Siegfried Line

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Siegfried Line
Tank traps of the West Wall in the Eifel

Tank traps of the West Wall in the Eifel

place Germany
Client Adolf Hitler
Construction year 1938-1940
Course of the Siegfried Line, the Maginot Line and the Liège fortress ring

Course of the Siegfried Line , the Maginot Line and the Liège fortress ring

The Western Wall , the Western Allies and Siegfried Line called ( English Siegfried Line , French Ligne Siegfried ), was a km above about 630 distributed military defense system along the western border of the German Reich , which consists of over 18,000 bunkers , tunnels and countless ditches and tank traps consisted . It ran from Kleve on the Dutch border in a southerly direction to Grenzach-Wyhlen on the Swiss border .

Hitler had the facility, which had both military and propaganda value, planned from 1936 and built between 1938 and 1940. Shortly before, during the occupation of the Rhineland on March 7, 1936, contrary to the requirements of the Peace Treaty of Versailles, the areas on both sides of the Rhine that had been demilitarized by the Reich as a result of the First World War were occupied by Wehrmacht troops.

Origin of the term "Westwall"

Tank traps of the West Wall near Hollerath / Eifel (2008)
Tank traps near Walheim 2011

Presumably, the term Westwall became increasingly common from the end of 1938, without the National Socialist propaganda initially using the term to any particular extent. He probably comes from the group of workers involved in the construction. In the second half of 1938, terms such as “ Todt Line” (apparently the most common designation, see below), “Schutzwall” or “ Limes Program” were used, while military circles made names such as “Führer Line” or “Hitler Line” popular wanted to.

In October and December 1938 there was still talk of the Todt Line “generally named after its creator” .

At the same time, the name Westwall appeared, in the press for the first time on October 28, 1938 at the latest, when the Neue Wiener Tagblatt reported under the heading “Men from Westwall on vacation” about a worker who packed his suitcase for the return trip and talked about it that his son is “really proud that his father works on the Siegfried Line”. The name Westwall also appeared on November 19, 1938 in an article in the daily newspaper “ NSZ-Rheinfront ”, which was dedicated to the “Men from Westwall”.

Hitler first used the term publicly during his tour of the western fortifications from May 14 to 19, 1939, and on May 19, 1939 issued a daily order to the soldiers and workers of the western wall. The official linguistic usage was previously based more on the programs described below, whereby a name was chosen with “Limes program”, which was supposed to remind of the former Roman border wall in Germania.

Development from 1936 to 1940

The development of the west wall was by no means homogeneous and was strongly influenced by the political leadership. Today's view is strongly influenced by the standard works by Groß (1982) and Bettinger & Büren (1990). Groß was one of the first to work on this topic scientifically and described the development for North Rhine-Westphalia; Bettinger & Büren published findings on the entire area of ​​the West Wall ten years later.

Groß differentiates between the following development steps:

Bettinger & Büren put these developments in a broader context:

  • 1936: After the reoccupation of the Rhineland , bunkers were built mostly isolated and scattered:
    • Between the Moselle and the Rhine on important roads, bridges over the Saar or in preparation for the construction of later positions.
    • The most important crossing points on the Upper Rhine were provided with bunkers like a bridgehead.
    • In addition, the transitions from the Upper Rhine Graben to the valleys of the Black Forest were each provided with small support points including bunkers.
    • The only larger position with bunkers was created south of Karlsruhe - Ettlinger Riegel .
  • 1937: The planning for the fortification systems fortifications between the Moselle and Rhine and the fortifications on the Upper Rhine , including the Isteiner Klotz , envisaged the implementation of three fortification concepts. Fortification lines in the fortification were intended to close , among other things, the historical gates through the Rhine valley west of Karlsruhe (the so-called Weißenburger Senke near Bad Bergzabern ; the construction of two A-works was planned there) and through the Moselle valley near Trier . It took years to build. In between fixing lines were in position expansion started. Upstream fortification lines in the barrier construction along the Saar and near the border in the Palatinate were only intended for the temporary protection of the positions to be built behind them, which were deliberately planned a little further away from the border.
  • 1938: A fourth fortification system, the fortifications Niederrhein and Eifel, should extend the chain with fortifications up to the level of the northern border of Belgium on the Dutch border ( Dreiländereck Vaals near Aachen). Groß (1982) called this development step the 1938 pioneering construction program .

From May 1938 the original plans, which only provided for the construction of fortification lines in the fortification under the name Limes program , were drastically changed. In addition, the bunker types used - called standard buildings - were simplified or standardized so that they could be built more quickly by the Todt Organization . The reason for the change and acceleration was the partial mobilization of Czechoslovakia as a reaction to the aggressive German foreign policy and the risk that France would intervene in a military conflict with Czechoslovakia. This happened after the invasion on 15./16. March 1939 but not.

At the same time, the Air Force built the LVZ-West behind the Siegfried Line between the Moselle and Rhine, a chain of anti-aircraft positions with their own bunkers.

