Man’s Search for Meaning

Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, surviving Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufering and Türkheim. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, the will to meaning, and is most notable for the best-selling book Man’s Search for Meaning (published under a different title in 1959: From Death-Camp to Existentialism, and originally published in 1946 as Trotzdem Ja Zum Leben Sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager, meaning Nevertheless, Say “Yes” to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp). In this book, Frankl described the life of a concentration camp inmate from the objective perspective of a psychiatrist. The book intends to answer the question “How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?” Part One constitutes Frankl’s analysis of his experiences in the concentration camps, while Part Two introduces his ideas of meaning and his theory called logotherapy.

Frankl identifies three psychological reactions experienced by all inmates to one degree or another: (1) shock during the initial admission phase to the camp, (2) apathy after becoming accustomed to camp existence, in which the inmate values only that which helps himself and his friends survive, and (3) reactions of depersonalization, moral deformity, bitterness, and disillusionment if he survives and is liberated.

Frankl concludes that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living; life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death. In a group therapy session during a mass fast inflicted on the camp’s inmates trying to protect an anonymous fellow inmate from fatal retribution by authorities, Frankl offered the thought that for everyone in a dire condition there is someone looking down, a friend, family member, or even God, who would expect not to be disappointed. Frankl concludes from his experience that a prisoner’s psychological reactions are not solely the result of the conditions of his life, but also from the freedom of choice he always has even in severe suffering. The inner-hold a prisoner has on his spiritual-self relies on having a hope in the future, and that once a prisoner loses that hope, he is doomed.

Frankl believed that people are primarily driven by a “striving to find meaning in one’s life,” and that it is this sense of meaning that enables people to overcome painful experiences.

Surprisingly for me, the Wikipedia article on Frankl has a negative tone, that does not appear in the article on his book Man’s search for meaning. The Frankl’s article on Wikipedia states that there is a level of Nazi accommodation inherent in the ideology of logotherapy, claims that Frankl lied about his memories, and accuse Frankl of being a Nazi collaborator that perform unskilled lobotomy experiments on Jews. However, it is not clear from the article if the lobotomies were performed on dead corpses or live people, and from this ambiguity, it feels like there is a bias against Frankl. The article states that one of Frankl’s main claims in the book is that a positive attitude was essential to surviving the camps, and that the implication is that Holocaust victims were partially responsible for their fate. However, my understanding of Frankl’s proposition is that sometimes external circumstances are beyond one’s control, but that there is always an internal freedom in how to apprehend what is happening, not as a means to escape fate, but rather as a way to find meaning in suffering.

Frankl posed to the disoriented new arrivals at the increasingly overcrowded Ghetto, a repetitive series of queries from “Have you ever considered Suicide”, to “Why didn’t you committed suicide—and why won’t you now?” and variations of the same probing question. Later Frankl states, founding a “suicide watch”, assisted by the first female Rabbi, Regina Jonas. This was Frankl’s way of helping people identify what gives meaning to his life. Meaning being a personal thing that each has to discover by self.

Liberated after several months in concentration camps, Frankl returned to Vienna, where he dictated to stenographer-typists his well-known work, “the flood gates had opened”, completing the book, by 1946. Frankl then published his world-famous book entitled, Trotzdem Ja Zum Leben Sagen: Ein Psychologe Erlebt das Konzentrationslager (“Saying Yes to Life in Spite of Everything: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp”), known in English by the title Man’s Search for Meaning (1959 title: From Death-Camp to Existentialism).[40] After enduring the suffering in these camps, Frankl concluded that even in the most absurd, painful, and dehumanized situation, life has potential meaning and that, therefore, even suffering is meaningful. This conclusion served as a basis for his logotherapy and existential analysis, which Frankl had described before World War II. He said, “What is to give light must endure burning.”

Frankl’s concentration camp experiences shaped both his therapeutic approach and philosophical outlook, as reflected in his seminal publications.

He often said that even within the narrow boundaries of the concentration camps he found only two races of Men to exist: decent ones and unprincipled ones. These were to be found in all classes, ethnicities, and groups.

Frankl published 39 books, which were translated into as many as 49 languages. He lectured and taught seminars all over the world and received 29 honorary doctoral degrees.[43] In his book The Will to Meaning, Frankl would state, “The trend moves toward a profoundly personalized religion…”.

Within the original English edition of Frankl’s most well-known book, Man’s Search for Meaning, the suggestion is made and still largely held that logotherapy was itself derived from his camp experience, with the claim as it appears in the original edition, that this form of psychotherapy was “not concocted in the philosopher’s armchair nor at the analyst’s couch; it took shape in the hard school of air-raid shelters and bomb craters; in concentration camps and prisoner of war camps.” Frankl’s statements however to this effect would be deleted from later editions, though in the 1963 edition, a similar statement again appeared on the back of the book jacket of Man’s Search for Meaning.

Frankl’s logotherapy and existential analysis is considered the third Viennese School of Psychotherapy, among the broad category that comprises existentialists. For Irvin Yalom, Frankl, “who has devoted his career to a study of an existential approach to therapy, has apparently concluded that the lack of meaning is the paramount existential stress. To him, existential neurosis is synonymous with a crisis of meaninglessness.”

Man’s Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future affected his longevity. According to a survey conducted by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Library of Congress, Man’s Search for Meaning belongs to a list of “the ten most influential books in the United States.”

At the time of the author’s death in 1997, the book had sold over 10 million copies and had been translated into 24 languages.

Frankl also concludes that there are only two races of men, decent men and indecent. No society is free of either of them, and thus there were “decent” Nazi guards and “indecent” prisoners, most notably the kapo who would torture and abuse their fellow prisoners for personal gain.

His concluding passage in Part One describes the psychological reaction of the inmates to their liberation, which he separates into three stages. The first is depersonalization—a period of readjustment, in which a prisoner gradually returns to the world. Initially, the liberated prisoners are so numb that they are unable to understand what freedom means, or to emotionally respond to it. Part of them believes that it is an illusion or a dream that will be taken away from them. In their first foray outside their former prison, the prisoners realized that they could not comprehend pleasure. Flowers and the reality of the freedom they had dreamed about for years were all surreal, unable to be grasped in their depersonalization.
The body is the first element to break out of this stage, responding by big appetites of eating and wanting more sleeping. Only after the partial replenishing of the body is the mind finally able to respond, as “feeling suddenly broke through the strange fetters which had restrained it”.

This begins the second stage, in which there is a danger of deformation. As the intense pressure on the mind is released, mental health can be endangered. Frankl uses the analogy of a diver suddenly released from his pressure chamber. He recounts the story of a decent friend who became immediately obsessed with dispensing the same violence in judgment of his abusers that they had inflicted on him.

Upon returning home, the prisoners had to struggle with two fundamental experiences which could also damage their mental health: bitterness and disillusionment. The last stage is bitterness at the lack of responsiveness of the world outside—a “superficiality and lack of feeling…so disgusting that one finally felt like creeping into a hole and neither hearing nor seeing human beings any more” (113). Worse was disillusionment, which was the discovery that suffering does not end, that the longed-for happiness will not come. This was the experience of those who—like Frankl—returned home to discover that no one awaited them. The hope that had sustained them throughout their time in the concentration camp was now gone. Frankl cites this experience as the most difficult to overcome.
As time passed, however, the prisoner’s experience in a concentration camp finally became nothing but a remembered nightmare. What is more, he comes to believe that he has nothing left to fear anymore, “except his God”.

In psychotherapy, paradoxical intention is the deliberate practice of a neurotic habit or thought, undertaken in order to identify and remove it.
Used as a counseling technique in which the counselor intensifies the client’s emotional state in order to help the client understand the irrationality of the emotional reaction.


Frankl, Viktor (1959). Man’s Search for Meaning (1984 ed.). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 126. ISBN 0-8070-1426-5.

Wikipedia. (2019, October 19). Man’s Search for Meaning. Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Wikipedia. (2019, October 7). Viktor Frankl. Retrieved from Wikipedia:

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El alemán Hermann Ebbinghaus comenzó sus estudios sobre la memoria investigando su propia capacidad memorística.

Basándose en las ideas de Locke y Hume, (que sugerían que recordar algo implica una asociación entre ideas por los rasgos que comparten) decidió poner a prueba tal efecto sobre la memoria.

Por tanto, creó 2.300 sílabas carentes de significado (para evitar, así, el efecto de asociación que hemos comentado), las agrupó en listas y registraba cuántas recordaba. El procedimiento era sencillo: leía una de las listas deteniéndose durante una fracción de segundo en cada sílaba, realizaba una pausa de 15 segundos y procedía con la siguiente lista hasta que podía recitar una serie rápidamente y sin errores. Asimismo, fue variando la longitud de las listas, los intervalos de aprendizaje, etc.

Las conclusiones que extrajo fueron las siguientes:

  • El material con sentido (como un texto breve o un poema) es recordado durante un tiempo…

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Los motivos de Caín. José Revueltas. Libro PDF para descarga.


Los motivos de Caín. (1957).

José Revueltas.


Archivo compartido en la web por el  twittero @nolosleo: (Gracias).

portada los motivos

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Greta Thunberg Climate Change Hoax Dr Tim Ball Interview

Bakom kulisserna

Jason Liosatos intervjuar Dr. Tim Ball där han ger sin syn på Greta Thunbergs framträdande i FN och hysterin, bedrägeriet och vem det som är som står bakom det hela. Tim Ball är förmodligen världens främste klimatolog.

