One of the Ambrose WW 2 books had a story about Christmas Eve during the battle of the bulge. Germans holding American prisoners in a Belgian farmhouse singing Silent Night together and sharing the family meal. That always comes back to me every Christmas.
I recall reading in a British newspaper about ten years ago about British troops who were in a German POW camp in Christmas 1944. These troops had already spent many years in captivity many having been captured before Dunkirk in May 1940.
The Tommies after so long in camp had developed a reasonably civilized structure and had been planning a big Christmas celebration from as early as September, they organized a Christmas show and the highlight of the day would be a big Christmas feast which would comprise food and treats from Red Cross parcels they had all been hoarding for months, going without so that they could have a great blow out on Christmas.
Then a night or two before Christmas hundreds of GIs the Germans had captured in the Bulge were suddenly brought into the camp. The writer described the shock to the old British lags, most of whom had got long in the tooth behind the wire, at the sight of the American lads. They were so young and so many were half frozen and in a state of shock, for most of the GIs were still teenaged recruits many of whom hadn’t heard a shot fired in anger before being taken.
The GIs were barely able to talk and seemed too dazed even to know where they were. The Brits then gathered up all the cigarettes, food and chocolate and other supplies they had been hoarding and stuffed the pockets of the GIs, giving them too whatever spare clothes and blankets they had. The next morning the Germans transferred the Americans to some other camp deeper in Germany.
Most of the GIs would have had no idea where they had been or who had given them the food and cigarettes. The Brits never heard anything more about them having no idea what units they came from, where they had been captured or where they were sent.
The Christmas celebrations in the camp were much more subdued that year than had been planned but the British prisoners regretted nothing, glad that they’d been able to help the young lads who were still fighting to get them out and aware that they had witnessed the true message of Christmas.