Page 16 THE VILLADOM TIMES III • December 9, 2009 football. Addresses were exchanged.) Everyone trooped back to their own trenches. In some cases, there was a lull in sniping and shelling until New Year’s Day. The French and the Germans has a separate Christmas Truce a year later, in 1915 in the Vosges Mountains. French and German soldiers stopped shooting, waved, met, and exchanged bottles of wine and food. Richard Schirrmann, a soldier in the German Army who was there, was so impressed that, after surviving the war, he helped to found the Youth Hostel Movement so young people from France and Germany and the other European nations could travel at minimum expense and learn to appreciate their common humanity. In 1916, on the Russian Front, the Germans and the Russians ceased fire for Easter. Senior officers on all sides looked the other way, but they were nervous – and the politicians and moneymen were especially nervous. What if everybody on all sides decided to celebrate Christmas every day? They were right, but in slow motion. The French Army mutinied in 1917, the Russian Army mutinied twice, and the German Navy mutinied in 1918. Toward the end of the war, nobody in Europe trusted their own governments, and hatred for the enemy was at a very low boil – except among civilians far from the front, the politicians who needed their votes, and the weapons makers who needed the incredible profits. French soldiers in the trenches distrusted their own medical services so much that they often left their seriously wounded for the Germans to find and take care of – and the Germans generally took decent care of them. Later, during the Stalinist invasion of eastern Germany during World War II, hundreds of German farm families were rescued by their French POW agricultural laborers. The Frenchmen stuck their own necks out to protect their German former owners, who had often become a second family to them. Some Germans helped the Russians escape “repatriation” by Stalin, which meant execution or slow death by overwork. Russians who spoke a modicum of German were slipped the identity papers of dead Germans and faded into the population of occupied Germany, as opposed to the snows of Siberia. Some of these Russian defectors made it as far as New Jersey before they were caught and handed back to Stalin. Some got away. I used to talk to a couple of them. They didn’t hate Germans. Notable, too, is the fact that when the French in their turn received German POWs as agricultural laborers, they were shocked to see that the Germans’ previous captors, the Americans, had starved them half to death, and sometimes more than half. Nobody really knows how many late-war German POWs died in American custody. The low figure is about 60,000, and the high figure is about 600,000. The British wanted no part of what some renegade historians have seen as a part of the “Morgenthau Plan” to destroy Germany as an industrial power and – this part was covert – to hand all of Europe over to Stalin. The French backed out of the “Morgenthau Plan” early for humane reasons. The Americans kept on a steady course until they realized that they couldn’t trust Stalin. They then moved from punishing the innocent with the guilty to rehabilitating the guilty along with the innocent. Justice was not served well in either case as genuine Nazi murderers got off too easily and ordinary apolitical Germans, some of them even antiNazi, starved or had sickly, malnourished kids. I don’t remember the Christmas Truce of 1914, but I do remember the birth of the war in Iraq. When the French and the Germans wanted no part of it, the President of the United States told us we should start called french fries “freedom fries” and pricey liquor stores sometimes boycotted French wines. I don’t eat french fries, and I can’t afford pricey French wines, but if I hadn’t been driving seven days a week in those days I would have staged a protest binge. George I and George II may have conveniently forgotten that the French alliance made victory in the American Revolution possible, that thousands of Frenchmen volunteered to fight in the American Civil War, and that if the Irish and the Germans hadn’t overwhelmingly fought for the Union, the South might have won the war. Beating up on France didn’t win us much of a victory in Iraq. Technology finished off Saddam’s Soviet-surplus equipment in a couple of days, but we are now about as popular in the Middle East as Hitler’s army was in Western Europe and Stalin’s army was in Eastern Europe. They didn’t belong where they were, and we don’t belong where we are now. Some people there like us because we advance their private agendas. Most people there hate us. To explain this, we churn out all kinds of hokum about the evils of Islam, conveniently forgetting that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship one God and follow the Law of Moses, and that the Muslims acknowledge Jesus as a major prophet and worker of miracles and venerate the Virgin Mary and Miriam, the sister of Moses, among the greatest of women. Our pop culture demonizes Muslims just as we disparaged the Kaiser’s Germans during World War I, when sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage” and dachshunds became “liberty pups.” The Germans were accused of inventing influenza and rubella in Berlin laboratories, and Beethoven and Wagner were banned on the concert stage. Maybe we should try something like the Christmas Truce of 1914. We cannot offer the other guys a drink if they are serious Muslims. We can, however, offer to get out of their countries as soon as honest people on both sides agree to terms, and stop shooting in the meantime. This year, Thanksgiving was a little different than I expected, but it was happy all the same. My daughter and son-in-law came in from California, my son and his young woman ventured down from the mountain fastnesses of western New Jersey, and we all took a tour of several exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, at the kids’ insistence, ate in a restaurant. My own