7 juin 2018

Destruction of the clearing

The context

For Germany, the Rethondes Clearing represented its WWI humiliation. Keen for revenge, Adolf Hitler wanted to transform this symbol of peace into one of victory for Nazi Germany. Following the armistice signing, Hitler had the Armistice Carriage and other monuments dismantled and transferred to Germany.

The destruction

Following the signing, the Rethondes Clearing was razed, while the monuments and Alsace-Lorraine memorial were dismantled and sent to Germany. The Armistice Crossroads suffered the same fate: the avenues were ploughed up, the decorative plants cut down and the carriage shelter demolished. 

Only the statue of Marshal Ferdinand Foch was protected and escaped destruction. Legend long had it that Hitler preserved this statue to underscore the French army’s debacle to the site’s rare visitors. But sources close to Hitler insist that he retained a certain respect for France’s WWI soldiers and for this reason had the statue protected within a wooden box during the memorial’s demolition by dynamite. 

Later, during the liberation of Europe by the Allies and their discovery of concentration camps in Germany, the Armistice Clearing monuments were recovered and reinstalled at Rethondes for the Armistice of 11 November 1946.