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Silent Night by Stanley Weintraub

Silent Night (edition 2002)

by Stanley Weintraub

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398None27,347 (3.49)30
Title:Silent Night
Authors:Stanley Weintraub
Info:Simon & Schuster (2002), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:WWI, history, Christmas truce 1914

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Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub




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Interesting and well enough written. Felt more like a collection of snapshots than a book. For a wonk like me, good. For a more casual reader, I doubt it. ( )
  Whiskey3pa | Oct 17, 2013 |
I've seen so many things on the Christmas Truce that I really wanted to read something relating to it. I perhaps went into this with overly high expectations due to how much I love the subject and it never quite hit the heights I was hoping for. Obviously as a historic account there's not much that can be done but I never found myself particularly engaged at times. I don't know if having a section with Brits another with the Germans and another for the French would have worked better or if it was maybe just the number of people mentioned made it hard to follow, but for whatever reason I didn't get the emotional punch that I've gotten when watching documentaries on it.

I did enjoy the way the individual sections of the book, and I enjoyed the excerpts, poems and drawings from actual accounts that went on. The last section - the what if section wasn't needed imho. It was too easy to imagine the ideal world scenario, and although it would have been nice, the truly predictable thing about the human race is that they will invariably find a way to shoot themselves in the foot, so if it wasn't WW1, I'm certain something else would have come along that caused untold miseries. I mean it's a nice idea, but really a bit indulgent.

This is a decent enough book if, like me you have an interest in the subject but I really don't know if it would be the type of book that would spark an interest if you didn't know anything about it. ( )
  sunnycouger | Sep 20, 2013 |
The Christmas truce of WWI has gained fame through movies and historical fiction but how does one separate truth from fiction? This is a wonderful work based on research of journals and letters written by the soldiers and officers who were there when it happened.

Only a few months into the First World War, troops from Scotland, India, Germany, France, Prussia, England and Belgium on the rain soaked battlefields of Flanders were already sick of the soggy, cold and muddy conditions of war. They were in the front line and under constant fire from, their trenches were constantly flooding, they had nowhere dry to sleep, rats were running around, they were surrounded by filth and now dead bodies of their fallen comrades.

By tacit understanding and overtures started apparently by the Germans who took Christmas extremely seriously and were shipped little Christmas trees which they lit with candles and then placed on their parapets, there was less fighting in the days coming up to Christmas Eve. Some soldiers clearly started to adopt a live and let live attitude to the war, trading vocal insults with the opposite enemy but without much heat behind their words. Then signboards with Christmas greetings went up and responded to by the opposite side. Some soldiers and officers gradually stood on their parapets, clearly unarmed, and asked for a truce to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They understood that the war would have to resume at some point, but they just wanted to celebrate Christmas and to bury their dead.

I had previously thought that the Christmas Truce took place only between a particular German troop and an opposing English platoon. It came as a surprise to me to learn that this truce was conducted across multiple sections of the Flanders and between the Germans and some of their enemies even up to New Year's. Not all embraced the truce and there were a few French and German officers who spurned overtures.

The emerging stories highlighted that decisions for wars are often decided on by leaders sitting far away from the action while those on the front line bear the worst consequences of their decisions. ( )
1 vote cameling | Jan 21, 2013 |
During World War I, German, French, British and Belgian soldiers found solace in the “enemy” for a brief period. On Christmas Eve in 1914 the men were dug into miserable trenches, up to their ankles in mud and filth. Despite warnings from their superiors and even at the risk of losing their own lives, the soldiers declared a momentary truce and enjoyed the holiday.

They crossed into no man’s land and swapped cigarettes and food. They ever played soccer and buried their dead. This occurred all along the front, with different groups of men deciding to initiate a cease-fire.

Weintaub’s book is wonderfully researched, pulling information from soldiers’ letters, newspaper articles, etc. he recreates the scenes. The details are what really stuck with me, a German soldier giving a British soldier buttons from his uniform, a soldier who was accidently shot in the midst of the peace. The event itself is so unbelievable that’s it’s fascinating to read about, but the author’s writing is a bit dry. To me, it was still worth it, because it shows a gleaming light of humanity in the face of an awful war, but it’s not a page-turner. ( )
  bookworm12 | Jan 11, 2011 |
I had heard about the Christmas truce of December, 1914 but I did not realize how extensive it was. According to Weintaub, instances of fraternization by German soldiers with French, English and Scottish soldiers occurred all along the Front and were usually initiated by the Germans- especially the men from Saxony. Using soldiers letters to home or in some cases to newspapers at home, military unit histories, and soldier memoirs, Weitraub explains how the events were started and what the soldiers did when they met in the No Man's Land between the lines. He also adds a chapter on how the story has been mythologized in modern culture by giving examples of modern songs such as Christmas in the Trenches to show the story has been altered to suit story lines. Apparently there is a Garth Brooks song that has American soldiers participating in this event, a historical moment that could not have occurred since no American units fought at the front until 1918. He concludes with speculation on how world history would have been different if the politicians had followed the soldiers' actions and stopped the war in December 1914. ( )
  lamour | Apr 3, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452283671, Paperback)

History is peppered with oddments and ironies, and one of the strangest is this. A few days before the first Christmas of that long bloodletting then called the Great War, hundreds of thousands of cold, trench-bound combatants put aside their arms and, in defiance of their orders, tacitly agreed to stop the killing in honor of the holiday.

That informal truce began with small acts: here opposing Scottish and German troops would toss newspapers, ration tins, and friendly remarks across the lines; there ambulance parties, clearing the dead from the barbwire hell of no man's land, would stop to share cigarettes and handshakes. Soon it spread, so that by Christmas Eve the armies of France, England, and Germany were serenading each other with Christmas carols and sentimental ballads and denouncing the conflict with cries of "Á bas la guerre!" and "Nie wieder Krieg!" The truce was, writes Stanley Weintraub, a remarkable episode, and, though "dismissed in official histories as an aberration of no consequence," it was so compelling that many who observed it wrote in near-disbelief to their families and hometown newspapers to report the extraordinary event.

In the end, writes Weintraub, the truce ended with a few stray bullets that escalated into total war, and that would fill the air for just shy of four more Christmases to come; further, isolated attempts at informal peacemaking would fail. But what, Weintraub wonders at the close of this inspired study, would have happened if the soldiers on both sides had refused to take up arms again? His counterfactual scenarios are intriguing, and well worth pondering. -- Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:47 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This 'moving story of horror taking a holiday" (People) vividly recounts one of history's most powerful Christmas stories. Using the stories of the men who were there, Weintraub illuminates this extraordinary moment in time.

(summary from another edition)

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