Compiègne Wagon

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Left to right: Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler, Erich Raeder partially obscured and Walther von Brauchitsch in front of the Armistice carriage

The Compiègne Wagon was the historical train carriage in which the First and Second Armistice at Compiègne were signed.

After the first armistice was signed in the forest of Compiègne in 1918, the wagon was eventually moved to a protective place in a French museum. After being returned for the 1940 second armistice at Compiègne, the wagon was moved to Berlin to symbolize Germany's superiority over France.

At some point during World War II it was destroyed, accounts differ as to where, by whom and when.

History[edit]

The wagon was built in 1914 in Saint-Denis, as dining car No. 2419D, and was used as such until August 1918. The car was then converted into an office for Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander, who used it from the end of October 1918 to September 1919.[1]

On 11 November 1918, Foch, as Supreme Commander, signed the armistice with Germany in the then-called "Wagon of Compiègne". This agreement was the final "cease-fire" which ended fighting in the First World War; the other Central Powers having already reached agreements with the Allied Powers to end hostilities.

Sometime after this, the car was returned to the Compagnie des Wagons-Lits and briefly resumed service as a dining car. In September 1919, it was donated to the Musée de l'Armée, in Paris. The wagon was on display in the Musée‘s Cour des Invalides from 1921 to 1927.

At the request of the Mayor of Compiègne, and with the support of the American Arthur Henry Fleming, the car was restored and returned to Compiègne. It was housed in a specially created museum building as part of the "Glade of the Armistice" historic monument, with the car a few meters from the exact site of the signing ceremony

During the Second World War, Hitler ordered that the wagon be moved to exactly the same location for the signing of the second "armistice at Compiègne", on 22 June 1940; this time with Germany victorious. The carriage was moved out of its protective building and returned to the signing-place, which was several metres away and had been marked out as part of the monument. Subsequently, the wagon was taken to Berlin and displayed a week later at the Berlin Cathedral. In 1944 the wagon was sent to Thuringia, in central Germany. Then it moved to Ruhla and later Gotha Crawinkel, near a huge tunnel system. There it was destroyed in March 1945 by the SS with fire and/or dynamite, in the face of the advancing U.S. Army. However, some SS veterans and civilian eye witnesses claim that the wagon had been destroyed by air attack near Ohrdruf while still in Thuringia in April 1944. Even so, it is generally believed the wagon was destroyed in 1945 by the SS.[2]

Today's historical wagon is the exact copy of the original one. In 1950, French manufacturer Wagons-Lits, the company that ran the Orient Express, donated a car from the same series to the museum — 2439D is identical to its ravaged twin, from its polished wooden finishes to its studded, leather-bound chairs. This car had also been part of Foch's private train during the 1918 signing. At the 1950 ceremony, it was renumbered No. 2419D. It is parked beside the display of the original car’s remains: a few fragments of bronze decoration and two access ramps.[3]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lehrer, Steven. "Compiègne". Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  2. ^ "Compiegne". Eberhardt. Retrieved 2014-10-05.[dead link]
  3. ^ AP news: Hitler in war, Merkel in peace: A train car for history Retrieved 2018-11-10