Friday 20 January 2017

Building a bridge of peace to the future from a Christmas trench back in 1915

Don Mullan

Published 24/12/2015 | 02:30

An English soldier having a bowl of soup in a trench, in 1915 Photo: Maurice-Louis Branger/Roger Viollet/Getty Images
An English soldier having a bowl of soup in a trench, in 1915 Photo: Maurice-Louis Branger/Roger Viollet/Getty Images
Richard Schirrmann

Christmas Day 2015 marks the centenary of a little-known World War I truce - in the Vosges Mountains, a 60-minute drive from Strasbourg - that inspired one of the great youth movements of all time, of which Ireland was a founding member.

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Few realise that Ireland's youth hostelling movement, An Óige, and the youth hostelling movement worldwide, emerged from a spontaneous truce inspired by the ringing of church bells on Christmas morning 1915, rising from towns and villages below French and German trenches.

The founder of the international youth hostelling movement, Richard Schirrmann (1874-1961) was a school teacher and a reservist in the German Army. His unit was positioned on the Bernhardstein, a peak on the Vosges mountains through which the old French/German frontier ran in the oft disputed Alsace region.

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