German Children Share in the Spirit of the Christmas Truce

The NCFA’s Football & Peace Projects are gathering interest from around the world.  We hear from one of the many Football & Peace supporters taking part in the Peace Day Celebrations in Kent.  

Thorven Lucht_640My name is Thorven Lucht and I am 40 years old, married with two children (twins). I am a teacher of English, History and Ethics at Humboldt-Gymnasium Bad Pyrmont. At the school I also run the football program – with the help of a group of “junior coaches” (pupils from years 10 to 12 who help with training and organization). This is the perfect way to combine many of my main interests: the English language, historical education, football and working with young people.

German School building_533Our school is a “Gymnasium”, which is basically an “academic high school”, preparing the students for college. We have around 950 pupils from grade 5 to 12, so between appr. 10 and 18 years of age. Bad Pyrmont is a rather small town of about 22,000 people, located between Hanover and Bielefeld. Our school puts a lot of emphasis on extracurricular activities – often in cooperation with local organizations and clubs. We are also an “inclusive” school, accommodating the needs of students with physical handicaps. Around 15% of our pupils are from immigrant families, mostly from Poland, Russia, Turkey and Pakistan, which makes Bad Pyrmont somewhat less multicultural than bigger German cities.

Is your school looking forward to visiting England and taking part in the Football & Peace Day Celebration?

I can assure you that everyone is tremendously looking forward to this event – the school community as a whole and of course especially the pupils who will have a chance to participate. International contacts are very important for our school. We run regular exchanges with schools in Poland, Italy, Sweden, France and Ireland and are always grateful for more chances to establish new contacts and friendships. The Football & Peace Day is a great idea and a great opportunity for our pupils.

What are the plans to commemorate the First World War in Germany, in particularly your school?

There are a lot of exhibitions and commemorative events at the local and regional level. There is also a noticeable focus on the First World War in the media. The federal government is planning joint events with the French government on August 3rd. At our school, we will put a focus on the First World War in the history curriculum, and various tenth-grade classes will be doing research projects on the history of Bad Pyrmont at that time.

Do children at your school learn about the 1914 Christmas Truce? If so, what do you teach them?

German Football and Peace_2291 - GroupThe Christmas Truce is not a mandatory part of the curriculum, but individual teachers often deal with the topic in 9th/10th grade history, 7th-grade bilingual history or in various Religion and Ethics classes. Sometimes it is taught in English classes, often using popular songs about the event. Often the movie “Merry Christmas” (2005) is used in classes. The emphasis is on the symbolic implications of the “Christmas Truce”, as well as on the situation of the young men at the front.

How important is sport for young German children?

In general, still very important, with football and handball being the most popular sports. Former “trend sports” such as tennis and basketball have become somewhat less fashionable. In a town like Bad Pyrmont probably more than half the pupils are members of a sports club. The football program at our school is very popular with girls and boys of all ages.

To what extent does football and sport play a part in German education?

There are regular P.E. classes (2 lessons a week, 3 in the lower grades), as well as school teams which can participate in competitions in more than 20 different sports. The latter are very much dependent on individual teachers who invest their free time into practice times and tournaments, often on weekends. So the extent to which schools participate varies widely.

As for football, there are many different tournaments offered by the State, local Bundesliga clubs (our school is an official partner school for Werder Bremen, for example), or Universities. The German football association offers a lot of help and resources to the schools, for example they train “junior coaches” and young referees and offer seminars and training materials and guidelines to school football coaches.

As stated above, with the help of many “junior coaches”, we manage to offer school football for all age groups – at a competitive level but also often for non-competitive events and projects, sometimes with an international dimension.

Humboldt Gymnasium School_769

Can you tell the National Children’s Football Alliance why you think it is important that children learn about the Christmas Truce and Why this visit to the Football & Peace Day Celebration will benefit your children?

 As stated above, the Christmas truce teaches important lessons about the human spirit. It shows that there is a universal longing for peace, and as an act of disobedience and resistance it is unique and uniquely moving. It contrasts impressively with the patriotic madness that swept over Europe at the outbreak of the First World War. The Football and Peace Day Celebration will commemorate this event and will be held in a similar spirit of peace and friendship. That alone will probably be a very impressive experience for our children – hopefully enriched by many valuable encounters with young people from other countries. We are truly grateful that we can be a part of this. 

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