Old foes re­turn to the scene of their great hu­mil­i­a­tions

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News -

TWICE be­fore in the past cen­tury, French and Ger­man mil­i­tary chiefs had come as bit­ter en­e­mies to the hum­ble rail­way car­riage in a for­est clear­ing in or­der to end their fight­ing.

But yes­ter­day the two na­tions’ po­lit­i­cal lead­ers met at the same place, in Com­piegne north of Paris, in a poignant sym­bol of their rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

Em­manuel Macron and An­gela Merkel held hands and stood with heads to­gether af­ter they un­veiled a plaque and signed a guest­book at the highly sym­bolic site. It was in ex­actly the same lo­ca­tion 100 years ago that Mar­shal Foch, who had been us­ing the wood-pan­elled din­ing car as an of­fice, signed the Ar­mistice agree­ment with Ger­many that marked the end of the First World War.

The car­riage was moved to a mu­seum but Adolf Hitler in­sisted it be re­turned to Com­piegne when Nazi Ger­many de­feated France in 1940, as he took re­venge for what he saw as his coun­try’s hu­mil­i­a­tion at the end of the pre­vi­ous war.

He sat in Foch’s seat as the French pre­pared to sign the terms of their surrender, and ac­cord­ing to one eye­wit­ness his face was ‘afire with scorn, anger, hate, re­venge, tri­umph’.

The car­riage was later de­stroyed but a replica has since been built at what is now a war me­mo­rial known as the Glade of the Ar­mistice. Yes­ter­day marked the first time a Ger­man leader had vis­ited the site since the end of the Sec­ond World War.

UNITED IN PEACE: Merkel and Macron yes­ter­day

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