The Germans prepare for the Armistice
On 21 June 1940, before the “wagon de l’Armistice” at Rethondes, in the “clairière de l’Armistice” of the Compiègne forest, Hitler speaks with German high-ranked Nazis and Generals, before launching the negotiations of the armistice to be signed the next day (on 22 June 1940) between defeated France and the victorious Third Reich.
The signing will take place at the very same place where the 1918 armistice was signed when Germany was instead defeated : in the rail car which hss been towed from its shelter for this special occasion.
Recognizable people are, from left to right :
Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Office minister of the Reich ;
Adolf Hitler, chancellor of the Reich ;
Hermann Göring viewed from behind, Generalfeldmarschall, commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe ;
Erich Raeder partly hidden, Großadmiral, commander-in-chief of the Kriegsmarine ;
probably Walther von Brauchitsch partly hidden, Generaloberst, commander-in-chief of the Heer (the “field” Army) ;
probably Rudolf Hess viewed from behind, deputy to Hitler as leader of the Nazi party, chief of the Party Chancellery.
The humiliating peace terms of the First World War were one of the root causes of Nazism. Hitler was determined that the peace he imposed would extinguish that humiliation. He ordered that the railway carriage where the 1918 Armistice had been signed by the defeated German army should be brought to the exact same spot in the Forest of Compiegne for the ceremony to be held on the 22nd June.
American journalist William Shirer described Hitler after he had arrived that warm afternoon:
grave, solemn, yet brimming with revenge… There was something else, difficult to describe, in his expression, a sort of scornful, inner joy at being present at this great reversal he himself had wrought.
Earlier German troops had dragged the railway carriage out of a French museum. After the 1940 signing it was taken to Germany but apparently destroyed in a later bombing raid.