Dr. Tim Ball är klimatolog, vann 2019-års pris i Lifetime Achievement in Climate Science. Han är professor vid University of Winnipeg, Canada, Chief Science Advisor of the International Climate Science Coalition and Policy Advisor. Dessutom har han skrivit flera böcker i ämnet klimat.

Han stämde Michael Mann för att han påstått att jorden håller på att gå under och hänvisade till “hockeyklubban” – en datorsimulering. Tim Ball vann processen där han lyckades slå sönder Michaels Manns påståenden.

Detta kan läsas om mer här:


Företagen bakom Greta

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Michael Mann Refuses to Produce Data, Loses Case


By Paul Homewood

PowerLine has a bit more detail on Tim Ball’s court victory over Michael Mann:


Some years ago, Dr. Tim Ball wrote that climate scientist Michael Mann “belongs in the state pen, not Penn State.” At issue was Mann’s famous “hockey stick” graph that purported to show a sudden and unprecedented 20th century warming trend. The hockey stick featured prominently in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (2001), but has since been shown to be wrong. The question, in my view, is whether it was an innocent mistake or deliberate fraud on Mann’s part. (Mann, I believe, continues to assert the accuracy of his debunked graph.) Mann sued Ball for libel in 2011. Principia Scientific now reports that the court in British Columbia has dismissed Mann’s lawsuit with prejudice, and assessed costs against him.

What happened was that Dr. Ball asserted a truth defense. He argued that the hockey…

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Guns in America

Every day, 100 Americans are killed by gun violence, and hundreds more are injured. While most of these shootings are not in public schools, children safety at school is a major concern. Gun control measures are currently political non-starters and people are turning to palliatives like bulletproof backpacks among other desperate solutions in an attempt to protect their children.

Sales of bulletproof backpacks have spiked almost 300 percent following a spate of school shootings and the recent attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Yet, none of the backpacks currently on the market would have stopped a single rifle round coming from those gunmen.

Bulletproof backpacks and backpack inserts for students are for sale online and on the shelves at major retailers including Office Depot, Home Depot and Bed Bath and Beyond. Made by companies such as Bullet Blocker, Guard Dog and TuffyPacks, the backpacks sell for anywhere between $99 and $490. However, to block the kind of piercing ammunition frequently fired by military-style rifles in recent mass and school shootings requires protection containing a hard ceramic or metallic plate weighing several pounds, with a “Level IV” rating. Yasir Sheikh, president of Skyline USA, which makes the Guard Dog backpacks, said in a statement to NBC News,

“When considering protection against rifle round ammunition, that entails a thick, heavy ceramic plate which is not practical for daily carry use, especially when considering a child or young adult. Our backpacks are rated for Level IIIA, which is often the same protection used by local law enforcement.”

TowerPinkster, an architecture firm based in Michigan, has designed a school for the hamlet of Fruitport to minimize the impact of mass shootings. While the project won’t be finished until 2021, some elements are already in place as part of the longterm $48 million remodeling effort. The campus will feature a series of fire doors which can all be closed and locked with the pushing of a single button, to isolate an attacker in one area. Hallways will be slightly curved to cut off the shooter’s line of sight; intermittent wing walls will dot the halls as well so that children might hide behind them. Similar barriers will exist behind classroom doors in hopes that teachers and students can hide in their rooms as well.
Lockers will no longer line walls, but instead, be located on islands in the middle of wide-open spaces. The stated benefit of this is to allow teachers to see the whole room without obstruction. The lockers will also be much shorter than most high school lockers. The building’s windows will be covered in a bulletproof film.

Sandy Hook was recently rebuilt with an eye towards keeping people out, and the American Institute of Architects came up with several ideas to make schools less vulnerable to mass shootings last year.

The Center for American Progress, a non-partisan think tank, has data that suggests that making schools “hard targets” isn’t very effective and has unwanted side effects on students. The same features that are supposed to protect students could make it harder for the police to apprehend the shooter. In 2003 SWAT team members blamed the design of a Frank Gehry building for delaying their capture of a shooter — it took seven hours.

Fruitport Superintendent Bob Szymoniak said of the building’s features:

“These are going to be design elements that are just naturally part of buildings going into the future.”


Hendricks, S. (2019, September 19). Sign of the times: School designed to limit impact of mass shootings. Retrieved from Big Think:

Popken, B. (2019, August 21). Bulletproof backpacks wouldn’t have saved anyone in recent shootings. Retrieved from NBC News:

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A totem is a stipulated ancestor of a group of people, such as a family, clan, group, lineage, or tribe.

Totems support larger groups than the individual person. In kinship and descent, if the apical ancestor of a clan is nonhuman, it is called a totem. Normally this belief is accompanied by a totemic myth.

Although the term is of Ojibwe origin in North America, totemistic beliefs are not limited to Native Americans. Similar totem-like beliefs have been historically present in societies throughout much of the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and the Arctic polar region.

In modern times, some single individuals, not otherwise involved in the practice of a tribal religion, have chosen to adopt a personal spirit animal helper, which has special meaning to them, and may refer to this as a totem. This non-traditional usage of the term is prevalent in the New Age movement, and the mythopoetic men’s movement.

Wolf and Man

Eagle (Arn) is a symbol of leadership and forsight but man knows that his roots are closer to the wolf. The wolf is very dear to man and represent the purity of heart he has lost in his quest for  godness. The wolf is a loner that fights to death for the clan if need comes.

Gray wolves are social predators that live in nuclear families consisting of a mated pair, their offspring and, occasionally, adopted immature wolves. They primarily feed on ungulates, which they hunt by wearing them down in short chases. Gray wolves are typically apex predators throughout their range, with only humans and tigers posing significant threats to them.

The genetic relationship between wolves and dogs was elucidated by Robert WAYNE and Carles VILÀ, opening the possibility that the split between wolves and dogs may date back as far as 135,000 years before present. Such a long common history of dogs and modern humans begs the question as to the dog’s part in the endeavor of humans to take control of the world, and led to the formulation of a hypothetical “lupification” of human behavior, habits, and even ethics.

There is something in the bond among wolves and between dogs and humans that goes beyond that between us and our closest primate relatives, the chimpanzees. Here we are not talking about intelligence, but about what we may poetically associate with kindness of heart.

Wolves were pack animals. They survive as a result of teamwork. They hunt together, den together, raise pups together. This ancient social order has been helpful in the domestication of the dog. Chimpanzees are individualists. They are boisterous and volatile in the wild. They are always on the lookout for opportunities to get the better of each other. They are not pack animals. If you watch wolves within a pack, nuzzling each other, wagging their tails in greeting, licking and protecting the pups, you see all the characteristics we love in dogs, including loyalty. If you watch wild chimps, you see the love between mother and offspring, and the bonds between siblings. Other relationships tend to be opportunistic. And even between family members, disputes often rise that may even lead to fights.

The good relationship as we have with our dogs is not related to intelligence, but to the desire to help, to be obedient, to gain our approval.

E Pluribus Unum

From many, one. Many people, many peoples, one nation. But also, if two or more persons can agree to cooperate, they are stronger than a single person. As a rule, the bigger the group, the easier it can subdue a single person or a few, or force them to comply. That is the basis of majority-ruled democracy. There is a catch, however: the members of the group must cooperate, communicate, and agree on a common goal.

That is not as easy as it sounds, even for intelligent human beings. The old primate trait of selfishness and MACHIAVELLIAN reasoning get in the way of our behaving communally. Let others take the risk and reap the gain for oneself and one’s kin. Self interest first, and if there is a little surplus: practice nepotism. In theory, of course, we praise it as the highest expression of humaneness when, on rare occasion, a hero or saint can overcome temptations of selfishness. We preach love thy neighbor and ask our brave boys in uniform to be prepared to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their families, community, and nation; we admire the age-old saying, Sweet it is to die for one’s country.

Strangely, there are indications that such humaneness, which many admire and hold, at least in theory, to be the highest achievement of humanity, was invented millions of years ago by early canids.

It is practiced to this very day by some of their descendents and honed to perfection by members of the pack-hunting canid species: notably the gray wolf, but maybe even more so by the wild dog of Africa (Lycaon pictus), the dhole of India (Cuon alpinus) and, to a lesser extent, the bush dog of South America (Spethos venaticus).

In fact, some of today’s wolves may well be less social than their ancestors, as they have lost access to big herds of ungulates and now tend more toward a lifestyle similar to their “minor brothers:” coyotes, jackals, or even foxes.

Among all the canids one species became the most successful mammalian predator ever: Canis lupus, the gray wolf. It roamed over all the northern hemisphere north of 15˚N. In some areas the gray wolf coexisted with less social members of the genus, and in India it was sympatric with the whole. The ubiquity of the gray wolf is apparently due to its rich behavioral repertoire and the ability to adapt its life style opportunistically to local and temporal conditions: most successfully as a pack hunter of midsize ungulates, but able to squeeze by on the diet and life style of a fox: hunting mice and picking berries.

What is it that makes the ancient pack social system so successful? Well, it is not a single life history trait, anatomical feature, or type of physiology or behavior. It is a whole array of specific adaptations which make communal life possible. Social pack forming canids are essentially monogamous. Even though there may be several sexually mature adults in a pack, as a rule, only one pair breeds, but all members share food and parental care generously. Even siblings and friends share food and affection (unlike in chimps, lions, tigers, hyenas, where the strong tend to take from the meek).

