World War I German and British soldiers stand together on the battlefield in Belgium.
Eugene V. Debs / Jacobin
(December 24, 2022) — Our Christmas present to you: a long-lost Eugene V. Debs article on the famed 1914 Christmas truce, in which German and British soldiers dropped their weapons for a day and played football together — displaying humanity in the face of barbarity.
Eugene V. Debs on the
Christmas Truce of 1914
The soldiers engaged in the European slaughter have become entirely too friendly with each other. They have in fact fraternized when they have had a chance instead of fratriciding.
And this has been pronounced a crime and threatened with punishment as the following cablegram explains:
The German army authorities have issued a general order prohibiting in the future troops in the field from fraternizing with forces of the enemy as they did at several points in the western theater of the war at Christmas. To such an extent was this fraternizing carried out, that at one place the Germans and British played football Christmas Eve and they agreed to suspend hostilities for two days more.
There you have it, plain and flat, as Hosea Bigelow would say. To allow these soldiers to play with each other instead of slaughtering one another would result in utter demoralization of the army.
There is a world of meaning in this incident. The soldiers must not be allowed to even suspect that there is anything in common between them except a common hostility and a common duty to murder one another for the glory of their alleged Fatherland.
May the time soon come when the soldiers of all nations will realize they are human beings instead of animals, and brothers instead of enemies.