(Objavljeno: Večer, decemer 2017)
Na današnji dan, pred 103 leti, se je v času ene večjih norosti ali kot prvo svetovno vojno Angleži imenujejo The Great war, zgodil dogodek, ki mu niso pripisovali večje vrednosti, vse do leta 1981, ko je o tem dogodku televizija BBC naredila dokumentarec Peace in no mans land. Gre za dogodek, ki je nastal spontano in kjer je ena pesem pripeljala, da so nasprotujoče si strani, izmenjale darila in skupaj praznovale božično vzdušje ter sredi vojne zaigrala celo nogometno tekmo. Tako imenovano Božično premirje je danes dogodek, ki simbolizira upanje, mir in humanost.
On this day, 102 years ago, at the time of massive madness or as it called First World War, an event happened that history books didn’t put many values, until 1981 when BBC made the documentary about it named Peace in no mans land. The word is about Christmas Truce, where one song brought together fighting sides in Western Front in Belgium to celebrate Christmas together with gestures of goodwill and humanity between the enemies. Not only did they exchange gifts, and hung out together but also a football match was held between English and German soldiers. It was shining moment of sanity that stands out from the rest of the bloody war.
(Slovenian above | English below)
Ko je poleti leta 1914 Evropa zakorakala v vojno, so številni bili prepričani, da bo ta trajala le nekaj tednov, v najslabšem primeru do Božiča. Namesto tega je do konca decembra, istega leta bilo že več kot milijon mrtvih in vojna ni kazala svojega konca. Pa vendar se je 25. decembra 1914 na različnih točkah fronte v Belgiji, zgodil premik zavesti in sredi norosti se je pokazala iskrica upanja, ki so jo poimenovali Božično premirje. Številna pisma razkrivajo dogodek iz tistega časa, kjer so v jarkih le nekaj metrov drug od drugega se borili Angleži proti Nemcem; v blatu, mrazu in mukah so doživljali enako usodo ter posledice ideologije, ki jim je bila tako naravna kot je danes tuja, bojevati se v imenu kralja. In kot je navada v vojnah, verjetno je tudi tu vsaka stran o drugi imela najhujše mnenje in predstavo, da je vse prej kot humana. Pa vendar je na božični večer ena pesem, ki sta jo poznali obe strani, omogočila uvid, da so na drugi strani v enakem blatu in groznih pogojih ljudje.
Ko je skoraj 100 let pred prvo svetovno vojno mladi duhovnik z imenom Joseph Mohr napisal besedilo za pesem Sveta noč, si verjetno ni mislil, da bo ravno ta pesem sto let kasneje opevana v rovih nekje v Belgiji in omogočila ne samo premirja, ampak tudi za kratek čas osvobodila ljudi norosti. Medtem ko so v angleščini prepevali Silent Night, je ta v nemščini zvenela Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, čigar melodijo je leta 1818 ustvaril avstrijski kompozitor Franz Xaver Gruber in katero je leta 2011 UNESCO razglasil za kulturno dediščino.
Pa vendar poročilo o prijateljski naravnanosti med sovražniki priča o dogodku že par tednov pred Božičem, na osnovi česar je britanski general Horace Smith-Darrien prepovedal kakršno koli prijateljsko interakcijo z nasprotujočo si stranjo in v poročilu navedel, da je takšno obnašanje največja nevarnost, ki preprečuje, da bi se vojaki bojevali učinkovito in uvedel sankcije za vojake, pri čemer jih je svedel na nivo izdajalcev. Kljub temu je božični večer bil združen skozi petje in kaj kmalu so se iz rovov tako iz ene kakor druge strani priplazili vojaki ter si na nikogaršnji zemlji segli v roko, si izmenjali darila, nekateri celo naslove. V času “Božičnega premirja” so si nasprotujoče strani izmenjale torto in klobase za marmelado in whiskey, posebno mesto med darili pa so bili gumbi. V nekaterih primerih beležijo, kako so nekdanji brivci ostrigli vojake z obeh strani; da pa ni manjkalo niti umetniškega pridiha, pa beležijo primer Nemca, ki je na področju nikogaršnje zemlje žongliral in s tem uprizoril fantazijsko predstavo. In da je celotna zadeva dobila piko na i, govori nogometna tekma, ki so jo zaigrali na nikogaršnji zemlji Angleži proti Nemcem, pri čemer so Nemci zmagali s 3 proti 2.
Glede nato, da je mir bil vse prej kot zaželen s strani tistih, ki jim je vojna predstavljala interes, se je vojna nadaljevala in s seboj odnesla 10 milijonov življenj na frontah, 10 milijonov umrlih zaradi posledic vojne, 20 milijonov ranjenih in 12 milijonov vdov in sirot. Pa vendar je dogodek Božičnega premirja kakor iskrica upanja, ki priča o trenutku humanosti, ko je človek obkrožen z norostjo, se kljub temu dvignil iz območja strahu in na drugi strani prepoznal so-človeka.
