Visit Clairiere d l'Armistice in Rethonde, Compiegne by Mouse
This is a strange name, to be sure, as it seemed to us when we first saw a sign about it on our way back to Amsterdam from Paris on
our second visit to that city on that trip in 2003. It signifies another of those places in Europe where momentous historical
events have occurred. We include this for any history buffs who may be among you. The letter we wrote after being here
tells pretty much the whole story. "On the way to St. Quentin, we noticed a road sign that said something like " Clairiere de líArmistice".
Ron wondered what that was, so we followed directions to it. We found nothing less than the museum housing the infamous railroad car
in which the Armistice was signed after World War I. Thatís the same car that Hitler used in 1939, when France fell to the Nazi onslaught
and the Paris government had to sign a surrender agreement.
The site was in a large clearing in the woods (hence "Clairiere").
There was a raised stone square in its center between two sets of railroad tracks, about 100 yards apart. ( The stones had this inscription: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) The tracks had served during that war as a roadbed for heavy artillery guns. Signs explained that Marshal Fochís railroad
car was brought to a stop on the tracks in what then was a thick wood. The German "plenipotentiaries" came in another car to a spot
opposite, on the second set of tracks. The Germans then had to march to Marshal Fochís car to sign the documents of Armistice. Today
the Marechalís tomb rests on that spot between the pair of tracks on his side.
There was a museum building in which a facsimile
of the car is displayed at the far end of the clearing. This building was closed because the museum is closed on Tuesdays, so we could
not see the car itself. Nevertheless knowing that WWI had ended and that the French had surrendered in the same railroad car gave
us some very strong feelings indeed."
We did not realize at the time that yet another momentous event occurred on the same spot in 1940. When the French asked for an armistice
since resistance to the Nazi invasion had become futile, Hitler chose to force the French to the exact same railroad car on this same
track in the same clearing, making them walk to the car where he was sitting, exactly where Marshal Foch had sat in 1918. Afterwards,
Hitler took the car and the stones from the square in the center of the clearing back to Berlin where it was displayed and finally
destroyed by the Waffen SS. He left a statue of Marshal Foch overlooking the wasteland that was left. The stones were found after
the war, brought back to the clearing and replaced in the center. More on the "Clairiere" web site
. Google Map
Marshall Foch's tomb, where carriage was parked
Square in center of clearing
Marshall Foch statue.