after." (61)

[Corporal John Ferguson:] What a sight—little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! Out of the darkness we could hear laughter and see lighted matches . . . . Where they couldn't talk the language they were making themselves understood by signs, and everyone seemed to be getting on nicely. Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill! (79-80)

According to his diary, [Field Marshal Sir John French] "issued immediate orders to prevent any recurrence of such conduct, and called the local commanders to strict account," which resulted, he understated later, "in a good deal of trouble." (81)

A London Rifles entrepreneur, offering large quantities of appropriated bully beef and jam, acquired a prized Pickelhaube [spiked helmet], which was nearly impossible to conceal or cart home. The day after Christmas he heard someone shouting for him from the German side. They met in No Man's Land. "Yesterday," his new friend appealed, "I give my hat for the Bullybif. I have grand inspection tomorrow. You lend me and I bring it back after." Somehow the deal was kept. (86)

[William Dawkins:] "The Germans came out of their protective holes, fetched a football, and invited our boys out for a little game. Our boys joined them and together they quickly had great fun, till they (I believe we were responsible) had to return to their posts. I cannot guarantee it, but it was told to me that our lieutenant colonel threatened our soldiers with machine guns. Had just one of these Big Mouths gathered together ten thousand footballs, what a happy solution that would have been, without bloodshed." (113)

Lieutenant C. E. M. Richards of the 1st Lancashires, a career officer and later a general, was exasperated by the fraternization and longed for some "good old sniping . . . just to make sure the war was on." (113-14)

Rifleman George Eade of the 3rd London Rifles reported a German who had lived in London parting from him with "Today we have peace. Tomorrow you fight for your country; I fight for mine. Good luck." Opposite the 2nd Borderers the Germans sang "God Save the King" and from their trenches the Tommies offered three cheers. In most cases the adversaries parted as friends in the manner of pugilists shaking hands before the opening bell, but there was always an undercurrent of wariness. West of St. Yves, Private William Tapp of the 1st Warwicks observed pragmatically in his diary that the Saxons opposite "say they are not going to fire again if we don't, but of course we must and shall do." Yet he conceded that "it doesn't seem right to be killing each other at Xmas time." It was an attitude that would be parodied by a wit in the 63rd Division, who wrote,

I do not wish to hurt you
But (Bang!) I feel I must.
It is a Christian virtue
To lay you in the dust.
You—(Zip! That bullet got you)
You're really better dead.
I'm sorry that I shot you—
Pray, let me hold your head.
(133)

By now, most units faced resuming hostilities, however unwillingly. When the 107th Saxons cautioned the 1st North Staffs that shooting had to recommence, both sides showed authentic unwillingness. (140)

According to the woman to whom the German sergeant told his story. "The difficulty began on the 26th, when the order to fire was given, for the men struck. Herr Lange says that in the accumulated years [of his service] he had never heard such language as the officers indulged in, while they stormed up and down, and got, as the only result, the answer, `We can't—they are good fellows, and we can't.' Finally the officers turned on the men with, `Fire, or we do—and not at the enemy!' Not a shot had come from the other side, but at last they fired, and an answering fire came back, but not a man fell. `We spent that day and the next,' said Herr Lange, `wasting ammunition in trying to shoot the stars down from the sky.' (141)

One German explained the situation to Drummond as "We don't want to kill you and you don't want to kill us. So why shoot?" (142-3)

But perhaps more important, many troops had discovered through the truce that the enemy, despite the best efforts of propagandists, were not monsters. Each side had encountered men much like themselves, drawn from the same walks of life—and led, alas, by professionals who saw the world through different lenses. (149)

A future general, Captain Jack of the Cameronians, averse to the truce when on the line, had speculated in his diary a few days earlier, in almost Shavian fashion, about the larger implications of the cease-fire, which had extended farther than governments conceded. "It is interesting to visualize the close of a campaign owing to the opposing armies—neither of them defeated—having become too friendly to continue the fight." (160)

During a House of Commons debate on March 31, 1930, Sir H. Kingsley Wood, a Cabinet minister during the next war, and major "in the front trenches" at Christmas 1914, recalled that he "took part in what was well known at the time as a truce. We went over in front of the trenches, and shook hands with many of our German enemies. A great number of people [now] think we did something that was degrading." Refusing to presume that, he went on, "The fact is that we did it, and I then came to the conclusion that I have held very firmly ever since, that if we had been left to ourselves there would never have been another shot fired. For a fortnight the truce went on. We were on the most friendly terms, and it was only the fact that we were being controlled by others that made it necessary for us to start trying to shoot one another again." (169-70)

[Quoting from a ballad] "The ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame, / And on each end of the rifle we're the same."
That recognition occurs at some moment in every war, as an Australian trooper remembered in North Africa late in 1941. At Tobruk . . . for a few hours, men on both sides openly stood up, in the past an invitation to be shot. They dried their clothes, made tea, and did not return desultory fire. An infantryman looking unnaturally old after months of exposure to the cruel sun, the dust and the strain, looked across at the enemy, who were suffering in the same way, and said to no one in particular, "Nobody said we couldn't like them, they just said we had to kill them. All a bit stupid, isn't it?" (172-3)


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