The Day the Fighting Stopped

A new book, The Small Peace in the Big War, by German
author Michael Jurgs is the first to be written from the German
perspective about the one-day truce that unofficially broke out
along the front line in the first world war. Luke Harding,
reviewing the book for The Guardian, writes that soccer
games were played all along the front between sleep deprived
soldiers to the horror of German and British high commands. The
players most often did not have soccer balls — they played with
lumps of straw and empty jam boxes in games that lasted about an

One account of the cease-fire starts on Christmas Eve, when the
shooting suddenly stopped. The Germans whistled between their
fingers and the British answered back. Kurt Zehmisch, a German
Lieutenant, wrote about that Christmas in his diary: ‘Soldier
M?ckel from my company, who had lived in England for many years,
called to the British in English, and soon a lively conversation
developed between us.’ Soldiers from each side walked into no man’s
land, shook hands, wished each other a merry Christmas, and agreed
not to fight the next day. ‘Afterwards, we placed even more candles
than before on our kilometre-long trench, as well as Christmas
trees,’ Zehmisch wrote. ‘It was the purest illumination — the
British expressed their joy through whistles and clapping. Like
most people, I spent the whole night awake. It was a wonderful, if
somewhat cold, night.’
Joel Stonington

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A Cry of: Waiter! And the Fighting Stopped

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