This story takes place in the early part of World War I in December 1914, mainly between the nations of Germany, France, Britain, and Russia. In this book Weintraub tells of the truce that the soldiers of opposing countries would endure on Christmas Eve and Day. The book starts off with talk of a truce between the Germans and the British, and they eventually agree that on Christmas Eve and Christmas day there will be no fighting. Throughout the ranks and companies there are many other instances and stories of this happening. During this pause in terrible war and death, generals and soldiers would go out into “No Man’s Land” and “fraternize” with the enemy by exchanging tobacco, coffee, beer, newspapers, and most of all Christmas carols. Soldiers from opposing sides would sing out Christmas carols with passion, such as “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht” (Silent Night, Holy Night) and cheer for each other with much joy. Along with this they would have massive “Football” (soccer) matches and help bury each other’s dead. Even though most soldiers never wanted this truce to end, their head generals and officers forbid fraternization towards the end of Christmas. Right after Christmas ended so did the truce and the soldiers went right back to fighting, with more blood and casualties then ever. This would continue until 1918 when World War I would conclude. After finishing his tale of the Christmas Truce Stanley Weintraub concludes this story by questioning “What if the Christmas Truce” was successful and did end the war. He goes on to talk about what he thinks would’ve happened such as “women…being deprived of the opportunity to replace men in the workforce.”(168, Weintraub), along with many more conspiracies. In reading this book he does a great job of expressing the happenings of the Christmas Truce.
Stanley Weintraub’s Silent Night is a historical narrative that grabbed my attention well, through the different sources he uses from actual soldiers during the war. These sources are from newspapers, journals, letters, diaries, war records, and books, most of which written by soldiers. For example in chapter 4 Weintraub puts in a quote from Lieutenant Albert Winn of the Royal Field Artillery saying that ” We (British, French and Germans) played football in No Man’s Land and by midnight, the shells opened up and we were at it again.”(104, Weintraub) This was an actual piece written from this lieutenant in the war. In reading and analyzing this book I could not find a bias against any group of people or event. With that, from the last chapter and the rest of the book, I got a good grasp on his reasons for writing this book. One reason I believe is to stress the fact that “human feelings continue to go on even, when men do not know anything but killing and murdering.”(144, Weintraub) As Corporal Josef Wenzl put it, during his experiences in the Christmas truce. Another major reason why I believe he wrote this book is to show how big of an event this was and without it many things would be different. Even though this was without a doubt a big deal, he believes much more would’ve happened without it, such as “the refugee scientists so much a part of American breakthroughs in physics and chemistry might have remained productively at home in Central Europe.”(166, Weintraub) Which is a stretch and I do not agree with this because I think even if Europe were to benefit from a truce in World War I scientists would’ve still come to the U.S.A in search of a better environment for their studies. Even with this, in this book I believe the pros outweigh the cons, and in my opinion was an enjoyable book.
Prior to reading this book I did not know much about World War I and I had never heard of the Christmas truce. When finishing, I had a better grasp on the origins of World War I and I understood the Christmas Truce perfectly. For example one specific thing I gained about World War I was that there were many more countries involved than I thought there was. More specifically Russia, France, Britain, UK, USA, Australia, and Canada were all engaged in battle. Similar to Corporal Josef Wenzl, I learned more deeply that even in war when people are killing each other, the best traits and natural feelings still show in a person. This was proved through every aspect of the Christmas truce, in how for one night and one day the killing and murdering of the enemy stopped with peace and joy and twenty four hours later the brutal killing started again. Along with this, one surprising thing I learned was that the Christmas Truce and World War I helped the spread and love for the game of football (soccer). During the truce many soldiers would participate in football games with the enemy. One example of this in the book is when Kurt Zehmisch of the 134th Saxons is quoted “The English brought a soccer ball and soon a lively game ensued. How marvelously wonderful yet strange it was” (105, Weintraub). As you can see, this book represents an indirect examination of human nature and still provides a great storyline.
In my opinion the Christmas Truce of World War I in 1914 depicted by Stanley Weintraub’s Silent Night, is one of the most amazing events in the history of war. The thought that people who are killing each other can come together in peace for any amount of time is truly inspiring. With that, this book kept me very interested throughout reading it and I learned a lot from it. I would recommend this book to anybody who is looking to further there knowledge of World War I, The Christmas Truce, or just to enjoy a good book. As long as war and humanity continue on earth, the story of the World War I Christmas Truce, expressed ever so clearly by Stanley Weintraub, will live on forever showing the true nature of a soldier.
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