You cannot understand the true German or Prussian soul until you have understood Compiègne. At 5 a.m. on 11 November 1918 in a Pullman wagon-lit (railway sleeper) in the Compiègne Forest in France, representatives of the defeated Imperial German armed forces signed an armistice that would lead subsequently to one of the most unjust and humiliating treaties of all times: the Treaty of Versailles - a treaty that inevitably became the driving force leading to the rise of Hitler and another World War in 1939. The heart of Compiègne and Versailles was revenge.
Let us pause to remember the nature of our God, Yahweh, for it is written of Him many times in Scripture: "He loves righteousness and justice" (Ps.33:5, NKJV). The purpose of this essay is not to analyse the causes of the First World War (1914-1918) which are not as simple as the 'official' histories would tell us. It is not to cover-up unrighteousness of any kind, whether it be the German violation of Belgium's neutrality in 1914 or any other ungodly act performed by any of the combattants, for as we all know, war brings out the worst and best in everyone and on every side. It is not to argue who was responsible for starting the First World War because that is not clear-cut either. Ambition, militarism, lust for revenge, etc., belong to the soul of all nations. The rise of a rival power in central Europe - Germany - was not liked by the traditional powers (France, Britain and Russia). In 1914, when the First World War broke out, Germany as a country was but 13 years old. But it was formed on the wave of French defeat in 1871 and it was in Versailles (note the name well) that the Prussian King Wilhelm I was proclaimed Emperor over a new Germany.
How did the Franco-Prussian war start? At this time France was again an Empire, and its Emperor was Napoléon III. France already possessed the German-speaking territories of Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine), even though this territory has swapped hands between French and German rulers over the centuries, but imperialistic France wanted more - it wanted the west bank of the Rhine with its exclusively German population, territory which was then mostly a part of the Kingdom of Prussia. The French pretext for an act of aggression against Prussia in 1870 was the possibility of a Prussian Hohenzollern assuming the crown of Spain, which would have put Spain - on France's southern border - under Prussian influence. So they invaded. And the Prussians trounced them at Verdun, another name which needs to be remembered, and where terrible battles were fought in two subsequent world wars. The defeated French were forced to yield Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine) back to German rulers - this time to a new German Empire which was announced in Versailles outside Paris.
We must remember that in her continental wars France has always been defeated. France, the home of the violent communistic revolution, has traditionally been the enemy of England, and always hated the English because of defeats at her hands. The English allied with the Prussians in 1815 to defeat Napoléon II, the Corsican who turned Europe into a bloodbath, at the Battle of Waterloo, and dictated terms on the French nation. Considering the fact that France retained the German-speaking Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine) province, and suffered no territorial losses where Frenchmen were to be found, the terms were generous. Yet they still craved the German Rhineland. And when they looked for an excuse to wage war to get it, they were defeated. The peace was just - they lost a German-speaking area they had no real legitimate claim to, but they resented the loss, and their pride smarted from military defeat.
For reasons that are again complicated, England found herself allied to her old enemy, France, after 1871, and the insanity called World War One erupted in 1914. The French wanted German Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine) back, the Germans wanted colonies and to rival the British at sea, Austria wanted to dominate Serbia, Russia wanted to spread Pan-Slavism throughout the Balkans. The war came, the Germans and Austrians lost, and a terrible revenge was exacted upon both. Austria was reduced to a tiny rump state, forbidden to unite with Germany when its German-speaking people wanted to. Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine) was seized by France and the German population oppressed. Prussia suffered enormous territorial losses, mostly in her east, dividing Germany into two parts with a Polish corridor containing a predominantly German population running through it. Crushing reparations were squeezed out of the vanquished, and when they couldn't pay them, the French not only maintained their occupation of the Saarland and Prussian Rhineland (which they had always coveted), but occupied the industrial heartland of Germany - the Ruhr - too. And after the British and Belgians had withdrawn from the demilitarised Rhineland, the French ... remained.
