The Anglo-German Christmas Truce of 1914

It is hard to imagine that two warring sides, committed to the destruction of the other and suffering in appalling conditions, could find even a glimmer of a humanitarian impulse. Yet famously, on Christmas Day 1914, Germans and British soldiers along the Western Front laid down their arms in a brief truce.

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On 24 December 1914 German soldiers began to decorate their trenches along the Western Front with candles and Christmas tress and sing Christmas carols.

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Soon the soldiers were shouting Christmas greetings to one another and, in one of the most poignant moments in the war, troops from both sides exited their trenches and shared cigarettes and conversation with the enemy.

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On Christmas day a football match allegedly took place (the British won 3-2) and a barber offered haircuts to both sides at 2 cigarettes/cut. Note: The picture is not of that match, but British soldier playing behind the lines.

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The Christmas truce was denounced by a young Adolf Hitler, then a corporal of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry, as ‘not allowed.’

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The truce was reported back home, for example here in the Daily Mirror. However the truce was shortlived. To a young Hitler’s delight hostilities were soon resumed.

Alex Browne studied History at Kings College London and is an Assistant Editor at Made From History. He specializes in post-war history in the USA and Central America.