The ceasefire on Christmas Eve 1914 was an unprecedented event in the history of world wars. That day German soldiers received fir trees and extra rations from Kaiser Wilhelm. In that festive spirit, the Germans decorated their little trees and sang songs in the Belgian region of Ypres where the conflict had stalled in the trenches near Paris.
The English (rather, Scots, although there were divisions throughout the United Kingdom) and French, hearing the Christmas carols and seeing the decorated fir trees put down their rifles and began to approach the enemy, after the prudent Merry Christmas greetings that were extended along the western front and from there to a trust that led to an informal truce. Deads were buried and wounded rescued. Even impromptu soccer games occurred with gift exchanges. We can see all this in the excellent French film Joyeux Noël (2005). An estimated 100,000 soldiers from the three nations broke up the fighting.
Perhaps a precedent was the request on December 7 of Pope Benedict XV in his textual words to silence the cannons during Christmas Eve so that the angels could sing, but it is true that the gift of the Kaiser had a particular trigger and the song of Stille Nacht (Silent Night) was definitive. The fraternization between the English and the Germans reached in some places until February 1915, in the French ranks it became stricter and most likely did not reach New Year's Day. The central commands were quite angry at the restart of activities: General Sir Horace Smith, commander of the British 2nd Corps, issued strict orders to stop this friendly communication. On the other side, the then soldier Adolf Hitler strongly criticized it.
Other minor truces occurred especially in December 1915, 1916 and 1917, particularly on the French side in the Vosges region in the second year of the conflict. But none like the first. Most of the photos and letters were destroyed and little happened to the press, except for a cable that reached The New York Times on December 31, 1914, and small notes in the English newspapers. Nothing was published in the German or French news.
I have searched extensively in the newspaper library of El Universal, which covered the entire year and even one of our veterans in France appears, and nothing says about it for December. The truth is that by that year, the Venezuelan veteran Luis Camilo Ramírez was already in Bayonne in September and fighting for that nation, also José de Jesús Sánchez Carrero, and nine other Venezuelan veterans with a more Gallic name who were honored by giving their lives for France may have been there.
Their names are engraved on a plaque that you can see at the Colegio Francia in Caracas and it was unveiled on November 11, 2011 (94th anniversary of the armistice). Act celebrated with all the military and cultural honors by the French-Venezuelan Embassy and Community where the Marseillaise, the Gloria al Bravo Pueblo and the Ode to Joy (coral part 9th Beethoven’s symphony, Anthem of the European Community) were played. For the centennial Armistice celebration at the Colegio Francia in 2018, the German delegation joined, the German anthem Deutschland über alles was heard and three letters from French soldiers and one German were read by young high school students in the original language.
Knowing what those Creoles did and if they were really there on that date is extremely difficult. José de Jesús Sánchez Carrero was close, but in his writings, I read nothing about it, and Luis Camilo Ramírez stayed in Europe and then went to Morocco with the French army. There is a veteran of the German side, Werner Rode, of whom we know nothing. As for the other German Venezuelans, Carlos Meyer Baldo and Eduard Hartwig von Jess Lossada, we have the certainty they were in the cavalry of the Eastern Front at the beginning of the conflict, but all Christmases of the war were spent with their families in their homes in Hamburg according to personal letters. There is another Creole on the English front, but also the information is very scarce or null.
This leaves us with that small group of ten likely French Venezuelans during that magical moment in history, as we exclude Louis Bourgoin, who died earlier on the Marne. Those born in Venezuela were, in alphabetical order according to death record:
- Jules Blanc of the 86th infantry, died in combat in 1917 in Greece;
- Louis Bourgoin from 49 RI: this man from Merida died in Marne in August 1914;
- Louis Brochard of 71 RI, died in 1915;
- Charles Carichou of the 212th artillery regiment, dies in October 1918;
- Pierre Fitte, from 20 RI, died March 1915;
- Jean Hourne of 23 RI, died in July 1916 on the Somme;
- Amede Martel of the 210th infantry, in 1917 in Serbia;
- Felicien Medori from 173 RI, died in 1915;
- Lieutenant Gaston Nicol of 64RI, dies in April 1918;
- Angel Palazzi from 273 RI, died in 1916 on the Somme;
- Louis Talaine from 84 RI, died in September 1918 Macedonia.
José Sánchez Carrero, Luis Camilo Ramírez and Ismael Urdaneta were in the Foreign Legion, which was not on that front. It is difficult to know if any Venezuelan or Latin American was in that wonderful truce.