I wish to interject here that I am no hater of France or the French as a people. We owe an immeasurable debt of culture, art and science to them. The Prussians always looked up to them and welcomed the Protestant Huguenots when Catholic France started butchering them. Prussia always admired the French educational system and the Court of Prussian King Frederick the Great spoke only French! And, not to be forgotten, is the fact that the French are descended from Israel, and are largely of the House of Reuben. Germans and French, both Israelite nations like Britain, are brethren, and indeed were one nation - the word 'France' comes from 'Frank', a German name. Parts of Bavaria are called Franconia still. Nevertheless the enmity between Germans and French was the work of the Corsican upstart Napoléon when he carved Europe up and annexed huge non-French-speaking areas to France. The origin of injustice must be traced and acknowledged as starting here.
At 3.15 p.m. on 21 June 1940 in the forest of Compiègne in the same wagon-lit, in exactly the same location, the French were humiliated by the Germans in exactly the same way they had humilated the Germans in 1918. Even the furniture was the same, and where Marshal Foch had sat, presiding over the Imperial German defeat, so Hitler sat presiding over the Republican French capitulation. Nearby stood the monument to Alsace-Lorraine, with a plaque that read, "To the Heroic Soldiers of France ... Defenders of the Country and of Right ... Glorious Liberators of Alsace-Lorraine", was draped with German flags. Nearby, on a granite block, stood the inscription: "Here on the Eleventh of November 1918 Succumbed the Criminal Pride of the German Empire ... Vanquished by the Free Peoples which It Tried to Enslave".
Defenders of the right of France to absorb a German territory with a German population? Criminal Pride? Did the Imperial Germans actually want to enslave France? If the Germans had won that war they would have probably occupied or a dismantled a few border forts like Belfort and left the French to themselves after exacting a peace treaty. But in the irrationality of misguided nationalism and war fever the truth and reality get distorted.
What happened in Compiègne in 1940 may not have been very Christian but it was certainly just. The Germans merely did to the French what the French had done to them. I don't imagine there was a single German - nazi or anti-nazi - who did not feel at that time that a grievous wrong had been righted. The fact it was done by an evil dictator who showed no mercy is immaterial to what I am writing about today, for what the Nazis did to France and the other occupied countries of Europe was done to them in 1945. Had this been a non-fascist government, they would have retaken Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine) and left again. Certainly that is what the German Generals wanted to do - they wanted to right the Treaty of Versailles and then sue for peace. But Hitler was another Napoléon and wanted war and the subjugation of peoples.
I have watched footage of the film made in 1940 at Compiègne many times and experienced deep emotions. I would see in my mind's eye flashbacks to 1918 and to the humiliation of a great and dignified people. I would remind myself that all of this was revenge for what happened started at Sedan, and how the circle had closed again. Germany had a magnificent opportunity to forgive and forget, but it chose hatred and revenge too. In 1945 Germany - and especially Prussia - lost even more land - a full third of its territory in the east, and once again the French occupied and milked the industrial Saarland. The Saarland is back in Germany today, but not Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine) - it is politically incorrect to even hint that this territory is German. Besides, the French have deliberately suppressed the German language and culture and encouraged wholesale migration of French people there. And the Prussian East? All the people gone, now aliens reside there.
Compiègne ... to me the place is one of deep tragedy. The injustice remains and will probably never be righted in this world. It is a place, for me, of great sadness, of mixed feelings. In a way it marked the end of old Prussia, for old Prussia would have forgiven and been generous. But in 1940 it was replaced by Austro-Bavarian Nazi 'justice'.
Compiègne ... place of suppressed bitter tears, hidden behind the dignity and correctness of the European way. It is the place where the spirit of the glory of Prussia was first wounded and then murdered. One can't help but feel that the German and French people have missed an opportunity for greatness ... an opportunity that will never come again in this world. The USA, Japan, Russia, the little Jewish-Edomite state in 'Israel', and the Muslim world have had their chances - I fear now we must wait and see what China will do. And that is also a nation champing at the bit for revenge - against the West and Japan, for the oppressions of World War Two (by Japan) and the economic subjugation by the Imperial Western powers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I do not expect justice from it - that will only come when Christ returns.
Documentary on the French Capitulation, June 1940 (in German)