Thursday, December 8, 2011
Review--- Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy
Back in 1914 when WWI (The Great War) was still young, when political and military leaders thought the war would be won any day, soldiers fighting for both sides lived in trenches along the Western Front. Their existence was completely miserable and extremely precarious. Even one inch of head showing above the trench could mean getting it blown off by an enemy sniper. Soldiers on both sides despaired of their living conditions and came to realize that they had been lied to by their leaders. As Christmas approached packages from home began to arrive with special treats and, in the case of the German soldiers, so did small Christmas trees decorated with candles.
Christmas Eve 1914 dawned clear, snowy, and cold. Few soldiers had a taste for the bitter fighting they were engaged in and most just hoped for a bit of rest. As the day wore on "something remarkable took place. Soldiers from both sides got out of their trenches and cautiously walked into No Man's Land. Meeting in the middle, they would shake hands, exchange cigars or tins of food, and chat. Despite obvious language barriers, a number of these meetings produced promised to continue the peace on Christmas Day" (61).
Up and down the line of the whole Western Front from Belgium to Switzerland truces were struck that day and soldiers came together on Christmas in the land between their two trenches to enjoy singing, food, and even take pictures together. It really was remarkable. In the midst of a bitter war, the soldiers said "enough" for two days of peace. Many afterwards never returned to their same level of fighting, though the war continued on for four more years.
Even in the midst of strife we can take this message to heart today. The true message of Christmas is PEACE.
***I read the book in under an hour. Jim Murphy is a master of historic writing and making it accessible to younger, middle-grade readers. Since I am no scholar of WWI, I found the book to be both interesting and informative.