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Armistice, 1918 - German Delegation

Armistice, 1918 - German Delegation Famous Historical Events Famous People Visual Arts Geography Social Studies World History World War I

Germany’s leader (Kaiser Wilhelm II) had already left the capital of Berlin (to be with his occupying army in Belgium) when a German delegation (led by Matthias Erzberger, a politician, and Major General Detlev von Winterfeldt) drove their cars to the front line in France.  It was the 7th of November, 1918.

The men were facing revolts at home, and they knew German sailors (at Kiel) had already mutinied on the 30th of October - refusing to sail their ships into a “make-or-break” battle with the Royal Navy.  Erzberger knew what he and his colleagues had to do:

The German people, which held off a world of enemies for fifty months, will preserve their liberty and their unity despite every kind of violence. A nation of 70 millions of peoples suffers, but it does not die.

The German delegation, on behalf of their country, would end the war.  Erzberger's instructions (here, translated into English) were:

Obtain what mercy you can, Matthias, but for God's sake make peace.

The German delegation, pictured left to right, are:

Matthias Erzberger, Major General Detlev von Winterfeldt and Count Aldred von Oberndorff.


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy Bundesarchiv (picture archives) of the Federal Archives of Germany.

Quoted references: 

Matthias Erzberger, quoted in Stanley Weintraub, A Stillness Heard Round The World: The End of the Great War, November 1918, New York, 1985, p.157.

Instructions to Erzberger, quoted in Nicholas Best, The Greatest Day in History, Public Affairs, 2008, p. 56.

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