Armistice with Germany (Compiègne)

Armistice with Germany (Compiègne)

The armistice treaty between the Allies and Germany was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest on November 11, 1918, and marked the end of the First World War on the Western Front. Principal signatories were Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Allied Commander-in-chief, and Matthias Erzberger, Germany's representative.

Negotiations process

The Armistice was agreed at 5 AM on November 11, to come into effect at 11 AM Paris time (that is, 11 AM GMT), for which reason the occasion is sometimes referred to as "the eleventh of the eleventh of the eleventh". It was the result of a hurried and desperate process. Two minutes before the armistice came into effect a final Canadian soldier was killed by a German sniper.

Acting German commander Paul von Hindenburg had requested arrangements for a meeting from Ferdinand Foch via telegram on November 7. He was under pressure of imminent revolution in Berlin, Munich and elsewhere across Germany.

The German delegation crossed the front line in five cars and was escorted for ten hours across the devastated war zone of Northern France (perhaps, they speculated, to focus their minds on the lack of sympathy they could expect). They were then entrained and taken to the secret destination, Foch's railway siding in the forest of Compiègne.

Foch appeared only twice in the three days of negotiations: on the first day, to ask them what they wanted, and on the last day, to see to the signatures. In between, the German delegation discussed the detail of Allied terms with French and Allied officers. The Armistice amounted to complete German demilitarization, with few promises made by the Allies in return. The naval blockade of Germany would continue until complete peace terms could be agreed upon.

There was no question of negotiation. The Germans were able to correct a few impossible demands (for example, the decommissioning of more submarines than their fleet possessed), and registered their formal protest at the harshness of Allied terms. But they were in no position to refuse to sign. On Sunday November 10, they were shown newspapers from Paris, to inform them that Kaiser Wilhelm II had abdicated.

Telegrams were passed to and from the German team to both the German Army Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg in Spa and the hastily assembled civilian government of Friedrich Ebert in Berlin. Erzberger apparently attempted to take negotiations to the limit of the 72 hours Foch had offered Hindenburg, but an open telegram from Berlin imploring him to sign immediately somewhat undermined his team's credibility. Ebert was desperate, facing imminent insurrection in many large German cities. Signatures were made between 5:12 AM and 5:20 AM, Paris time.

Key personnel

For the Allies, the personnel involved were entirely military:

For Germany:

General Weygand and General von Gruennel are not mentioned in the (French) document.

Terms

The terms included major points such as the withdrawal of German troops from Belgium, France, Alsace-Lorraine to the west and a retreat to the original territorial boundaries in the east. Further to this an area some 30 km or so deep with no German troops along the eastern bank of the Rhine.

The immediate surrender of large amounts of materiel including weapons and warships - the remainder of the German fleet to be disarmed and put under the control of the Allies in neutral or Allied harbours.

The Germans were also called upon to renounce the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and Treaty of Bucharest, 1918 which were the peace treaties the German Empire had made with Russia and Romania.

Aftermath

The peace between the Allies and Germany would subsequently be settled by the conference in Paris in 1919, and the Treaty of Versailles that same year.

See also

External links

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