The long-legged social canids are not only fast and long-distance runners, they are able to run as a single group, apparently well aware not only that another pack member is running where, but which individual. This awareness makes it possible for a team of dogs to pull a sled and run for hours without changing places, or for two dogs to race at full speed while holding onto a stick of wood.

Typically predators, when going for the kill, avoid the risk of disabling injury that would prevent them from hunting. The attacks on prey by lions, tigers, sharks, and the like conjure up images of bravery and fury. In reality, however, they are low-risk performances by smooth butchers. Only when they turn on each other, as, for example, in conspecific fighting over a limited resource (e.g. a female), do they incur high risk of getting seriously injured.

When canids hunt as a pack, they can, because of their focused attention and close cooperation, act much more as an integrated system than any group of chimps or lions, where the individual that makes the kill and can maintain possession of the carcass, or take it over by force, will get “the lion’s share”. In wolves each pack member can accept greater risks when attacking, because, when injured, the needy will be fed by the other pack members.

This cooperation and risk sharing not only among close relatives, but among individuals bonded as mated pairs or by lasting friendships among individuals of the same gender, is the central feature of canid pack living.

When wolves feed on a kill, there is growling and snarling, of course, and a low ranking pack member may have to wait, but compared to other predators there is little overt competition among pack members. All is tuned to swallow as much as possible as fast as possible (which is the basis for the story of Fenris-Wolf gulping down Odin, and for Grimm’s fairy tale bad wolf swallowing grandmother and Little Red Ridinghood).

Wolfing down prey is apparently an ancient canid trait: Around 11 Ma BP a wolf-type canid (Strobodon stirtoni) roamed Nebraska, and a skeleton of this species on display in the Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. reveals an amazing story: in the region of the ribcage one can see quantities of broken and etched bone representing at least two individuals of small antelope, leg bones articulated and neatly folded-up in the area where once the canid’s stomach had been.

Wolfing down prey is but the first phase of feeding, which allows pack members to make maximal use of each kill and to leave little for others. By the time jackals, hyenas, and vultures arrive, there is usually not much left.

The second phase of feeding starts when the wolves have reached a cozy place for a rest some distance from the kill, or when they get home to the den. They then regurgitate the large chunks, sharing  with those that did not participate in the hunt, especially the pups and their babysitter, and carefully go over what they brought home in their stomach shopping bags. What had been carried communally, such as a leg of a prey, too large to swallow, is cut down to size, and pulled apart in a “tug of war”, with “real growls”, but actually quite playfully, and very different from the fighting over a kill, e.g., in hyenas. The pack at the den can process its loot in peace and spend time resting and digesting.

MACHIAVELLIANS, however, consider such doggish behavior—accommodating rather than fighting— as cowardly. Yet it is precisely what keeps canid pack members from incessant quarreling, as, for example, the way hyenas do, or from playing macho the way chimps or some humans cannot do without.

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Christmas truce

by Mark Esposito

During the miserable trench warfare of WWI, a night of humanity offered some hope of peace. Arthur Conan Doyle called it “one human episode amid all the atrocities.” If Christmas means anything, it surely means this:

Christmas Day, 1914

My dear sister Janet,

It is 2:00 in the morning and most of our men are asleep in their dugouts—yet I could not sleep myself before writing to you of the wonderful events of Christmas Eve. In truth, what happened seems almost like a fairy tale, and if I hadn’t been through it myself, I would scarce believe it. Just imagine: While you and the family sang carols before the fire there in London, I did the same with enemy soldiers here on the battlefields of France!

As I wrote before, there has been little serious fighting of late. The first battles of the war left so many dead that both sides have held back until replacements could come from home. So we have mostly stayed in our trenches and waited.

But what a terrible waiting it has been! Knowing that any moment an artillery shell might land and explode beside us in the trench, killing or maiming several men. And in daylight not daring to lift our heads above ground, for fear of a sniper’s bullet.

And the rain—it has fallen almost daily. Of course, it collects right in our trenches, where we must bail it out with pots and pans. And with the rain has come mud—a good foot or more deep. It splatters and cakes everything, and constantly sucks at our boots. One new recruit got his feet stuck in it, and then his hands too when he tried to get out—just like in that American story of the tar baby!

Through all this, we couldn’t help feeling curious about the German soldiers across the way. After all, they faced the same dangers we did, and slogged about in the same muck. What’s more, their first trench was only 50 yards from ours. Between us lay No Man’s Land, bordered on both sides by barbed wire—yet they were close enough we sometimes heard their voices.

Of course, we hated them when they killed our friends. But other times, we joked about them and almost felt we had something in common. And now it seems they felt the same.

Just yesterday morning—Christmas Eve Day—we had our first good freeze. Cold as we were, we welcomed it, because at least the mud froze solid. Everything was tinged white with frost, while a bright sun shone over all. Perfect Christmas weather.

During the day, there was little shelling or rifle fire from either side. And as darkness fell on our Christmas Eve, the shooting stopped entirely. Our first complete silence in months! We hoped it might promise a peaceful holiday, but we didn’t count on it. We’d been told the Germans might attack and try to catch us off guard.

I went to the dugout to rest, and lying on my cot, I must have drifted asleep. All at once my friend John was shaking me awake, saying, “Come and see! See what the Germans are doing!” I grabbed my rifle, stumbled out into the trench, and stuck my head cautiously above the sandbags.

I never hope to see a stranger and more lovely sight. Clusters of tiny lights were shining all along the German line, left and right as far as the eye could see.

“What is it?” I asked in bewilderment, and John answered, “Christmas trees!”

And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lantern like beacons of good will.

And then we heard their voices raised in song.

Stille nacht, heilige nacht . . . .

This carol may not yet be familiar to us in Britain, but John knew it and translated: “Silent night, holy night.” I’ve never heard one lovelier—or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night, its dark softened by a first-quarter moon.

When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Yes, British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing, and we all joined in.

The first Nowell, the angel did say . . . .

In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they responded with enthusiastic applause of their own and then began another.

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum . . . .

Then we replied.

O come all ye faithful . . . .

But this time they joined in, singing the same words in Latin.

Adeste fideles . . . .

British and German harmonizing across No Man’s Land! I would have thought nothing could be more amazing—but what came next was more so.

“English, come over!” we heard one of them shout. “You no shoot, we no shoot.”

There in the trenches, we looked at each other in bewilderment. Then one of us shouted jokingly, “You come over here.”

To our astonishment, we saw two figures rise from the trench, climb over their barbed wire, and advance unprotected across No Man’s Land. One of them called, “Send officer to talk.”

I saw one of our men lift his rifle to the ready, and no doubt others did the same—but our captain called out, “Hold your fire.” Then he climbed out and went to meet the Germans halfway. We heard them talking, and a few minutes later, the captain came back with a German cigar in his mouth!

“We’ve agreed there will be no shooting before midnight tomorrow,” he announced. “But sentries are to remain on duty, and the rest of you, stay alert.”

Across the way, we could make out groups of two or three men starting out of trenches and coming toward us. Then some of us were climbing out too, and in minutes more, there we were in No Man’s Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we’d been trying to kill just hours earlier!

Before long a bonfire was built, and around it we mingled—British khaki and German grey. I must say, the Germans were the better dressed, with fresh uniforms for the holiday.

Only a couple of our men knew German, but more of the Germans knew English. I asked one of them why that was.

“Because many have worked in England!” he said. “Before all this, I was a waiter at the Hotel Cecil. Perhaps I waited on your table!”

“Perhaps you did!” I said, laughing.

He told me he had a girlfriend in London and that the war had interrupted their plans for marriage. I told him, “Don’t worry. We’ll have you beat by Easter, then you can come back and marry the girl.”

He laughed at that. Then he asked if I’d send her a postcard he’d give me later, and I promised I would.

Another German had been a porter at Victoria Station. He showed me a picture of his family back in Munich. His eldest sister was so lovely, I said I should like to meet her someday. He beamed and said he would like that very much and gave me his family’s address.

Even those who could not converse could still exchange gifts—our cigarettes for their cigars, our tea for their coffee, our corned beef for their sausage. Badges and buttons from uniforms changed owners, and one of our lads walked off with the infamous spiked helmet! I myself traded a jackknife for a leather equipment belt—a fine souvenir to show when I get home.

Newspapers too changed hands, and the Germans howled with laughter at ours. They assured us that France was finished and Russia nearly beaten too. We told them that was nonsense, and one of them said, “Well, you believe your newspapers and we’ll believe ours.”

Clearly they are lied to—yet after meeting these men, I wonder how truthful our own newspapers have been. These are not the “savage barbarians” we’ve read so much about. They are men with homes and families, hopes and fears, principles and, yes, love of country. In other words, men like ourselves. Why are we led to believe otherwise?

As it grew late, a few more songs were traded around the fire, and then all joined in for—I am not lying to you—“Auld Lang Syne.” Then we parted with promises to meet again tomorrow, and even some talk of a football match.

I was just starting back to the trenches when an older German clutched my arm. “My God,” he said, “why cannot we have peace and all go home?”

I told him gently, “That you must ask your emperor.”

He looked at me then, searchingly. “Perhaps, my friend. But also we must ask our hearts.”

And so, dear sister, tell me, has there ever been such a Christmas Eve in all history? And what does it all mean, this impossible befriending of enemies?

