Article, Booktalks

Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting Booktalk

A booktalk on the story of a Christmas miracle during World War I.

  • Grades: 6–8

None of them wanted to fight on Christmas.  So, they didn't.

In December, 1914, the world was at war, and the soldiers on both sides were tired of fighting.  They were huddled in trenches from 50 to 1000 yards apart, that stretched in parallel lines across France, from the North Sea south, all the way to Switzerland.  The land between the trenches was called No Man's Land, and in many places, at night after the shelling stopped, the men from both sides could hear their enemies' conversations, laughter, the coughing or groaning of the sick and wounded, and occasionally voices singing.  And as they listened, the men on both sides began to see the other side not as the monsters their commanders had described, but men just like themselves, familiar, even friendly. 

They were all tired of this war, and missed their families and their homelands.  They'd been fighting for six months, and more than anything else, they just wanted the war to stop.  They'd been told that they'd be home for Christmas, but it was obvious they wouldn't.  And they all wondered what would happen on Christmas Day.  Gift boxes began to arrive as families accepted the inevitable.  Spirits lifted, and the fighting slowed down, in spite of orders from the commanders of the two armies, German and Allied (British, French), that it should continue. 

On Christmas Eve, the gunshots and artillery gradually stopped. The temperature had dropped suddenly the night before, and the mud in the trenches and the ground of No Man's Land were frozen solid, and covered with a thin layer of Christmas snow. Carols sung by first one side and then the other, floated across No Man's Land.  Cautiously, men began to emerge from their trenches, and when no shots were fired, walked out toward the enemy lines.  Men who had tried to kill each other, instead shook hands, shared gifts from home, and forgot about the war.  It was late at night when the men turned back to their own lines, calling goodbye and promising not to fight the next day. 

Christmas Day dawned to a thick fog and an eerie silence.  Then a voice rang out from the German side, "You no shoot, we no shoot."  It was a Christmas no one in either army would ever forget.  A Christmas when men made friends with their enemy, instead of shooting them.  A Christmas when the soldiers on the front lines defied their commanders, and said, "I will not fight.  I will see no one as my enemy." 

Could it be that the end of war is just this simple?  "No, I will not fight."

 

This booktalk was written by Dr. Joni R. Bodart

  • Subjects:
    Conflict Resolution, World War I, Kindness and Compassion, Understanding Self and Others
top