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Opening Arguments

A very short peace

Everybody's getting all gushy and weepy over the 100th anniversary od that Christmas Day Truce during World War II. And leave it to the wide-eyed naifs at NPR to suggest it as proof That There Might Be Hope For The Human Race After All:

In some places, the two sides held prayer services together. They exchanged mementos, like a small brass button on display in a glass case at the museum.

A German soldier "obviously took that button off his tunic to give it to the British soldier. And the German soldier has put his name, and his hometown, which is in Saxony," says Wakefield.

The button was given to 19-year-old Cpl. Eric Rowden, who wrote in his diary that day:

"I went out and found a German who spoke English a little, and we exchanged buttons and cigarettes. And I had two or three cigars given me, and we laughed and joked together, having forgotten war altogether."

"This is the human side of people in a dehumanizing environment," says Spencer, the historian at the Archives.

Yeah, well, excuse me for not joining in. That was just a one-day pause in an otherwise ghastly endeavor in which 10 million military personnel and 7 million civilians died. And the bloodshed resumed the next day.

And don't forget this little detail:

When commanders learned about the truce, they were furious.

"Various orders were sent down straight after Christmas in 1914 and were heavily reinforced in December 1915 for this particular occurrence not to happen again," says Spencer.

Germans were warned that if they staged another truce, they would be shot. British soldiers were threatened with court martial.