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Peace Through Christ: A Christmas Truce

Mr. Vincken remained behind to repair their house and business.  He rode his bicycle every four days to take food to them. His plan was to join them at the cabin when he completed the restoration of their home. He had hoped to be done by Christmas Eve and celebrate Christmas with his wife and son at the cabin. But he did not show up due to the severe snow storm that erupted.

When Mrs. Vincken heard the American soldiers speaking outside, she blew out the candle light. When the American soldiers knocked at the door, Fritz, her son, went to the door. Mrs. Vincken followed. She gently moved him away from the door and she opened it. There stood two American soldiers with weapons, and a third laying in the snow. They looked like teenagers. In those days, any 16 year old male could like about his age and get into the U.S. Army if he looked old enough.

She did not know English, nor did the Americans know German. But one of the Americans spoke some French, as did Mrs. Vincken. So in broken French and with some sign language, they explained that they were lost, hungry, close to death, and that the soldier laying on the ground was shot and bleeding to death. The American soldiers asked for any assistance she might be able to provide in terms of shelter and food for the night, so that they could start in the morning to find the American lines to get to safety.

There was a German law forbidding German citizens from harboring enemy soldiers. Mrs. Vincken could be shot for providing any assistance. But it was a Holy Night—Christmas Eve. Mrs. Vincken was Lutheran. Lutheran was the state religion of Germany. So Mrs. Vincken let them in. Had Mrs. Vincken turned them away, the American soldiers would not have forced their way in. They wold have continued on and hoped to survive the night. I would like to point out that Mrs. Vincken was not a sympathizer for the Allied forces at all. She was a Christian and would have assisted anyone needing humanitarian help.

Mrs. Vincken sent Fritz to get six more potatoes from the shed outside and to bring in the rooster. She was going to prepare a Christmas Eve supper for the American soldiers. So Frits went outside and soon returned with the six potatoes. Then he went back out to get the rooster, and then brought the rooster in. She went to work in the kitchen preparing supper. Shortly thereafter, there was another knock at the door. So she assumed more American soldiers had arrived needing help.

A German soldier in the Ardennes, 1944.

She opened the door and turned as white as a ghost. There stood four German soldiers with weapons. Mrs. Vincken greeted them. They had lost their way in the forest during the snow storm. Separated from their unit with no food nor warmth for days, they were hungry and feared they might die in the sub-freezing weather with no help in sight. The German soldiers were probably as young as the American soldiers, except for the corporal who was 23 years old. The three other German soldiers held the rank of private. Mrs. Vincken stepped outside and shut the door to speak to the German soldiers privately.

She explained that three American soldiers came and that one was severely wounded and bleeding to death, and that they are inside. She said, “It is the Holy Night and there will be no shooting here.” And she told them that they could eat as much as they wished. She then asked them to give her their weapons. They agreed. She had them lean their weapons against the cabin outside.

She then went inside and shut the door and informed the American soldiers that they had guests, but that they would not be harmed. She explained that there were German soldiers who likewise needed help and that they will come inside for supper and stay the night. She then asked for their weapons, and they agreed. She took the American soldiers’ weapons outside and leaned them against the cabin with the German soldiers’ weapons. Then she invited the German soldiers to come inside.

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Category: Fall 2018, Living the Faith

About the Author: James F. Linzey is the chief editor of the Modern English Version Bible translation. His graduate education is a degree in religious studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. His undergraduate degree from Southern California College is a BA in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in religion. He is the author of numerous articles and books. He is a speaker, recording artist, State Chaplain for the California Military Officers’ Association, and retired Army chaplain. MilitaryBibleAssociation.com. Wikipedia.org/wiki/James_F._Linzey. Twitter: @JimLinzey

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