german peasants war

Christmas at the trenches or it could have been something else ?

Christmas Truce of 1914

That’s not a story about family gathering or cozy atmosphere around the table while all of us are happily curled up, eating delicious meals and exchanging presents. No, it is a story about something which we could feel if we only came across with it, it is a moment of immense courage, humanity and goodness. It is a story of people wishing to touch the warm of the lighting hope, even for a while, a story which aspire million people, despite the fact that it is hundred years old.

It was 1914, the first year of the great war, in the western front around Christmas time, British, French and German solders made something phenomenal for that time, they created few days of ceased unofficial fire hostilities between one another. For that time such a thing was extraordinary one, not because it did happen, but because the scope of it.
Historians dive deeply in order to discover the reasons for such a truce. One of them point the conditions and the position of the trenches, in fact, they were only a yard apart which made them a twisted game for playing and inevitability for any strategic thinking. As Private R Fleming of the 2nd Durham Light Infantry explained it much more vividly and simple: “It is not war this. It is who can kill the most in the shortest possible time” ( The Newcastle Evening Mail January 13, 1915). Another point out the weather as decisive element, as it is reported that previously before Christmas there was a heavy rain which resulted quickly in flooding half of the trenches. The british and german soldiers were forced to climb above being fully exposed to another. However, no one of them shot or started fire. Speaking of the weather, it is worth mentioning that despite the fact that the whole November was raining, but the temperature was not extreme, on the Christmas eve heavy snow and frost covered the trenches and the soldiers there. Could we speculate about health condition of many individuals on their limits?

However, another series of unofficial truces were recorded and they should be put into consideration in order an object estimation of the situation to be made. For instance : “In one section the hour of 8 to 9 A.M. was regarded as consecrated to “private business,” and certain places indicated by a flag were regarded as out-of-bounds by the snipers on both sides. (Morgan 1916, pp. 270-71) “ . Nevertheless , such an attempts of friendly relation with the enemy were soon suppressed by the generals and many people even battalions were reprimanded severely for such violation of their duties.

Despite the punishment, the Christmas ‘ truce took place, making its history for many years to come. Everything started with singing of carols, on 24th of December, as the Germans celebrate that day before 25th with a festive mood and families around them. But at the year 1914 they were away from home, instead of warm the cold penetrates their bodies, no families, only the enemy on the other side, not far away from them. But then a white flag was waved in hope of fragile peace and rest from the war, only for a while. The singing of the carlos were accompanied by trees enlightened with lanterns ,which were placed above the trenches.
But how the truce began, according to one letter :
From out trenches: “Good morning Fritz.” (No answer).
“Good morning Fritz.” (Still no answer).
“GOOD MORNING FRITZ.”
From German trenches: “Good morning.”
From our trench: “How are you?”
“All right.”
“Come over here, Fritz.”
“No. If I come I get shot.”
“No you won’t. Come on.”
“No fear.”
“Come and get some fags, Fritz.”
“No. You come half way and I meet you.”
“All right.”
One of our fellows thereupon stuffed his pocket with fags and got over the trench.. The German got over his trench, and right enough they met half way and shook hands, Fitz taking the fags and giving cheese in exchange.”
Letter from Private H Scrutton, Essex Regiment, published in the Norfolk Chronicle on January 1, 1915”.
According to Staff Sergeant Clement Barker in a letter to his brother : “A messenger come over from German lines and said that if (our side) did not fire, they (the Germans) wouldn’t in the morning (Xmas day). A German looked over the trench – no shots – our men did the same, and then a few of our men went out and brought the dead in and buried them and the next thing a football kicked out of our Trenches and Germans and English played football.”

At the first down at Christmas day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches, facing the Allied lines , shouting ‘Merry Christmas’ in their native tongues. Firstly, the allied soldiers speculated that this might be a trick, but eventually after seeing the Germans unarmed they showed up,too. That was the begging of exchanging box of cigarettes and plum puddings.
During the truce the soldiers negotiated with one another to bury their men properly. Another interesting fact is that after the truce ended, after the armies were given command to attack one another for the first day after Christmas many of them,if not all of them, refused to disobey their orders. Here we could sense the emotional bond formed for such a short period of time, given the circumstances it was still extraordinary one.

