Occasionally, a real case of humanitarianism surfaces through the cracks of disbelief at Christmas. I verify this World War story surfaced through President Reagan in 1985, and all facts are verified as accurate. I would love to share it with you in this “Everything Christmas Blog.”
Enjoy the song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”:
As WWI was winding down, Generals swore there’d never be another war truce at Christmas observed (such as the historical event of the Germans and Americans uniting on Christmas Day). Bloody beyond belief, “The Battle of the Bulge” brings home horrible memories… except for a chosen few.
Snow was on the ground, and bitter temps plummeted on Christmas Eve. A wounded and lost soldier in the woods stumbled upon a cottage in Huertgen Forest, near the Belgian border. Inside the dimly lit cabin, a mother and her son heard a knock on the door. She was hoping it was her husband coming home for Christmas Eve dinner. Instead, the intruder was a lost American soldier, not even old enough to vote. Startled, Elizabeth carefully examined his condition. He begged for food and a moment to thaw. He was just a mere child shot by the Nazis.
A little twelve-year-old Fritz sympathetically watched his mother care for the enemy, Ralph Blank, who could have easily killed them. Neither spoke the other’s language but conversed just the same. As she tended to his injuries, the best she could, another knock broke the silence. Hoping it might be the love of her life this time, Fritz ran to see. But the tone of the voice behind the door told his mom it wasn’t his father either.
Pushing Fritz away from the chill, four Germans coerced her into letting them inside the home. But before she opened the door, she had to be honest and tell them she had a request which might get her murdered. The German corporal responded, “It is the Holy Night, and there will be no shooting here.” They left their guns outside and were then welcomed in to have dinner with her other uninvited guest.
Two of the German soldiers were only sixteen-years-old, and the corporal was twenty-three years of age. One was an intern at med school, and he dressed the wounds of the young, bleeding American. With the help of some broken French, the German soldiers explained their positioning to Ralph. Elizabeth told Fritz to go get Hermann, the chicken, for this very rare occasion of friendship at wartime.
So, picture this….. a little cabin, deep in the woods, buried in snow with five combatants. Also present was a distraught mother with a twelve-year-old son, and no husband to defend her! But the squeamish soldiers became comfortable sitting together around the fire.
Ralph told the German soldiers he was lost, pointing in the assumed direction. One soldier reached into his pocket and gave him a compass and a map. He told Ralph which direction to go to get back to his line. Then everyone gave thanks to God for this rare occasion.
At the end of the evening, everyone graciously thanked their host – a wonderful woman. She welcomed them regardless of their beliefs of war. She kindly fed them and sent them off. Shaking hands and wishing each other a Merry Christmas, all the soldiers were back to wartime. Just one quick hug and a salute, and they parted ways before they enemy caught them.
Fifty years passed and Fritz Vincken now lived in Honolulu, Hawaii. He tells he and his mother’s touching story to friends every holiday. But one year, an old vet in a nursing home in Frederick, Maryland described the very same incident. As fate revealed, the television show, Unsolved Mysteries, put this American soldier and German child together, once again, in 1995. Ralph Blank, still had the compass and map from the German soldier. They had lots to get caught up on! Ralph told Fritz, “Your mother saved my life.” This reunion was the high point of Fritz’s life.
Fritz passed away on December 8, 2002, almost 58 years to the day of the Christmas truce. He was forever grateful for his mother’s recognition. She so bravely deserved it. The lesson to learn from this touching true story is you’ll never know how, or when, your generosity will touch someone. Remember, we are all God’s children, no matter the language or circumstance.
Be sure to join us again on Thursday, December 20th, for another Everything Christmas Blog!