‘The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’
Compiègne is a commune in the Oise department, north of Paris, around an hour and a half drive. The town has been the site of many historical events, including the capture of Jean of Arc by the Burgundians whilst attempting to free Compiègne during the Hundred Years War, but it is also now remembered as the location of the signing of both the Armistice of 1918 and the Armistice of June 1940. We have visited the museum which has plenty of information on these two events in European history.
You will find the museum located in the Forest of Compiègne, the location of the historical moment. In September 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II (emperor of Germany) was informed of the hopeless military situation that was facing Germany and a request was given for an immediate ceasefire. The Armistrice was the result of a desperate and rushed process. The German delegation were then taken to the secret location, the private train of Ferdinand Foch (a Marshal of France) parked in the forest of Compiègne. After much discussion, the Armistice was signed in the carriage #2419D at 5am on the 11th of November and came into effect at 11am Paris time.
The carriage remained in the forest as a monument of the defeat of Kaisers Germany until World War II.
By the 22nd of June 1940, the Allies had seen huge losses, with more the 92,000 dead and more than 200,000 wounded. Adolf Hitler received word that the French wanted to negotiate an armistice, and so he chose the same rail carriage in the forest of Compiègne as the site for the negotiations. Why did he particularly choose this same site? Hitler saw using this location as the ultimate of revenge for Germany over France as it was the location of defeat ending the First World War.
The carriage was taken to Berlin as a trophy of victory but was later discovered destroyed by fire in 1945 in Thuringe, Germany. The carriage now displayed at the museum is #2439D from the same series and fitted the same as the orignal. The site of the Armistice was destroyed as per Hitler’s demandes three days after the Armistice was signed, except for a statue of Marshal Foch which we can still see today. The German army went to great lengths to protect this statue during the destruction of the site as Hitler wanted it to be left intact so it would be there to honor only a wasteland. The Alsace-Lorraine Monument, which shows a German eagle impaled by a sword, was also destroyed however it was rebuilt and we can see this on site.
The museum is full of interesting photos, newspaper article and audio information on the events of the Armistice (in various languages). For opening times and more information you can find it here on their website.