Gerard DeGroot

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British and German troops meeting in No-Mans's Land during the unofficial truce on Christmas Day in 1914

The Great War was supposed to have been over by Christmas. Instead, by the end of 1914, it had become a voracious monster, beyond the control of politicians, commanders and kings. All that was terrible in the world was contained within that monster, a beast feeding on nations. Yet beneath the carnage, a tiny flicker of humanity still glowed. One hundred days ago tomorrow, Christmas Day, 1914, that humanity provided a moment of warmth that would live forever.

The Christmas Truce, with its famous football match, is one event from the Great War that almost everyone knows about. Our remembrance has been stimulated by the extra attention paid to the War during this centenary year and by the remarkably accurate Sainsbury’s advert.…  Seguir leyendo »

During the Cold War, the Eastern Bloc was a dark place. To Westerners, that seemed true both literally (the lights often went out) and ideologically (the Iron Curtain blocked freedom's beacon). The darkness made it difficult to see individuals; Poles, Hungarians and Czechs seemed a crowded multitude whose individualism had been crushed by the heavy hand of collectivism.

In 1989, the lights suddenly came on, and individuals emerged. Images changed overnight. Out went the Bulgarian shot-putters and East German swimmers who looked as if they had been made in a laboratory. The crowds who chiseled away at the Berlin Wall or cheered in Wenceslas Square looked instead surprisingly ordinary -- made up of slightly shabbier versions of ourselves.…  Seguir leyendo »