The Misuses of History: The Christmas 1914 Truce

All memorialised events, when passing into mythology, must be seen critically.  In some cases, there should be more than a hint of suspicion.  The Christmas Truce of 1914 remains one sentimentalised occasion, remembered less to scold the mad mechanised forces of death led by regressive castes than to reflect upon common humanity.

Common humanity, left to be butchered before the next grand stratagem, is the first casualty of the war room and, in many cases, parliaments.  These are places where commemoration ceremonies are drafted and encouraged; they are also the places where the common soldier is left for ruin.

The Christmas Truce of the First World War arose out of a blood-bathed irony: the troops from both sides, Allies and German, were not meant to be slaughtering each other at that point.  They should have been home to celebrate their respective victories or lick respective wounds.  The diplomats and politicians could then celebrate what was meant to be a puerile skirmish waged in conditions more reminiscent of an old cavalry charge than mud-soaked death.

Pope Benedict XV, after his election on September 3, 1914, kept busy attempting to halt a war he deemed “the suicide of civilized Europe.”  In December, he attempted, in vain, to persuade the belligerents to halt the murderous party, asking “that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang.”  This would be a prelude to discussions towards an honourable peace.

The sequence…

Read more