Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Silent Night by Stanley Weintraub

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce
by Stanley Weintraub [940.4 Wei]

100 years ago at Christmas time Europe was literally entrenched in World War I. It had been going since August 1914 and many thought it was already overdue to be finished. The Western Front running through France had become a muddy, icy mess as winter set in and the physical and mental fatigue the soldiers felt sparked a 'spontaneous' 3-day ceasefire in many quarters of the fighting. As the author puts it so aptly in one of his chapter titles, there was "an outbreak of peace." Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day saw a deliberate lull in the war in numerous places along the battle line. Both Germans and Allies took pause to celebrate the holidays as best they could, and to reach out across "No Man's Land" for conversation, exchanges of goods, singing, putting up tannenbaum, tending to their dead, and even playing some sports. Of course this was contradictory to the protocol of war and the dictums of the high commands but yet it happened, in ultimately f utile hopes it would mean a quick end to the conflict. Weintraub uses much original source material to illustrate events, breaking them down into real time. However, I did not care for his repeated technique of going off on tangents of fictional descriptions and scenarios in the midst of the factual accounts. I did appreciate, though, that he outlined a variety of alternate-history outcomes if the Christmas Truce had affected the course of the war in a more significant way. Weintraub also succeeds at giving a good feel for everyday life in the trenches. This is a good read for anyone interested in military history and general history, and reminds us how extreme humanity's good and bad qualities can be. -- recommended by Becky W.C. - Walt Branch Library [ see Becky's Reviewer Profile and more of her reviews ]

[ The Christmas Truce background page on History.com ] | [ Wikipedia page for Stanley Weintraub ]

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