The Incredible True Christmas Story From WWII's Dark Days
Christmastime can transform even the most awesomely cynical person into some kind of terrible goddamn elf monster that eats tinsel and ejaculates pure joy. We know this for a fact, because we've seen every Christmas special ever. But there's a limit to our suspension of disbelief in regards to Christmas miracles, and that limit is Nazis.
Or so we used to think ...
In the last days of the Second World War, right before Hitler realized that picking a fight with the entire world wasn't going to end well for him, the Nazis launched one final offensive against the Allies. The most hilariously named of all conflicts, the Battle of the Bulge was a last-ditch effort by a cornered and angry German war machine. Since it was raging over the Christmas season of 1944, yuletide cheer was running in understandably short supply.
Cut to a small cottage on the German-Belgian border, where 12-year-old Fritz Vincken and his mother were busy minding their own damn business. Their dreams of blissful ignorance were shattered when three American soldiers arrived at their front door, one with serious wounds. These Americans were armed, desperate, and, what with it being Christmas Eve and all, freezing to death. For Germans under the Nazi regime, sheltering enemy troops was high treason, yet still Vincken invited them in and tended to their wounds.
Then there was another knock at the door. Four Nazi soldiers had arrived.
Vincken knew she could be shot, but she took a gamble and sternly told the lost and hungry Germans that there would be no killing that night. The boy and his mother had a Christmas chicken all fattened up and ready to be butchered, so they went ahead and prepared the feast for their unexpected guests. Proving that Hollywood has no monopoly on Christmas magic, both the American and German soldiers turned their weapons over to the woman and ate together, without so much as a passive-aggressive insult.
It gets better. One of the Germans -- a medical student before the war started -- went so far as to help treat an injured American. Then in the morning, the German soldiers gave the Americans a spare compass and directed them back to Allied lines, telling them how to avoid all the most Nazi-infested areas.
The story only spread after the boy grew up and told the story to Reader's Digest (it became so famous that Ronald Reagan mentioned it in a speech when he visited Germany). Now, you could write it all off as a well-intentioned lie, but in 1995, Fritz found one of the soldiers, who had been separately telling the story to everyone he met for years. On that night, both American and Nazi soldiers really did sit down in the middle of the war and have a quiet Christmas dinner together. And if there's hope for the Nazis, then there's hope for us all.
Happy holidays, you terrible goddamn elf monsters.
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