World War I ended here in Compiègne . On November 11th, 1918 the Armistice drawing hostilities to a close was signed in this place, in a Wagons-Lit railway dining car, in utter secrecy, after two days of negotiations.
After the war, the area was turned into a memorial. The train carriage, having been on exhibition in Paris, was was returned to a siding. A clearing was made in a forest glade, and memorials were erected. They called it “The Glade of the Armistice” (Clairière de l’Armistice.)
Twenty-two years later, during World War II, France surrendered to the Nazis. In a cruel gesture, revenge for what he felt were grossly unfair surrender conditions two decades before, Hitler made the French sign their surrender in that same railway car, marking the beginning of the collaborationist Vichy regime. The Armistice site was demolished on Hitler’s orders three days later. The carriage itself was taken to Berlin as a trophy of war, along with pieces of a large stone tablet which bore the inscription (in French): 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.
Only the statue of General Foch was left standing, so he could forever gaze upon the humiliation of France.
After the war, the Compiègne site was restored by German POW labor . Recovered in Germany, the surviving monuments were brought back to France in July, 1946 and reinstalled in the Armistice Clearing. In September 1950, a carriage was presented by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits with identical furnishings and now sits in the museum next to the same glade.
This Peace Ring monument was inaugurated on November 11, 2014 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice. The patinated bronze ring is incised with gold letters, a work of the visual artist Clara Halter and made by the jeweler Mauboussin. The word “peace” is engraved in fifty two languages. The ring symbolizes the alliance and unification of all peoples.