Last June, I traveled to Europe, where for nearly three weeks I visited sites in Luxembourg, Belgium, and France. Among the places I visited was the place where the armistice of 1918 was signed at Compiégne, France. It’s a little bit off the beaten path, but a historical site is a historical site, and so we made our way over one morning.
A rather large monument marking the triumph of France over Germany and the restoration of Alsace and Lorraine to France marks the entrance to the park.
Once we had parked, we walked over to the cleared area (known as the Glade of the Armistice) where the actual event took place.
To the left was where the railroad car carrying the German representatives stopped.
Overlooking that space is a statue of Ferdinand Foch, the French commander.
In the middle a marker summarizes what happened here on November 11, 1918:
It reads: “Here on the eleventh of November 1918 succumbed the criminal pride of the German Reich, vanquished by the free peoples which it tried to enslave.”
Then we walked to where the armistice was signed aboard a railroad car Foch used as a headquarters.
Nearby is a small museum where a replica of the railroad car is preserved. The original was destroyed in World War II.
The site is quiet, but it is also eerie, because it is not simply a World War I site. For it was in this very place where Adolph Hitler accepted the surrender of France in June 1940. Hitler was well aware of the location’s symbolic value, and insisted that the railroad car in which the armistice was signed in 1918 be brought out to humiliate the French in 1940.
What the Germans did next is nicely summarized here.
As for reports that Hitler did a little jig of joy at the site, this is worth reading. Nevertheless, the film of the event shows an obviously elated Fuhrer.
I’ve been to other surrender/war termination sites (for the armistice of 1918 was not a surrender, although in many respects it resembled one). This one left me thinking a great deal, in part because of the two events that happened here. Perhaps that helps explain this monument at the site: