[Germany, November 1918] At the the end of September, the High Command had informed Kaiser Wilhelm II that there was no more hope, and that Germany had to ask for an armistice upon Wilson’s “Fourteen Points”. Meanwhile, Germany was falling apart at home. Anti-war marches and strikes became frequent.
Ludendorff and Hindenburg obtained the Kaiser’s consent to ask for armistice. However, it was clear that President Wilson would not negotiate with the Imperial authorities, so the High Command suggested that the Government should be democratized from above, and that the democratic political parties should participate in the new government. That was nothing but cynical calculation, because that way the democratic parties would have to face the disastrous consequences of the defeat, whereas the Kaiser’s authorities and the High Command were not held responsible. By the “October reforms” Germany became a constitutional monarchy whose Chancellor, Prince Max von Baden, internationally known for his moderation and honorability, was responsible to the Reichstag. For the first time, Social Democrats got into the government.
Only now did the High Command reveal the full truth to the Government: the situation was hopeless, armistice had to be made at any condition. It came as a complete shock. In the night of October 3, a note to Wilson was sent off, requesting an armistice and negotiations on the basis of Wilson’s own pronouncements.
In the following weeks, diplomatic notes were exchanged. Wilson demanded the withdrawal of German forces from Allied soil, the conditions were to be determined unilaterally by the Allies, considering Germany’s “illegal and inhuman” methods of warfare. The forthcoming negotiations could be conducted only with a government representative of the German people.
Wilson’s note of October 23 conceded Wilson’s readiness to propose an armistice to the Allies but added that the terms must be such as to make Germany incapable of renewing hostilities. Ludendorff saw this, militarily, as a demand for unconditional surrender and would therefore have continued resistance. So he adviced Kaiser Wilhelm. After all, the Allies had not broken through the Hindenburg Line, so the situation seemed less bad to him now than it has seemed in September.
But Ludendorff has lost Prince Max’s confidence in him, on October 26 he was made to resign by the Kaiser, on Prince Max’s advice. Germany would negotiate armistice on Wilson’s terms.
On November 8 a German delegation, led by Matthias Erzberger, arrived at Rethondes in the Forest of Compiègne, where the Germans met face to face with French General Foch and his party. Foch made it clear right away that the Allies’ peace terms were not negotiable and almost meant surrender.
Germany had to evacuate not only Belgium, France, and Alsace-Lorraine but also all the rest of the left bank of the Rhine, a 50 km wide strip on the right bank was declared demilitarized zone. The German troops in East Africa had to surrender. In the East, the German troops had to withdraw to the pre-war German frontier; the treaties of Brest-Litovsk with Russia and Bucharest with Romania were annulled. Germany had to repatriate all prisoners of war and hand over to the Allies a large quantity of war materials.
Although Erzberger desperately struggled for better conditions, not even the naval blockade would be lifted. On November 11, 1918, armistice was signed in Compiègne, France.
The picture is from the German Wikipedia, public domain section.