For the fighting here, of course, it means regrettably little. Decent fellows those soldiers may be, but they follow orders and we do the same. Besides, we are here to stop their army and send it home, and never could we shirk that duty.

Still, one cannot help imagine what would happen if the spirit shown here were caught by the nations of the world. Of course, disputes must always arise. But what if our leaders were to offer well wishes in place of warnings? Songs in place of slurs? Presents in place of reprisals? Would not all war end at once?

All nations say they want peace. Yet on this Christmas morning, I wonder if we want it quite enough.

Your Loving Brother,

Source: Australia Magazine

LONDON, England — Bertie Felstead, the last known survivor of World War 1’s legendary “Soccer Truce,” has died in England, aged 106.

The brief truce on Christmas Day 1914, when British and German soldiers emerged from their trenches on the Western Front and played football together in no-man’s land, became one of the abiding images of the “war to end all wars.”

Felstead was one of the infantrymen who took part in the unofficial ceasefire, exchanging cigarettes and greetings with men who only a few hours before had been trying to kill him.

“The Germans started it,” Mr. Felstead recalled. “They just came out of their trenches and walked over to us. “Nobody decided for us — we just climbed over our parapet and went over to them. We thought nobody would shoot at us if we all mingled together.”

Born in Highgate, London, on October 28, 1894, Mr. Felstead joined the Royal Welch Fusilliers at the outbreak of World War 1. He was spending his first Christmas on the Western Front, in a trench near the northern French village of Laventie, when the famous truce took place, one of several that were reported between British and German troops at that time.

Although it lasted for less than an hour, it became the defining event of his life.

In an interview two years ago he recalled how the previous night, Christmas Eve, he and his comrades had heard the German soldiers singing carols less than 100 yards away. The British soldiers had responded with carols of their own. “You couldn’t hear each other sing like that without it affecting your feelings for the other side,” he said.

On Christmas Day “all the soldiers were shouting to one another: ‘Hello Tommy! Hello Fritz!’ And we gradually got to know each other this way.” After they had emerged from their trenches and greeted each other a ball was produced and they all played football in the snow.

“It wasn’t a game as such,” remembered Felstead. “More a kick-around and a free-for-all. “There could have been fifty on each side for all I know.”

The impromptu armistice came to an abrupt end when an irate British officer ordered the soldiers back to their trenches. Within a matter of hours the two sides were firing at each other again.

Felstead was subsequently wounded at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. After recovering he was posted to Salonika in Greece before eventually being returned home with acute malaria.

After the war he worked as a civil servant with the Royal Air Force, and later with the General Electric Company. His wife of 65 years, Alice, died in 1983.

He is survived by two children, five grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. In 1997 he was included in the book “Centurions” about the most culturally influential people of the 20th Century.

“He lived a very good, full and active life,” said his daughter Barbara McIntosh, 73. “He will be sorely missed.”

The Associated Press

I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world.For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.–Wilfred Owen, 1918.

Recreates the temporary cessation of hostilities in the trenches of the Western Front in December 1914, including the famous football match between the British and German troops,and the repercussions among the generals.

Several first-hand accounts from both sides are recorded on this site: HELLFIRE CORNER – The Christmas Truce- 1914.

Also worth reading is this article, Soldiers Against War by John V. Denson

Captain Sir Edward Hulse of the Scots Guards, in his famous account, remembered the approach of four unarmed Germans at 08.30. He went out to meet them with one of his ensigns. ‘Their spokesmen,’ Hulse wrote, ‘started off by saying that he thought it only right to come over and wish us a happy Christmas, and trusted us implicitly to keep the truce. He came from Suffolk where he had left his best girl and a 3 ½ h.p. motor-bike!’

Having raced off to file a report at headquarters, Hulse returned at 10.00 to find crowds of British soldiers and Germans out together chatting and larking about in no-man’s land, in direct contradiction to his orders.

Not that Hulse seemed to care about the fraternisation in itself – the need to be seen to follow orders was his concern. Thus he sought out a German officer and arranged for both sides to return to their lines.

While this was going on he still managed to keep his ears and eyes open to the fantastic events that were unfolding.

‘Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged addresses given and received, photos of families shown, etc. One of our fellows offered a German a cigarette; the German said, “Virginian?” Our fellow said, “Aye, straight-cut”, the German said “No thanks, I only smoke Turkish!”… It gave us all a good laugh.’

Hulse’s account was in part a letter to his mother, who in turn sent it on to the newspapers for publication, as was the custom at the time. Tragically, Hulse was killed in March 1915.

On many parts of the line the Christmas Day truce was initiated through sadder means. Both sides saw the lull as a chance to get into no-man’s land and seek out the bodies of their compatriots and give them a decent burial. Once this was done the opponents would inevitably begin talking to one another.

The 6th Gordon Highlanders, for example, organised a burial truce with the enemy. After the gruesome task of laying friends and comrades to rest was complete, the fraternisation began.

On Boxing Day Captain Stockwell of the Welsh Fusiliers had three shots fired into the air, posted a sign reading ‘Merry Christmas’ and climbed atop of his parapet. The Germans quickly displayed a sign saying ‘Thank You’ and their company commander stood proudly on his own parapet. The two officers faced each other bowed, saluted and then descended into their own trenches. The German captain then fired two shots into the air. The war recommenced.

A Plum Pudding Policy Which Might Have Ended The War

Written in the trenches by Private Frederick W. Heath

The night closed in early – the ghostly shadows that haunt the trenches came to keep us company as we stood to arms. Under a pale moon, one could just see the grave-like rise of ground which marked the German trenches two hundred yards away. Fires in the English lines had died down, and only the squelch of the sodden boots in the slushy mud, the whispered orders of the officers and the NCOs, and the moan of the wind broke the silence of the night. The soldiers’ Christmas Eve had come at last, and it was hardly the time or place to feel grateful for it.

Memory in her shrine kept us in a trance of saddened silence. Back somewhere in England, the fires were burning in cosy rooms; in fancy I heard laughter and the thousand melodies of reunion on Christmas Eve. With overcoat thick with wet mud, hands cracked and sore with the frost, I leaned against the side of the trench, and, looking through my loophole, fixed weary eyes on the German trenches. Thoughts surged madly in my mind; but they had no sequence, no cohesion. Mostly they were of home as I had known it through the years that had brought me to this. I asked myself why I was in the trenches in misery at all, when I might have been in England warm and prosperous. That involuntary question was quickly answered. For is there not a multitude of houses in England, and has not someone to keep them intact? I thought of a shattered cottage in — , and felt glad that I was in the trenches. That cottage was once somebody’s home.

Still looking and dreaming, my eyes caught a flare in the darkness. A light in the enemy’s trenches was so rare at that hour that I passed a message down the line. I had hardly spoken when light after light sprang up along the German front. Then quite near our dug-outs, so near as to make me start and clutch my rifle, I heard a voice. there was no mistaking that voice with its guttural ring. With ears strained, I listened, and then, all down our line of trenches there came to our ears a greeting unique in war: “English soldier, English soldier, a merry Christmas, a merry Christmas!”

Friendly invitation

Following that salute boomed the invitation from those harsh voices: “Come out, English soldier; come out here to us.” For some little time we were cautious, and did not even answer. Officers, fearing treachery, ordered the men to be silent. But up and down our line one heard the men answering that Christmas greeting from the enemy. How could we resist wishing each other a Merry Christmas, even though we might be at each other’s throats immediately afterwards? So we kept up a running conversation with the Germans, all the while our hands ready on our rifles. Blood and peace, enmity and fraternity – war’s most amazing paradox. The night wore on to dawn – a night made easier by songs from the German trenches, the pipings of piccolos and from our broad lines laughter and Christmas carols. Not a shot was fired, except for down on our right, where the French artillery were at work.

Came the dawn, pencilling the sky with grey and pink. Under the early light we saw our foes moving recklessly about on top of their trenches. Here, indeed, was courage; no seeking the security of the shelter but a brazen invitation to us to shoot and kill with deadly certainty. But did we shoot? Not likely! We stood up ourselves and called benisons on the Germans. Then came the invitation to fall out of the trenches and meet half way.

Still cautious we hung back. Not so the others. They ran forward in little groups, with hands held up above their heads, asking us to do the same. Not for long could such an appeal be resisted – beside, was not the courage up to now all on one side? Jumping up onto the parapet, a few of us advanced to meet the on-coming Germans. Out went the hands and tightened in the grip of friendship. Christmas had made the bitterest foes friends.

The Gift of Gifts

Here was no desire to kill, but just the wish of a few simple soldiers (and no one is quite so simple as a soldier) that on Christmas Day, at any rate, the force of fire should cease. We gave each other cigarettes and exchanged all manner of things. We wrote our names and addresses on the field service postcards, and exchanged them for German ones. We cut the buttons off our coats and took in exchange the Imperial Arms of Germany. But the gift of gifts was Christmas pudding. The sight of it made the Germans’ eyes grow wide with hungry wonder, and at the first bite of it they were our friends for ever. Given a sufficient quantity of Christmas puddings, every German in the trenches before ours would have surrendered.

And so we stayed together for a while and talked, even though all the time there was a strained feeling of suspicion which rather spoilt this Christmas armistice. We could not help remembering that we were enemies, even though we had shaken hands. We dare not advance too near their trenches lest we saw too much, nor could the Germans come beyond the barbed wire which lay before ours. After we had chatted, we turned back to our respective trenches for breakfast.

