A Christmas Truce – 1944

What more profound compassion at Christmas than to enemies in the midst of war

Infantrymen of the US First Army in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest
advance to contact German forces at the Battle of the Bulge, 1944

Christmas 1944

December 24th

Three American soldiers, one badly wounded, were lost in the snow-covered Ardennes forest.  They wandered for three days, unable to find their unit.  If shelter was not found soon, the injured soldier would most likely die.

Lost, cold, and in pain, with the sounds of war exploding everywhere, the thought of returning home to family kept them going.  Eventually stumbling upon a small cabin in the middle of the woods, they knocked on the door.

When Elisabeth Vincken and her 12-year-old son Fritz heard the knock, they were terrified. Elisabeth cracked the door open, shocked to see three enemy soldiers on her doorstep.

Upon viewing the injured man, Frau Vincken’s compassion welcomed them inside.  She had little – a single chicken was all she could produce for the war-weary soldiers – but willingly offered them all she had.  As the chicken roasted in the oven, there was another unexpected knock. Her son opened the door, assuming there were more lost Americans.  The four men standing outside the cottage were not Americans.  They were Germans.

The punishment for harboring enemy soldiers was death.  Elisabeth, fearing for her life, pushed past Fritz and stepped outside.

The German soldiers explained they were lost and hungry and asked for Christmas Eve refuge in her home.  Elisabeth told them they were welcome to share what little food she had but warned she had other “guests.” The German soldiers sternly asked if they were Americans.

Frau Vincken nodded. “Es ist Heiligabend und hier wird nicht geschossen,” she said. “It is the Holy Night and there will be no shooting here.”

She told the German soldiers to leave their weapons outdoors and then invited them inside.  The tension in the air was palpable as the German and American soldiers stared at each other.

What happened next can only be described as a Christmas miracle.

One of the German soldiers, a former medical student, noticed the badly injured American soldier.  The German had compassion towards his enemy and offered to tend his wounds – a simple act of kindness that eased the tension. The American soldiers began to converse using what little German they knew.

Frau Vincken finished preparing supper and motioned for everyone to sit at the table.  As they said grace, the exhausted soldiers forgot about the war – if only for a moment.  Several of the soldiers – both American and German – had tears in their eyes as they ate their humble Christmas dinner. That evening, enemies declared an informal truce as the spirit of Christmas filled Frau Vincken’s tiny home.

The next morning, the German soldiers provided directions to the American front lines – and provided the Americans with a compass.  They shook hands, thanked Frau Vincken for her hospitality, and went their separate ways.

With carnage all around them, the Spirit of Christmas proved to be a more powerful force than the hatred of war.

James C. Roberts
American Veterans Center

Christmas 2019

Christmas wreaths placed on veteran graves in remembrance
Arlington National Cemetery

American forces, far from home, in unending service at Christmas


Christmas Blessings in Gratitude for the Service of our Military

Past and Present


U.S. Joint Military Services


About Karen Evans

Advocate For Honoring Military Service
This entry was posted in American History, American Veterans and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Christmas Truce – 1944

  1. GP Cox says:

    Thank you for always being there for the troops, Karen. I hope your day is magnificent!!

  2. Not sure if you saw the movie with Linda Hamilton based on this incident. I don’t think a lot of folks realize it’s a true story. If I recall from one story I read of the encounter, the man leading the Germans asked the American which way they were going. He told him, to which the German replied, “Don’t go there. We took it yesterday. Go here instead. You’ll be safer.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s