This week in history: The World War I Christmas truce

By Cody Carlson

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 25 2012 3:00 p.m. MST

Another fear many generals felt was that such fraternization humanized the enemy. Since the beginning of the war, the British were doing their best to portray Germans as little better than 20th century Huns, and the German propaganda made the British out to be money-grubbing plutocrats determined to keep Germany under its boot. Such mingling as that of the Christmas truce threatened to destroy their carefully crafted portraits of the enemy as the “other.” When the soldiers saw that their enemies were in actuality little different from themselves, would they still be willing to kill them when ordered?

In fact, many soldiers believed that the truce could in fact be the end of the war, if the soldiers themselves simply refused to fight. Such a sentiment was not to be, however, and in many cases ended in tragedy when soldiers attempted to engage the other side after the Christmas truce.

Victor Chapman, an American fighting with the French Foreign Legion, wrote to his parents and told a heartbreaking story that occurred on Dec. 26: “This morning Nedim, a picturesque, childish Turk, began again by standing on the trenches and yelling at the opposite side. Vesconsoledose, a cautious Portuguese, warned him not to expose himself so, and since he spoke German made a few remarks showing his head. He turned to get down — and fell! a bullet having entered his skull: groans, a puddle of blood.”

Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at Salt Lake Community College. He is also the co-developer of the History Challenge iPhone/iPad apps. Email: ckcarlson76@gmail.com

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