Antwerp: Dec. 25, 1914. Broadsheet leaflet (280 x 185 mm). With the arms of Antwerp and the arms of the Plantin Press at the foot. Creased along fold, soiling and browning. Good condition. Item #3226
WWI CHRISTMAS 1914 LEAFLET from Belgian children to "the Children of the United States" USING "THE OLD ORIGINAL TYPES OF CHRISTOPHORUS PLANTINUS (1514-1589)." A remarkable survival.
As the German soldiers moved through (neutral) Belgium en route to capture Paris, they confiscated the food supply; civilians, especially children, were brought to starvation or quite near to it. In order to feed its people, the Belgian government appealed to the people of the United States for humanitarian aid. In response, a large number of Americans young and old sent funds and food to the beleaguered Belgian people.
Here we have an original instrument sent from the children of Belgium thanking the Americans and their children for "their nice Christmas presents." This expression of thanks bears the original signatures of three persons (no doubt Belgian children, judging from the inscriptions) who were blessed by the donations received from Americans.
The leaflet is dated Dec. 25, 1914 -- this is the exact date of the UNOFFICIAL CHRISTMAS TRUCE. "Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops fighting in World War I sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.
At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. Some Germans lit Christmas trees around their trenches, and there was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer. German Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch recalled: “How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as friends for a time." (Source: "Christmas Truce of 1914" online).
That the leaflet was printed with original PLANTIN TYPES is of great interest. Note that the W in the word "War" was created using two letters: an upper-case U and a lower-case u. But clearly Plantin had a W, as we see from the large Fraktur W in the word "With."
We have located an announcement that was published in the Jan. 22, 1915 issue of the extremely obscure newspaper "Het Volk: Christen Werkmansblad." It states that "the Antwerp administration" was responsible for printing the leaflet. "The schoolchildren will sign this acknowledgment of thanks, which will then be sent to America. The children from East Flanders weren't so happy!" We are unable to explain the meaning of this last sentence (!)
Few originals of this leaflet are likely to have survived over the last 106 years. It remains a heartwarming example of the generosity of young Americans towards the suffering Belgian children.