Letters from soldiers | Pisma vojakov
“We had a very decent Christmas Day in the trenches. We had Christmas puddings sent up to us and a few of the boys and myself managed to hot them up, and with some sausage and potatoes and brussels sprouts, which we succeeded in foraging from a farm, we had a very good dinner. On Christmas Eve we were surprised to see Christmas trees alight on the tops of the enemy’s trenches. Some of the Germans (139th Saxon Regiment) shouted to our fellows to come over and have a drink and a smoke. They turned the searchlight on, and some of our boys went out and met them half-way. The first German who came along threw his arms around one of our chap’s neck and kissed him. Next, they offered us cigars. On Christmas Day we were out of the trenches along with the Germans, some of whom had a song and dance, while two of our platoons had a game of football. It was surprising to see the German soldiers – some appeared old, others were boys, and others wore glasses. But they ‘played the game’ for that they, and some of them even went as far as to state they would not shoot so long as our regiment was on that particular set of trenches. A number of our fellows have got addresses from the Germans and are going to try and meet one another after the war.” (Pvt. Farnden, of the Rifle Brigade, writing to his parents at Leyton)
More letters: www.christmastruce.co.uk
When Europe marched to war in the summer of 1914, each of the warring nations believed that the fighting would be over in a few weeks. Instead, by the end of December, the First World War had already claimed close to a million lives and there was no end in sight. But on December 25th, 1914, at several points on the Western Front in Belgium, there was a brief respite from the fighting; a Christmas Truce. The Christmas Truce was actually a series of unofficial ceasefires along the front and a brief celebration of the holiday with gestures of goodwill and humanity between the enemies. This brief meeting of enemies as friends in no-mans land was something that thousands of man experienced on that day 102 years ago, and today, that event is often seen as shining moment of sanity that stands out from the rest of the bloody war, a spontaneous effort by the lower ranks to create a general peace that could perhaps have blossomed if not for the interference of generals and politicians.
Many letters reveal events from that time, wherein trenches just a few yards from each other, fighting accord between British against Germans but in mud, cold and agony, they share the same destiny due to the ideology that is foreign today as it was natural back in those days. And as a custom in the war, probably each side thought the worst of another side, until one song brought them together in humanity.
Almost 100 years before the First World War, a young priest named Joseph Mohr wrote the words of the song Silent night. He probably didn’t imagine that this song will be sing somewhere in trenches in Belgium and for brief time liberated people of insanity. Although words are different (Silent Night is in German Stille nacht, heilige Nacht), the melody was recognizable. Melody was created by Austrian composer Franz Xaver Gruber in 1818 and in 2011 was declared by UNESCO as cultural heritage. And that melody joined man together on Christmas eve in 1914.
But it wasn’t even the first spontaneous truce that month. On December 11th, two weeks earlier, the war diary of the Essex Regiment records a rather peculiar truce between British and German forces. British General Sir Horace Smith-Darrien had issued specific instructions against this sort of fraternization with the enemy. He wrote that experience of trench warfare shows time and time again that enemy troops in close proximity to one another slide, if allowed, into a »live and let live« mentality, which he saw as the greatest danger to morale there was, for once the soldiers sink into this sort of lethargy it is extremely hard to get them out of it and continue to fight effectively. So, Smith-Darrien ordered his Division Commanders to absolutely prohibit any friendly intercourse with the enemy of any kind. But even following this directive still allowed the troops to prepare for Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, 1914, as the day wears on, carols and hymns are sung in greater and greater numbers, and a gradual exchange of communication and even meetings take place in some parts of the line. Many men record the strange and wonderful events of that day; where many Englishmen exchange talks or addresses with German soldiers, a lot of whom speak English. German troops coming into the lines brought Christmas trees, and some men begin to place them on the parapets of the fire trenches. Most of the man just hung out with each other. There was a large exchange of gifts, it being Christmas. German soldiers swapped Christmas cake and sausages for British jam or whiskey. Buttons were a big thing to give or to receive from the enemy. In some places, former barbers gave haircuts, and one German, a juggler, gave an impromptu and somewhat surreal performance in the middle of the no-mans land. And there was, of course, the football match. Yes, on Christmas Day 1914 a football match was played between British and German troops on the western front and according to the diary of the 6th Cheshire Regiment the Germans won the match 3-2.
Given then that peace was anything but desirable by those whom the war represented bigger interest, the war continued few more years and took 10 million lives on the fronts, 10 million lives as a result of the war, 20 million wounded and 12 million widows and orphans. But even in that massive madness spark of hope named Christmas Truce happened as a symbol of humanity, where a man stood up from the zone of fear and recognized on the other side not an enemy but another fellow being.
Stories from people of both sides who has participate in Chistmas Truce ~ BBC documentary Place in No Mans Land. Documentary about events around that event: Christmas Truce: Christmas Truce.