Opinion | The Forgotten Story of Christmas 1918


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On Christmas Eve, the Allied governments accepted Wilson’s request by way of the blockade council, and on Christmas Day Hoover wrote to Ira Morris, the American ambassador to Sweden, with the information: “It is our first movement towards feeding Germany.”

It appeared, for a second, that the spirit of 1914 had returned — two sides, nonetheless technically at battle, overcome by their frequent humanity.

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However the truth is, the alternative occurred. Inside days, the European allies soured on the concept, and canceled the settlement earlier than a single pound of pork might get by way of. The precise causes are unknown, however they don’t seem to be exhausting to think about: The allies, particularly France and Britain, have been just too embittered by the battle to see Germans, even youngsters and different civilians, as something besides the enemy. The identical want to punish Germany infused the Treaty of Versailles, a number of months later.

Within the meantime, untold 1000’s of Germans died that winter, individuals who may need been saved had Wilson and Hoover prevailed. The blockade on foodstuffs was not lifted till July 12, 1919, after Germany had signed the Versailles treaty.

The lesson is an easy one. There are not any higher angels standing by to beat us, at Christmas or some other time. We select. There was nothing predetermined concerning the Christmas 1914 truce — or, for that matter, the 1918 blockade extension.

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If the Christmas 1914 story reminds us concerning the significance of selecting to see previous our momentary hatreds, the Christmas 1918 story reminds us how exhausting that may be, particularly when it requires forgiveness — of all of the virtues, one of the lovely to obtain and essentially the most tough to supply, however maybe an important on this world of ours.

Mary Elisabeth Cox is a visiting fellow on the Hoover Establishment, a junior analysis fellow at Oxford, a postdoctoral fellow on the British Academy and the creator of “Starvation in Warfare and Peace: Girls and Youngsters in Germany, 1914-1924.”

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