All through the day no shot was fired, and all we did was talk to each other and make confessions which, perhaps, were truer at that curious moment than in the normal times of war. How far this unofficial truce extended along the lines I do not know, but I do know that what I have written here applies to the — on our side and the 158th German Brigade, composed of Westphalians.

As I finish this short and scrappy description of a strangely human event, we are pouring rapid fire into the German trenches, and they are returning the compliment just as fiercely. Screeching through the air above us are the shattering shells of rival batteries of artillery. So we are back once more to the ordeal of fire.

NOTE TO OTHER PUBLISHERS: This work is out of copyright but if you do reprint it please credit the hard-working volunteer – Marian Robson – who found and transcribed it.

The truce began on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.

The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the “No Man’s Land” where small gifts were exchanged — whisky, jam, cigars, chocolate, and the like. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects. At one funeral in No Man’s Land, soldiers from both sides gathered and read a passage from the 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

The truce spread to other areas of the lines, and there are many stories of football matches between the opposing forces. The film Joyeux Noël suggests that letters sent home from both British and German soldiers related that the score was 3-2 in favour of the Germans.

source: wikipedia

Here is a link to Mike Harding’s website where you can find details of the CD Plutonium Alley. A quality remastered version is available:

My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool.
Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school.
To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here
I fought for King and country I love dear.

‘Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung,
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung
Our families back in England were toasting us that day
Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

I was lying with my messmate on the cold and rocky ground
When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound
Says I, “Now listen up, me boys!” each soldier strained to hear
As one young German voice sang out so clear.

“He’s singing bloody well, you know!” my partner says to me
Soon, one by one, each German voice joined in harmony
The cannons rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more
As Christmas brought us respite from the war.

As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent
“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” struck up some lads from Kent
The next they sang was “Stille Nacht.” “Tis ‘Silent Night’,” says I
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky.

“There’s someone coming toward us!” the front line sentry cried
All sights were fixed on one long figure trudging from their side
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shown on that plain so bright
As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night.

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man’s Land
With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand
We shared some secret brandy and we wished each other well

And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave ’em hell
We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own
Young Sanders played his squeezebox and they had a violin
This curious and unlikely band of men.

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more
With sad farewells we each prepared to settle back to war
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wonderous night
“Whose family have I fixed within my sights?”

‘Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost, so bitter hung
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung
For the walls they’d kept between us to exact the work of war
Had been crumbled and were gone forevermore.

My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell
Each Christmas come since World War I, I’ve learned its lessons well
That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we’re the same.

Christmas truce was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front around Christmas 1914, during the World War I. Through the week leading up to Christmas, parties of German and British soldiers began to exchange seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches; on occasion, the tension was reduced to the point that individuals would walk across to talk to their opposite numbers bearing gifts. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many soldiers from both sides – as well as, to a lesser degree, from French units – independently ventured into “no man’s land“, where they mingled, exchanging food and souvenirs. As well as joint burial ceremonies, several meetings ended in carol-singing. Troops from both sides were also friendly enough to play games of football with one another.

The truce is seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of modern history. It was not ubiquitous, however; in some regions of the front, fighting continued throughout the day, while in others, little more than an arrangement to recover bodies was made. The following year, a few units again arranged ceasefires with their opponents over Christmas, but the truces were not nearly as widespread as in 1914; this was, in part, due to strongly worded orders from the high commands of both sides prohibiting such fraternisation. In 1916, after the unprecedentedly bloody battles of the Somme and Verdun, and the beginning of widespread poison gas use, soldiers on both sides increasingly viewed the other side as less than human, and no more Christmas truces were sought.

In the early months of immobile trench warfare, the truces were not unique to the Christmas period, and reflected a growing mood of “live and let live“, where infantry units in close proximity to each other would stop overtly aggressive behaviour, and often engage in small-scale fraternisation, engaging in conversation or bartering for cigarettes. In some sectors, there would be occasional ceasefires to allow soldiers to go between the lines and recover wounded or dead comrades, while in others, there would be a tacit agreement not to shoot while men rested, exercised, or worked in full view of the enemy. The Christmas truces were particularly significant due to the number of men involved and the level of their participation – even in very peaceful sectors, dozens of men openly congregating in daylight was remarkable.

Though there was no official truce, about 100,000 British and German troops were involved in unofficial cessations of fighting along the length of the Western Front. The first truce started on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium.

The Germans began by placing candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across No Man’s Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. Theartillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held. The fraternisation was not, however, without its risks; some soldiers were shot by opposing forces. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but it continued until New Year’s Day in others.

Bruce Bairnsfather, who served throughout the war, wrote: “I wouldn’t have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything. … I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons. … I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket. I then gave him two of mine in exchange. … The last I saw was one of my machine gunners, who was a bit of an amateur hairdresser in civil life, cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile Boche, who was patiently kneeling on the ground whilst the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck.”

General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, commander of the British II Corps, was irate when he heard what was happening, and issued strict orders forbidding friendly communication with the opposing German troops.

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The soldiers sang Christmas carols before leaving their trenches to play a match in sub-zero temperatures in no-man’s land near Armentieres, France.

The truce began when German soldiers started to sing Christmas carols.

British troops responded and gradually both sets of soldiers moved out of their trenches and met in no-man’s land.

After exchanging stories and gifts, several games of football broke out.

The only result recorded was a 3-2 victory by the Germans, quoted in soldiers’ letters from both sides.

On some parts of the front hostilities were officially resumed on Boxing Day at 0830 – ceremonial pistol shots marking the occasion.

In other areas non-aggressive behaviour lasted for days and, in some cases, weeks.

Military historian Andrew Robertshaw says such a truce would have been unthinkable a year later.

He said: “This was before the poisoned gas, before aerial bombardment.

“By the end of 1915 both sides were far too bitter for this to happen again.”

In reality, despite the efforts by the higher command on both sides of no man’s line to eliminate fraterniztion at subsequent Christmases, very localized truces occurred throughout the war — although they never rose to the level of the 1914 truce. Some regiments have been shown to have been involved in Christmas truces every year until 1917.

The Truce received some media coverage as well. In England, reports of the Truce hit the papers a week after and expressed the joy and worry soldiers had during it. The German paper criticized those troops who took part in the Truce. However, in France there was almost no reports of it. But the story of the Truce spread through each military and there was several attempts to make the Truce an annual event. However, that would never come to be. The British and German military leaders planned artillery barrages and attacks on Christmas Eve and Day for the remainder of the war. Yet, recent research has shown that one more Truce may have happened in 1916. This time German and Canadian troops revived the practice of Christmas on the battlefield. Unfortunately for historians the only record of this comes from a soldier who was killed several days after the Truce ended. So the war would then continue on as planned and the Christmas Truce would become somehow forgotten amongst battles, casualties and legends of World War I.

There is no doubt that the propaganda of both sides influenced the soldiers’ attitude toward their enemies. On both sides, the offer of truce was refused. The reason for the refusal was their beliefs in the other’s guilt and in their just cause. A lieutenant from the German “Landwehr” wrote in a letter that

“ such a proposal in the past would have been accepted with pleasure, but at the present time, when we have clearly recognized England’s real character, we refuse to any such agreement. Also we do not doubt that you are men of honor, yet every feeling of ours revolts against any friendly intercourse towards the subjects of a nation which for years has, in underhand ways sought the friendship of all other nations, so that with their help annihilate us, a nation also which, while professing Christianity, is not ashamed to use dum-dum bullets; and whose greatest pleasure would be to see the political disappearance and social eclipse of Germany.[…] But all the same you are Englishmen, whose annihilate we consider as our most sacred duty. We therefore request you to take such action as will prevent your mercenaries, whom you call soldiers, from approaching our trenches in future.”[22]

Neither did the German philosophy student soldier Karl Aldag change his opinion about his English opponents. Although he had a great Christmas with his comrades in the trenches and a truce on New Year’s Eve to bury the dead, he noted that English soldiers were ”only mercenaries.”

Similar feelings existed on the other side of the trenches. Captain Billy Congreve from the 3rd division noticed that the Germans did try to make a truce for Christmas.

We have issued strict orders to the men not to on any account allow a truce, as we have heard rumours that they will probably try to. The Germans did. They came over towards us singing. So we opened rapid fire on them, which is the only truce they deserve.”

Bruce Bairnsfather described the Germans he met during the truce as “unimaginative products of perverted kulture” and as “these devils, […], all wanted to be friendly; but none of them possessed the open, frank geniality of our men.” In his diary he labeled the Germans mostly as Huns.

The infantry Captain J.D.M. Beckett portrayed Germans as “very simple-minded creatures, and were much elated over alleged victories in Russia.” In his letter which Beckett wrote about the meeting with the Germans he described them as arrogant and self-confident.

The Westminster Rifleman P.H. Jones wrote in his letter that, when the Germans came over toward their trenches, “this was all very well, but we had heard so many yarns about German treachery that we kept a very sharp look-out.” The British lieutenant of the Cameronians emphasizes that trickery by the Germans was a common fear. He was warned not to allow the Germans to come too close to their trenches. Because the Germans did nothing without purpose, they feared the Germans would inspect the British trenches.

Captain Sir Edward Hamilton from the Scots Guards wrote to his mother on December 28 1914 about his experiences of the truce. Although this letter shows a great understanding of each other – one German soldier gave him a letter for his English girl – both sides still stuck in their old patterns.