plan had included watching a DVD together, but since 36 hours got condensed into about six, half of them spent in cars or at the table, this didn’t work out. I watched the DVD at home, and it was food for thought. “Joyeux Noel” is a historically-based fictional film about the Christmas Truce of 1914 during the first year of World War I, which sounds like a wishful fantasy, but was a documented reality. There are photographs, and the last survivors only passed away a few years ago. The movie, a French-German production written and directed by a Frenchman, Christian Carion, may be a tough slog for some viewers because the dialogue is about 40 percent French, 40 percent German, and 20 percent English. The singing – dubbed by two superb young opera singers, Natalie Dessay and Rolando Villazon -- is mostly in Latin and German. I confess to wanting to get the edge on my son-in-law, since he took seven years of Latin and doesn’t know either French or German, but he escaped. The film was released on Nov. 11, 2005, lost money at U.S. box offices, but won a number of awards and nominations in England, Spain, and France. The film also won the awards for best film in a foreign language both in France and Britain. I had not heard of it until I saw a DVD at the Ridgewood Library earlier this year. I won’t describe the plot in any detail for the future enjoyment of those of my readers who don’t scream at the sight of subtitles, but the film concerns the late winter of 1914, when Pope Benedict XV suggested a truce, perhaps as the prelude to a negotiated peace. The Germans were tentatively willing, the French were mum, and the British government was indignantly opposed. The troops in the German and British trenches, however, shouted back in forth that both sides should hold their fire on Christmas Eve. As midnight drew near, Christmas trees dotted with candles popped up on the brink of the German trenches, and the British could hear the Germans singing “Silent Night,” a carol known to both sides. The British replied with their own Christmas carols, and each side began to applaud the other side’s performances. Germans began to stick their heads up, and when they weren’t shot, some of them came out of their trenches and approached the British trenches, where they were greeted with handshakes, cigarettes, and bottles of liquor. Hundreds of recent combatants on both sides began to gather in No Man’s Land or in the trenches of both sides, displaying family photographs, shaking hands, swapping buttons as souvenirs, and sharing food. On Christmas Day – still no firing in the truce zone – both sides met to bury the dead with group prayers. They ate and drank some more, and, in one case, held a football match. (The Germans won, 3-2, but both sides signed the The Christmas Truce of 1914 Letters to the Editor Dear Editor: The veterans of the American Legion and the VFW would like to thank everyone who attended our Ceremony of Honor on Veterans Day. Special thanks go to Korean War veteran Mayor Bud Litchult and Vietnam veteran Councilman Charles Farricker for marching with us. Waldwick residents, employees, schools, and businesses always come out in support of the veterans. To name everyone would be too time consuming, but heartfelt thanks also go to Mrs. Conlon’s class at Crescent School. Her class composed a booklet of letters thanking veterans for our service. At the conclusion of the Ceremony of Honor, everyone was invited to the Legion Hall for refreshments. For God and Country, Commander Anthony Di Giacomo Waldwick Dear Editor: There have been two recent articles in the Villadom Times concerning emergency services in Ho-Ho-Kus and their mutual aid response to surrounding communities. As the president of the Allendale Ambulance Corps (which serves Allendale and Saddle River) I would like to explain the actions being been taken to ensure adequate ambulance response to meet the needs of residents. Many local communities are experiencing a shortage of volunteer emergency medical technicians, especially in the daytime when most people are working. The squads and individual volunteers are committed to the delivery of professional emergency care to the residents with no cost, and are cognizant of the extraordinary expense related to Thankful for community’s support Corps committed to provide service full time paid EMS. Several actions have been taken by the local volunteer squads and the captains to make sure that ambulances can respond to every possible call. First and foremost is to recruit and retain new members. Next is the mutual aid system wherein the ambulance squads respond to calls in their neighboring towns. Over the past year, the Northwest Bergen Mutual Aid Association has acted to refine the mutual aid network to enable members from different towns to respond individually to emergency calls in the next town. Several squads have signed onto this program and it has significantly reduced the need for ambulances and full crews to respond to their neighbors. This is proving effective and it helps to keep more units available for the next emergency call, wherever it may be. Other towns in the area have formalized a system whereby each takes turns serving as the mutual aid ambulance for the area and has a crew committed for that purpose. This has also worked well with communication between the captains and volunteer squads. These actions have eliminated the need for the Ho-HoKus ambulance to respond into Saddle River and Allendale over the past nine months. In Allendale, the residents also benefit from a cooperative effort between the council and our corps that has enabled municipal employees to respond as part of the corps and deliver emergency services to residents. Ramsey and Upper Saddle River have taken other steps to provide daytime coverage. The daytime emergency medical response remains a challenge in all communities. Volunteers remain committed notwithstanding the fact that we are stretched by increased training mandates call volume, and limited resources. Richard Savino Ramsey