One question arises : if the scope of that even or even the duration of it had been greater, would the ww1 have been stopped in its very begging or not? What if those people were given medal for courage and peace, what if others had done so? Could we have escaped the atrocity of the great war? What better knowledge from someone who have fought there and chose peace over war?

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The grand spectacle of the Middle Ages

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Let’s have a quick look to the ghostly and spooky Middle Ages,shall we?

When someone said to you middle ages ,what possible connection appear in your mind?Do you imagine a singer with a harp or lute with his gracious gestures, handsome face and voice like an angel? Or you might prefer something rather more sublime like millions of castles, a sound of trumpets before a battle, many knights riding across Europe defending the Christianity and seeking justice? Well, if you expect picture like that, I could assure you that you’ve chose the wrong article. This is not romantic glamorous image of some knighthood or kingship ,it is about the dark side of the medieval Europe.

It was time for changes , unevitable ones just like the season circle ,nobody could have escaped them especially if they were a fervent believer in Christianity. Rapid population swept out every European country, Paris would gain alone a population of 200,000 alone until the 16th century. Too much months to be feed and the urbanization and agriculture were not expected to develop easily and swiftly. When the demands were too high and men perished in obscurity without having a chance to leave their marks on the Earth. That was still a time of kings and queens ,of nobility and clergymen ,time of merciless and unfair hieratical order. Spooky and creepy time to live, indeed. Welcome to the darkest ages of them all.

Imagine yourself living in Germany around 16th century. It might have been a good living ,if you were dependent on mining a raw materials,but not on agriculture. Since the agriculture was developed and flourished only around the biggest cities and towns. As a whole it was far behind the agriculture’s development in England or France. So, you were a farmer in Germany, haplessly unlucky, you and your family were on the verge of starvation while you were trying to pay your taxes and kept your heads above the water. But what choice you had at all? The imperial power was not certain in its own position,out of sudden a new class emerged calling themselves princes and they had all rights to impose new taxes and their authority only in relation with their own interest and desires. While those princes collected their taxes, not surprisingly they were under no obligations to pay taxes at all, they were recruiting more and more people for their armies with such recklessness and enthusiastic joy as if they had been playing with solder toys. In that hectic time when the justice was often denied or it was subject of bribery, the grievance and wrath of the peasants were absolutely unavoidable, if not at least necessary. And it did happen, the German Peasants War took place between 1524 and 1525. Unsuccessful it might have been, resulting in massive slaughter of around 300,000 farmers and peasants, but at least it gave its warning.

However , as if the situation couldn’t have deteriorated more ,the God granted Europe with the Bubonic Plague, and the chances of survival to put it mildly were slim. The first attack took place between 1348 and 1351, estimating in 30 to 60% of killing European citizens .The second stroke occurred in 16th century and the most victims of the Death were in England , especially those who lived in London or its outskirts. The unpredictability and sudden attack of the disease were its strength and the improbability of finding a cure were the main reasons for that bloody massacre of people. As a matter of fact , hand in hand with the widespread belief that the disease was a divine punishment by God, some people fervently accepted the accusation that the Jews sent it in order to wipe out once and for all the Christians. (Strange and dark times , for sure,I have no doubts anymore.) It is not surprising or shocking the fact that around that time ,people’s consciousness arose and sought new answers for everything. The Church was on the verge of losing its grounds, facing the probability of being abandoned by many. While many perished in the streets from lack of suitable care and medicine ,or in the field reaching their limits due to starvation ,the Church gave only one answer that did not satisfy the warily minds.

The man sought justice and fairness, and he was at edge of desperation. Once the hands of desperation caught the man, there was no turning back. The vast majority of the people lived under the impression that the world was coming to its end and that everyone were helpless under the power of God’s wrath. Those people were unfortunate enough to be born in time when turbulent upheavals took place with such speed that they were unable to comprehend what was happening and more importantly WHY. At that time , when the Church expressed its cunning and malicious nature,not for the first time, as making the prosecution of the Jews unbearably real and morally wrongful act.

But for them ,more in the second part of the article…