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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 23-Dec-04
Tomorrow is the 90th Anniversary of the 1914 Christmas Truce

Web Log - December, 2004

Tomorrow is the 90th Anniversary of the 1914 Christmas Truce

One of the most remarkable occurrences in modern warfare occurred just a few months after World War I had begun.

On December 24, 1914, the German and British soldiers laid down their arms, crossed into the "No Man's Land" separating their trenches. They sang Christmas carols, played games, and shared jokes and beer with one another. The war resumed shortly after Christmas.


Christmas truce drawing from the London News of January 9, 1915.  The drawing's caption reads, in part, "British and German soldiers arm-in-arm and exchanging headgear: a Christmas truce between opposing trenches. Drawn by A. C. Michael."
Christmas truce drawing from the London News of January 9, 1915. The drawing's caption reads, in part, "British and German soldiers arm-in-arm and exchanging headgear: a Christmas truce between opposing trenches. Drawn by A. C. Michael."

Although there are varying stories of how the truce happened, there is little doubt that it did occur, as the adjoining drawing shows.

This story illustrates how different World War I was from World War II.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, World War II was a generational crisis war, but World War I was not.

Can you imagine Hitler's German troops and Churchill's English troops singing Christmas carols and playing games at the beginning of World War II? That would have been impossible.

World War I is now an almost completely forgotten war in America, except for its name. Because of the similarity of names between World Wars I and II, and because Americans fought Germans in both wars, most Americans between that WW I and WW II were similar to one another.

In fact, World War I was much more similar to our Vietnam war than it was to World War II.

World War I was very politically divisive for both America and Germany. America actually remained neutral between England and Germany for several years, and only entered the war in 1917, to much political dissent. To this day, many historians still consider America's entry in WW I to have been unwise. In a recent survey of historians's views on the "greatest" and "least great" presidents, the two presidents voted the "most controversial" were Bill Clinton and Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was considered controversial because he was the President who entered America into World War I, despite enormous political opposition.

World War I was just as politically divisive for Germany. Germany did not start WW I, as many people na´vely believe. WW I started in the Balkans and spread to Russia. Germany was "accidentally" forced into the war because of a long-standing treaty with Austria which obligated Germany to invade France because France was an ally of Russia. England was pulled into the war because of a previous agreement with France. Germany's incredible capitulation at the end of 1917, long before it was necessary, occurred because the German people were so politically angered by the war. Essentially, Germany capitulated in WW I for exactly the same reason that America capitulated in the Vietnam War -- because of enormous political opposition back home during a "generational awakening" period. (Incidentally, WW I was a crisis period war for Russia, just as the Vietnam war was a crisis period war for Vietnam.)

By contrast, WW II was a crisis war for Germany (as well as England and America). That war was no "accident." Hitler planned his attack on France and England for years in advance, in secret, and Hitler kept on fighting long after it was clear that Germany would lose.

So, the Christmas truce of 1914 is a unique, sentimental story to think about in this holiday season, as we realize with sadness that there'll be no Christmas truces in the "clash of civilizations" world war that's just around the corner. (23-Dec-04) Permanent Link
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