Here at a forested railroad crossing outside Compiègne in Picardy, France, two rail cars met in November of 1918 – one with members of the Allied/Entente high commend and ones with representatives of Imperial Germany. They met here to end 5 years of slaughter; the German delegation being presented terms for armistice by the Allies. Faced with no other viable option, they would accept these terms, and the fighting officially ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day or the 11th month of 1918. More than a year would go by before the Treaty of Versailles was fully ratified, but it was here that the decision to end the death was made.
The rail car in which the papers were signed was kept as a monument here, along with a rather pointed monument to the French dead, featuring a slain German Imperial eagle. A large stone message was also put up in the center of the clearing, reading (in translation):
“Here on the 11th of November 1918 succumbed the criminal pride of the German reich, vanquished by the free peoples which it tried to enslave.”
The peace would not last, of course – far from being a peace without victory, the Allied terms were vindictive enough to set a plain course for the Second World War. When France signed an armistice with Germany in 1940, Hitler would have those papers signed here as well, in that very same rail car. The car was then taken to Berlin as a trophy, and the monuments here destroyed. The car itself was burned accidentally in 1945, but the monuments were rebuilt by the French following the war, and a sister car is now on display here with many of the original artifacts of the Armistice (which were hidden from the Germans in 1940).
Thanks to Military History Tours for making this video possible!