They think that our Press is to blame in working up feelings against them by publishing false “atrocity reports.” I told them of various sweet little cases which I have seen myself, and they told me of English prisoners whom put they have seen with soft-nosed bullets, and lead bullets with notches cut in the nose; we had a heated, and at the same time good-natured argument, and ended by hinting to each other that the other was lying.”

Interestingly, Hamilton (picture on the right) reports no kind of hatred or mistrust of each other. They exchanged what they had heard about the each other. Stories and reports they had read or heard about the other’s illegal warfare were discussed. He believed the German soldiers when they told him that they were tired of fighting.

Furthermore, this quote shows quite impressively that both sides trusted each other. Otherwise a conversation like this reported one would not be possible. People who hate their enemies or at least mistrust them will not discuss the propaganda stories they have heard. In the following sections of this letter, it becomes clear that both sides still went on with their fraternizations, and there is no kind of mistrust visible.

Although it seems that Hamilton trusted the Germans, he called them in his diary, as Bairnsfather did, Huns, which means that a small part of the propaganda still worked. In opposition to Bairnsfather, who uses the word Huns with a clear negative connotation, Hamilton uses this world only as different word for Germans. The way Hamilton uses the description Huns is neutral and not an expression of mistrust and disdain against the Germans.

Other soldiers like an officer from the Westminster Rifles, started thinking about the way the Germans were presented in the British press. In his letter, which was published first in The Daily News on December 30 and one day later in the New York Times, the officer described his impression of the truce with the Germans.

The Germans opposite us were awfully decent fellows – Saxons, intelligent, respectable-looking men. I had a quite decent talk with three or four have two names and addresses in my notebook. […] After our talk I really think a lot of our newspaper reports must be horribly exaggerated.”

The Christmas Truce of 1914

Build up to the truce

Under strong French pressure to take the initiative, the army was ordered into a series of small piecemeal attacks that proved to be very costly. An example is the attack of 8th Brigade at Wytschaete on 14 December 1914. Cut down by rifle and machine gun fire and unable to enter enemy trenches, the attacking units left many casualties lying in no man’s land and on the enemy barbed wire defences.


5 December 1914
II Corps HQ [General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien] issued an instruction to commanders of all Divisions: “It is during this period that the greatest danger to the morale of troops exists. Experience of this and of every other war proves undoubtedly that troops in trenches in close proximity to the enemy slide very easily, if permitted to do so, into a “live and let live” theory of life…officers and men sink into a military lethargy from which it is difficult to arouse them when the moment for great sacrifices again arises…the attitude of our troops can be readily understood and to a certain extent commands sympathy…such an attitude is however most dangerous for it discourages initiative in commanders and destroys the offensive spirit in all ranks…the Corps Commander therefore directs Divisional Commanders to impress on subordinate commanders the absolute necessity of encouraging offensive spirit…friendly intercourse with the enemy, unofficial armistices, however tempting and amusing they may be, are absolutely prohibited”
The early weeks of December 1914
Tremendous volumes of mail and gifts for the troops were sent from homes in the United Kingdom and Germany. King George V sent a Christmas card to every soldier, sailor and nurse; the Princess Mary fund despatched a gift box to every serving soldier.
14 December 1914
An attack of 8th Brigade at Wytschaete on 14 December 1914 fails with heavy casualties.
18 December 1914
An attack by 22nd Brigade [2nd Queen’s and 2nd Royal Warwickshire] on the Well Farm position at La Boutillerie fails with heavy casualties. A further effort [by 20th Brigade; 2nd Scots Guards and 2nd Border] later in the day also fails.
19 December 1914
An attack by 11th Brigade [1st Somerset Light Infantry, 1st Hampshire and 1st Rifle Brigade] on the “German Birdcage” east of Ploegsteert Wood fails with heavy casualties, many of which are caused by British heavy artillery firing short of target.
20 December 1914
Local truce on the front of 22nd Brigade; Germans begin by taking in British wounded from no man’s land. There is some contact: according to Lt G. Heinekey of 2nd Queen’s, it lasted all morning. Lt Henry Bower, 1st South Staffordshire and at least one soldier of the 2nd Queen’s were killed by rifle fire from neighbouring units while assisting with the wounded. A similar activity took place on the front of 20th Brigade.
23 December 1914
A German soldier, Karl Aldag, reports that both sides had been heard singing hymns in the trenches. German troops coming into the lines bring Christmas trees. Some men begin to place them on the parapets of the fire trenches. Local truce on the front of 23rd Brigade.
24 December 1914, Christmas Eve
The weather changes to a hard frost. This makes trench conditions a little more bearable. 98 British soldiers die on this day, many are victims of sniper fire. A German aeroplane drops a bomb on Dover: the first air raid in British history. During the afternoon and early evening, British infantry are astonished to see many Christmas trees with candles and paper lanterns, on enemy parapets. There is much singing of carols, hymns and popular songs, and a gradual exchange of communication and even meetings in some areas. Many of these meetings are to arrange collection of bodies. In other places, firing continues. Battalion officers are uncertain how to react; in general they maintain precautions. The night brings a clear, still air with a hard frost.

British and German troops fraternise at Christmas 1914
25 December 1914, Christmas Day

Men of 20th Brigade bury their dead of the attack of 18 December, alongside German soldiers engaged in the same activity. Christmas Day, 1914.
Units behind the lines attend church services and have in most cases arranged Christmas dinners which are taken in barns and shattered buildings. In the front lines, the fraternisation of Christmas Eve is continued throughout the day; not all units know about it, and it is not universal but is widespread over at least half of the British front. Many bodies that have been lying out in no man’s land are buried, some in joint burials. Many men record the strange and wonderful events; may men exchange tokens or addresses with German soldiers, many of whom speak English. 81 British soldiers die on this day; a few die in areas that are otherwise peaceful and with fraternisation going on, victims of alert snipers. In other areas, there is considerable activity: 2nd Grenadier Guards suffer losses in a day of heavy fighting. As night fell, things grew quiet as men fell back to their trenches to take whatever Christmas meal that had been provided for them.
26 December 1914, Boxing Day

British and German troops meet in no man’s land. Boxing Day, 1914. Photographed by 2nd Lt Cyril Drummand, RFA.

Some snow. In some areas, the friendly spirit was resumed. Gradually however, officers and men on both sides began to resume normal trench caution. The atmosphere in general remained relaxed as Brigade and Battalion officers took a pragmatic view of events. The chance was taken to carry out work that would otherwise have been hazardous. By now, however, news of the truce was reaching higher commands. General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien requested particulars of those units and officers who took part, with a view to disciplinary action. In the event, no action was taken against any unit or officer. 62 British soldiers die on this day.
27-31 December 1914
The weather turns wet again, with rain, sleet and storms. There were instances of men disappearing in the flooded trenches. Yet in some areas the friendly mood remained for several days and there was almost no firing, although open fraternisation gradually died away. On New Years Eve, there was a certain amount of singing and exchange of messages, but no truce as such.

List of British units which took part in the truce

5th Division on Wulverghem – Messines road and in the River Douve valley
14th Brigade1st Devonshire
1st East Surrey
2nd Manchester
15th Brigade1/6th Cheshire
1st Norfolk
4th Division in front of Ploegsteert Wood
10th Brigade1st Royal Warwickshire
2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers
2nd Seaforth Highlanders
1st Royal Irish Fusiliers
11th Brigade1st Hampshire
1st Rifle Brigade
1st East Lancashire
1/5th London (London Rifle Brigade)
12th Brigade2nd Lancashire Fusiliers
2nd Essex
1/2nd Monmouthshire
XXXIII Bde RFA135 Battery RFA
31 Heavy Battery RGA
6th Division at Frelinghien and Houplines
16th Brigade1st Leicestershire
1st Buffs (East Kent)
17th Brigade2nd Leinster
3rd Rifle Brigade
1/16th London (Queen’s Westminster Rifles)
1st North Staffordshire
19th Brigade2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers
2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
1/5th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
XIII (H) Bde RFA87 Battery RFA
7th Division at Bois Grenier, La Boutillerie and on the Fromelles road
20th Brigade2nd Border
2nd Gordon Highlanders
1/6th Gordon Highlanders
2nd Scots Guards
21st Brigade2nd Wiltshire
2nd Bedfordshire
2nd Yorkshire
22nd Brigade2nd Queen’s (Royal West Surrey)
1/8th Royal Scots
XXIII Bde RFA104 Battery RFA
XIV Bde RFAF and T Batteries RHA
III Heavy Bde RGA111 and 112 Batteries RGA
A and B Squadrons, the Northumberland Hussars
8th Division at Picantin, Fauquissart and Neuve Chapelle
23rd Brigade2nd Devonshire
2nd Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
24th Brigade2nd East Lancashire
2nd Northamptonshire
25th Brigade1/13th London (Kensington)
1st Royal Irish Rifles > War diary from Christmas 1914
XLV Bde RFA5 Battery RFA
2 Field Company, the Royal Engineers
Meerut Division at Richebourg l’Avoué
Gharwal Brigade1/39 Gharwal Rifles
2/39 Gharwal Rifles
18th Hussars

Note: those units that were under command of the Divisions and Brigades shown but do not appear in the table did not take part in fraternisation, often because they were in billets and out of the front line at the time. The list has been compiled by reference to war diaries, soldiers letters, reports, etc.

List of German units which took part in the truce

6th Bavarian Reserve Division, facing Kemmel
12th Bavarian Reserve Brigade Brigade17th Bavarian Reserve Regiment
40th Division, facing Wulverghem and Ploegsteert Wood and at Frelinghien
48th Brigade10th Infantry Regiment
88th Brigade104th Infantry Regiment
6th Jaeger Battalion
89th Brigade133rd Infantry Regiment Saxon
134th Infantry Regiment
24th Division, on the Armentieres-Lille railway
47th Brigade179th Infantry Regiment
48th Brigade107th Infantry Regiment
13th Division, at Fromelles and on Rue des Bois Blancs
25th Brigade158th Infantry Regiment
13th Infantry Regiment
11th Jaeger Battalion
26th Brigade55th Infantry Regiment
15th Infantry Regiment
14th Division, at Aubers and Festubert
27th Brigade16th Infantry Regiment (3rd Westphalian)

Myths and legends about the Christmas truce

The Pope calls for peace at Christmas

In early December 1914 Pope Benedict XV began an initiative, requesting that the nations “cease the clang of arms while Christendom celebrates the Feast of the World’s Redemption”. Germany said it would do so as long as the other nations did; they did not, and the Pope’s effort faltered. It is doubtful whether it had any meaningful impact on what eventually happened.

Football in no man’s land

It is by no means certain that this took place, although many men report that it happened to a neighbouring unit. Mention appears in the war diary of the 1/6th Cheshire Regiment. A common theme is a score of 3-2 to the Germans.

British senior officer casualties 18 to 31 December 1914

18 December 1914: Major (Temp. Lt-Col) Robert Brewis, 2nd Royal Warwickshire. Killed during attack at La Boutillerie. Buried in Sailly-sur-la-Lys Churchyard. A veteran of the Sudan.

23 December 1914: Lt-Col Henry Lempriere DSO, 7th Dragoon Guards. Has no known grave; commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Le Touret.

29 December 1914: Lt-Col Reginald Alexander, 3rd Rifle Brigade. Died of wounds; buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery.

Truce area

The truce took part over a wide area of the British front. This is part of it: the field on the left is near Ploegsteert and is where the units of 10th Brigade met their enemy.

Other accounts:

The Christmas Truce of 1914 The Long, Long Trail n.d., accessed 12/24/2011

December 15, 2011

‘Operation Silent Night’ tells of another Christmas miracle Fayette Tribune 12/15/2011

Peace on the Western Front, Goodwill in No Man’s Land — The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce Past Imperfect (Smithsonian blog) 12/23/2011

Claudia Becker, Erster Weltkrieg.Als Briten und Deutsche Weihnachtsfrieden schlossen Die Welt 23.12.2011

Damien Fletcher, Carol Ann Duffy’s moving tale of World War Christmas truce Daily Mirror 23/12/2011

Gary Kohls, The Christmas Truce of 1914 Consortuium News 12/16/2011

Michael Omer-Man, This Week in History: The Christmas Truce of 1914 Jerusalem Post 12/18/2011, 11th December, Christmas Truce My Tower Hamlets 12/11/2011

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Pay it forward

Pay It Forward is a 2000 American drama film directed by Mimi Leder. The film is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde. It is set in Las Vegas, and it chronicles 12-year-old Trevor McKinney’s launch of a goodwill movement known as “pay it forward“. It stars Haley Joel Osment as Trevor, Helen Hunt as his alcoholic single mother Arlene McKinney, and Kevin Spacey as his physically and emotionally scarred social studies teacher Eugene Simonet.

The film was released on October 20, 2000 to mixed reviews, with most critics praising the acting, writing, music and cinematography but criticizing the story and accusing it of excessive emotional manipulation, particularly in its ending.

may we monkeys become wolves?

Empathy is the capacity to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another sentient or semi-sentient (in fiction writing) being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion. The English word was coined in 1909 by Edward B. Titchener as an attempt to translate the German word “Einfühlungsvermögen“, a new phenomenon explored at the end of 19th century mainly by Theodor Lipps. It was later re-translated into the German language (Germanized) as “Empathie“, and is still in use there.

The expression “pay it forward” is used to describe the concept of asking the beneficiary of a good deed to repay it to others instead of to the original benefactor. The concept is old, but the phrase may have been coined by Lily Hardy Hammond in her 1916 book In the Garden of Delight.

“Pay it forward” is implemented in contract law of loans in the concept of third party beneficiaries. Specifically, the creditor offers the debtor the option of “paying” the debt forward by lending it to athird person instead of paying it back to the original creditor. Debt and payments can be monetary or by good deeds. A related type of transaction, which starts with a gift instead of a loan, isalternative giving.

The concept was used as a key plot element in the denouement of a New Comedy play by MenanderDyskolos (a title which can be translated as “The Grouch”). Dyskolos was a prizewinning play in ancient Athens in 317 BC; however, the text of the play was lost and it was not re-published until 1957.

The concept was rediscovered and described by Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 25, 1784:

I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you […] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his 1841 essay Compensation, wrote: “In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.”

In 1916, Lily Hardy Hammond wrote, “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.”

Woody Hayes (February 14, 1913 – March 12, 1987) was a college football coach who is best remembered for winning five national titles and 13 Big Ten championships in 28 years at The Ohio State University. He misquoted Emerson as having said “You can pay back only seldom. You can always pay forward, and you must pay line for line, deed for deed, and cent for cent.” He also shortened the (mis)quotation into “You can never pay back; but you can always pay forward” and variants.

The 1929 novel, Magnificent Obsession, by Lloyd C. Douglass, also espoused this philosophy, in combination with the concept that good deeds should be performed in confidence.

An anonymous spokesman for Alcoholics Anonymous said in the Christian Science Monitor in 1944, “You can’t pay anyone back for what has happened to you, so you try to find someone you can pay forward.”

Also in 1944, the first steps were taken in the development of what became Heifer Project, one of whose core strategies is “Passing on the Gift”.

The term “pay it forward” was popularized by Robert A. Heinlein in his book Between Planets, published in 1951:

The banker reached into the folds of his gown, pulled out a single credit note. “But eat first — a full belly steadies the judgment. Do me the honor of accepting this as our welcome to the newcomer.”
His pride said no; his stomach said YES! Don took it and said, “Uh, thanks! That’s awfully kind of you. I’ll pay it back, first chance.”
“Instead, pay it forward to some other brother who needs it.”

Heinlein both preached and practiced this philosophy; now the Heinlein Society, a humanitarian organization founded in his name, does so. Author Spider Robinson made repeated reference to the doctrine, attributing it to his spiritual mentor Heinlein.

The concept appears in the novel Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, published in 1957, when the main character Douglas Spaulding is reflecting on his life being saved by Mr. Jonas, the Junkman:

How do I thank Mr. Jonas, he wondered, for what he’s done? How do I thank him, how pay him back? No way, no way at all. You just can’t pay. What then? What? Pass it on somehow, he thought, pass it on to someone else. Keep the chain moving. Look around, find someone, and pass it on. That was the only way….

Bradbury has also advised that writers he has helped thank him by helping other writers.

The mathematician Paul Erdős heard about a promising math student unable to enroll in Harvard University for financial reasons. Erdős contributed enough to allow the young man to register. Years later, the man offered to return the entire amount to Erdős, but Erdős insisted that the man rather find another student in his situation, and give the money to him.

Some time in 1980, a sixteen-page supplemental Marvel comic appeared in the Chicago Tribune entitled “What Price a Life?” and was subsequently reprinted as the backup story in Marvel Team-Up #126 dated February, 1983. This was a team-up between Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk, in which Spider-Man helps the Hulk escape from police who mistakenly thought that he was attacking them. Afterwards, they meet in their secret identities, with Peter Parker warning Bruce Banner to leave town because of the Hulk’s seeming attack on police. But Banner is flat broke, and cannot afford even bus fare. So, Parker gives Banner his last $5 bill, saying that someone had given him money when he was down on his luck, and this was how he was repaying that debt. Later, in Chicago, the Hulk confronts muggers who’d just robbed an elderly retired man of his pension money, all the money he had. After corralling the muggers, the Hulk turns towards the victim. The retiree thinks that the Hulk is about to attack him as well, but instead, the Hulk gives him the $5 bill. Turns out that the old man was the same person who’d earlier given a down-on-his-luck Peter Parker a $5 bill.

In 2000, Catherine Ryan Hyde‘s novel Pay It Forward was published and adapted into a Warner Brothers film, Pay It Forward. In Ryan Hyde’s book and movie it is described as an obligation to do three good deeds for others in response to a good deed that one receives. Such good deeds should accomplish things that the other person cannot accomplish on their own. In this way, the practice of helping one another can spread geometrically through society, at a ratio of three to one, creating a social movement with an impact of making the world a better place.

To further promote the pay it forward idea, university student Christopher Lo was inspired to create The Karma Seed service and website in 2010 after he unexpectedly regained a lost video camera due to the kindness of a stranger. A “Karma Seed” is a small, plastic card with a unique number and directions for accessing the website. If you perform a favor for someone, you can pass them a Karma Seed card, ask them to check the card in online, and request that they pass the card onto someone else after doing a good deed for them in “pay it forward” fashion. Any recipient or giver of a Karma Seed can go the website and see a history of the good deeds affiliated with the card. The Karma Seed is an LLC company that contributes 50% of profits to The Karma Seed Foundation to support social projects in the geographic area of Washington University in St. Louis.

The Pay it Forward Movement and Foundation was founded in the USA helping start a positive ripple effect of kindness acts in many places around the world. The newly appointed president of the foundation, Charley Johnson, had an idea for encouraging kindness acts by having a Pay it Forward Bracelet that could be worn as a reminder. Since then, over a million Pay it Forward bracelets have been distributed in over 100 countries sparking some amazing acts of kindness. Few bracelets remain with their original recipients, however, as they circulate in the spirit of the reciprocal or generalized altruism.

On April 5th 2012, WBRZ, a Louisiana affiliate of ABC NEWS, did a story on The Newton Project, a 501(c)(3) outreach organization created to demonstrate that regardless of how big the problems of the world may seem, each person can make a difference simply by taking the time to show love, appreciation and kindness to the people around them. It is based on the classic pay it forward concept, but demonstrates the impact of each act on the world by tracking each wristband with a unique ID number and quantifying the lives each has touched. The Newton Project’s attempt to quantify the benefits of a Pay It Forward type system can be viewed by the general public at

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I never seen a picture, but I reckon from her story that she was a beautiful girl that became a wealthy widow. She married many times, the first husband was Villarreal, there was a Henderson in the middle, and the last one was Pérez, my great-grandfather.

My grandfather Justino was the Benjamin of a long list of siblings. The older ones were more surrogate parents than brothers and sisters. The records show that he was born in Cameron County, Texas, in 1897, however the family folklore says he falsified the records to enlist for World War I when he was a minor. Justino grew up in San Benito, a typical Texas town of the beginning of the twentieth century, where the railroad tracks marked the segregation boundary, on one side was San Benito, for Texans and Mexicans, and on the other, was Harlingen, for the new conquerors.

Grandpa’s family had been in Texas for over two hundred years and they were Mexican in the sense that Texas was once part of Mexico. My grandfather would refer to himself as Texan, without qualifications, to Mexican migrants as “pelones” and to the invaders as “gabachos.” Due to facts on the ground, it is necessary to clarify explicitly something that should be evident. In 1954, in the U.S. Supreme Court case Hernandez v. Texas, one of the Justices asked: “Can Mexican Americans speak English?’ and “Are they citizens?” Gus Garcia replied, “My people were in Texas a hundred years before Sam Houston, that wetback from Tennessee.” When we identify as Texans we do not pretend to be something else, we are asserting our claim to our homeland. Talk about cultural appropriation! On an occasion, I was talking with a migrant from Michoacán. I am not sure where he was born, but his parents came from Michoacán a few decades earlier, he was raised in El Paso and could not speak Spanish. I forgot what we were chatting about, but out of the blue he said, “you foreigners don´t understand how things really are here.” I felt my blood boil and told him that I personally have been in Texas longer than he had been alive and that if I could speak Spanish and he couldn´t, that didn´t make me a non-Texan. I mean, if someone asks me my nationality, I would describe myself as Mexican because I was born in Mexico, but that doesn´t mean I forfeit my identity as Texan. In fact, I hold dual citizenship. Mexican is NOT an ethnicity; it is a civil state. Yes, a cultural complex of sorts, yet with many connotations and shades, similarly to being “American.”

When I was a kid, I did not speak English at all, but my grandfather would tell me never ever mix languages, when speaking English, speak English, when speaking Spanish, speak Spanish. A favorite story was about a skinhead that wanted to signiar, “what?” He finally guessed that “signiar” was Spanglish for to sign. Another activity was to spend the afternoon listing funny Spanglish words like “washateria.”
I remember my aunts talking in Spanish to my cousins and they answering in English. I understood, I probably would behave like them in their place, yet I felt contempt for them, no longer Mexican, yet not fully “American,” but half-baked Mexican-American.

It is a fact of life that there is bad blood between northern Mexicans and “pochos,” second and third generation Mexican migrants. We would cross the Texan border often and know that a Henderson would let you pass without fuss, but a Martinez would make you wait for even hours and question you, looking for excuses to send you back. In a store, you would see them clerks talking in Spanglish, but when you approached them for help, they would resent being talk to in Spanish and claim not to speak it, which in fairness it is true. On our side, we resent being discriminated by newcomers to a land that has been our home for centuries.

Justino was a rascal and a restless wanderer. His elder brothers would try to knock some sense into him with sticks. My grandfather once told me I was born old; He was born a man, one that takes his destiny on his own hands. In his early teens, he took a horse, left the Montalvo household, and rode to Falfurrias to be with the Pérez, his father´s family. He horseback rode the whole Texas Valley looking for girls and adventure.

Hey, restless wanderer
Where you goin’ to now

That when you go, there’ll be
Hearts bleedin’ and

To feel like you’re never at home
And you make new lovers

Don’t you get lonely
Restless wanderer

On the 26th of July, 1917, in Brownsville, he enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard. He served under the 36th Arrowhead Infantry Division. The arrowheads were sent to Europe in July 1918 and conducted major operations in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. On 9–10 October, the unit participated in heavy combat near the village of St. Etienne. The division suffered 2,584 casualties, 466 killed in action and 2,118 wounded in action. The unit was inactivated in June 1919.

World War I was a bloody miserable event, but I couldn´t never tell from hearing the stories of my grandfather, full of laughter, like a mischievous boy recanting his pranks. How he got special privileges because he was the best boxer of his battalion, and he made money betting on himself; How he would leave the trenches to explore the French country side, like if he were in the Texas Valley, looking for girls and adventure. How he would be punished with cooking duty peeling potatoes; how he would compete with one of his friends as a sharpshooter to see who could kill the more Germans (his friend always won). For him, like for the men in his bloodline, being fierce and fearless was the highest value, just below kinship. I can feel this fire in myself, yet is muddled and buried deep.

The story of my grandparents, Justino and Clara, it´s Shakespearean. Justino´s family had already selected a Jewish girl for him, Clara was a minor, and my great-grandfather was half Irish, half German. So, they eloped to Mexico. Justino went to work for the Mexican Eagle Oil Company, a British oil enterprise.

In 1909, the Compañía Mexicana de Petróleo El Aguila SA (“Mexican Eagle Oil Company”) was incorporated. In December 1910, a well on the Gulf of Mexico coast between Veracruz and Tampico struck oil that flowed at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day. This single well turned the fortunes of El Aguila ‘s oil business. Within a few years, Eagle was one of Mexico’s two major oil companies. In 1911 the Mexican revolution overthrew the Díaz dictatorship that had favored Eagle Oil Company. Regardless, by June 1913 Mexican Eagle was the largest company in the Pearson group, with net assets valued at £6.8 million. Eagle was far bigger than the Anglo-Persian Oil Company or Shell Transport and Trading.
Mexican Eagle was the dominant firm in the Mexican petroleum industry until March 18, 1938, when the government of Lázaro Cárdenas nationalized it, along with all other foreign-owned oil interests, to create Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex).

Formally, Justino oversaw logistics, but his real job was to protect the crews prospecting and drilling for oil in the jungles of Veracruz. They would go so deep in the jungles, that people would get below the trucks to check if they were male or female. The mere mention of Justino’s nickname, the Texan, was enough to clear the field of trouble makers. Once, he was shot on the back, still he held his ground. He would leave the oil fields to explore the jungles of Veracruz, like if he were in the Texas Valley, looking for girls and adventure. When the British of Eagle Oil left the fields to the Mexicans of Pemex, he stayed. He spoke fluent Spanish and violence, but most important, he was a northerner which meant that his word could be trusted with life and death matters.

Justino was a rascal all his life, until a stroke cut him to the ground and left him half dead. He was loyal beyond reason, always made business on the worth of his word, without papers. When he felt ill, his partners violated his trust and his partying friends never came to visit. Why a full man would have to suffer a half death? The jokes of the Gods are heartless.

Justino had four daughters. The second one is my mother. She still resents being sent to Texas, away from her parents. Even today, a grandmother herself, she claims, she was not loved as much as the little sister that was kept in Veracruz when things were tamer in Poza Rica.

My grandfather let my grandmother raise their daughters catholic. When they were teenagers, he offered them a small gold star of David with the inscription ציון . Only my mother accepted the accessory as a kind of secret pass way, just in case, without heeding the call. She didn´t even asked for the meaning of the inscription and my grandfather never pressed the issue. My mother would wear the star when on vacation, and if some asked about it, she would answer in a way to imply she was a practicing Jew, but of course, when pressed on the matter she did not know anything about it.

My mother was the first to marry, so my father was Justino´s first son in law. My father was a lot like my grandfather, a northerner, loyal beyond reason, a good friend, and the Benjamin of a large family, tortured by his elder brothers. Justino liked him but there was a crucial difference, my grandfather was a joking rascal and his own man, my father was a straight arrow and a team player. My father ended resenting grandpa because despite being a successful professional, he failed to impress his father in law. Not that my grandfather said anything, it was just what it was. Once, grandfather came to visit us, when my father had just bought a lot in an upper-middle-class neighborhood to build our house. The lot was bigger than average and expensive, indeed and achievement. Father told grandpa that he just bought a huge lot of land. Grandpa´s eyes sparkled with excitement. Justino did not say anything, but the disappointment was evident in his face when he saw that huge was 30×20 square meters. The pain on my father’s face still holds my heart, the pain of a son that just has failed to impress his father. Why did he not tell grandfather matter of fact that he had bought an expensive lot in an upper-class neighborhood? That was impressive enough.

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