Westwall workers greet Adolf Hitler during his visit in October 1938

From October 1938, Hitler announced that he would better protect the cities of Aachen and Saarbrücken , and demanded that the fortification lines in front of these cities be expanded to a correct position. This step became known as the Aachen-Saar program ; it is often confused with the introduction of new standard buildings in February 1939, which were used especially in these positions to be expanded.

  • 1939: The construction of the bunkers from the Limes program was far from complete when the positions under construction were expanded with new standard buildings. In addition, the LVZ-West was extended north to Mönchengladbach and south to Lake Constance . After the start of the war, new positions were even started again:
    • The provision of money, which provided for an extension to the north to the Rhine.
    • The Orscholzriegel between the Siegfried Line near Mettlach and Luxembourg .
    • The Spichern position on the heights south of Saarbrücken, partly on French territory.
  • 1940: The expansion slowed down and was stopped after the western campaign (May / June 1940).
  • 1944: The renewed threat to the German western border from the approaching front led to the reactivation of the technically often outdated fortifications. The construction of modern bunkers could only be advanced to a modest extent. The Maas-Rur position was built in autumn / winter 1944/1945 , a field-like ditch position between the Maas near Venlo and the Rur near Wassenberg (it was cleared in February 1945 without a fight).

Effects of the construction of the Siegfried Line

From then on, all of these programs were promoted with the highest priority and using all available resources . 17.3 million tons of concrete and 5% of the annual steel production (1.2 million tons) were used on the Siegfried Line. Since there was already a shortage of raw materials and a large number of construction workers were needed on the Siegfried Line, the public and private construction industry in particular came to a complete standstill, even though the need for living space was great at the time. At that time there was a shortage of around 1.5 million apartments in Germany (see also war economy # raw materials ).

In favor of the West Wall, the German Reichsautobahn construction and the expansion of the fortress front Oder-Warthe-Bogen (so-called "Ostwall") were stopped. Equipment and armament were brought from the Oder-Warthe-Bogen to the Siegfried Line.

The construction also had secondary effects on agriculture in the empire . For example, in the period from 1937 to 1939, over 30,000 farmers and their families had to leave their own around 5,600 farms with an area of ​​120,000 hectares for the construction of the Siegfried Line , which, together with other construction measures by the Wehrmacht, meant a not inconsiderable reduction in the agricultural area.


The construction of the west wall cost almost 3.5 billion Reichsmarks (for comparison: The German Reich had civilian expenditure of 6.2 billion RM in 1933). The construction and other expenses (e.g. arming the Wehrmacht ) could only be financed by borrowing from the state and with Mefo bills . Foreign currencies were scarce; In 1938 Germany was facing bankruptcy . The significant rise in inflation was also due in particular to the construction of the West Wall. The nationwide wage structure was considerably disrupted by the high number of hours, numerous bonuses and constant need for workers. For example, agricultural workers employed in the construction of the western wall were able to earn up to three times the hourly wage than with their previous work. The Reich Ministry of Economics criticized a lavish overpayment in the order of several hundred million RM.

Exemplary standard structures

Uncovered standard building 58-c (Tobruk) near Elmpt

At the beginning of each program Regelbauten were on the drawing board constructed , of which many were built then thousand after the predetermined scheme in part.

Pioneering program

For the pioneering program, primarily small bunkers with three frontal slots were built. The systems only had a wall thickness of 30 cm and were not protected against poison gas . The soldiers stationed there did not have their own beds, but had to make do with hammocks . Similar small systems with small armored domes were set up in exposed places . All these structures were already considered obsolete during their construction and at best offered protection against bombs - or shrapnel . The program was carried out by the Grenzwacht , a small military force that started work there immediately after the occupation of the Rhineland. The plants were built near the border. The Westwall Museum Konz is a bunker of this series set up as a museum.

Limes program

Standard building 10 of the Limes program seen from the rear

On May 28, 1938, Adolf Hitler ordered the Limes program : the German western border was to be fortified from the Swiss border to Brüggen (near Venlo) by building 11,800 bunkers. These should be completed by October 1, 1938; this date was connected with the attack on Czechoslovakia planned by Hitler (which was suspended by the Munich Agreement until the rest of the Czech Republic was broken up).

The bunkers built in 1938 were more massive than those previously built in the pioneer program. They had a ceiling and wall thickness of 1.5 m. For example, a total of 3,471 systems were built on the entire Siegfried Line from Regelbau 10 . This facility had a lounge and shelter for ten to twelve men with an entrance and a backward-facing stair notch and a combat area 0.5 m higher with a flanking and frontal notch for a machine gun with a separate entrance. Further notches were provided for carbines ; Based on the experiences of the First World War , the entire system was designed to be safe against poison gas . The bunker could be heated with a gas-safe furnace, and the chimney leading to the outside was closed with a massive grille. Each soldier was given a place to sleep and a stool, and the commanding officer was given a chair. The space available was very limited: around 1 m² of space could be made available to a soldier within the bunker, which meant that the common rooms were cramped. Inside the bunkers of this type that are still preserved today, there are still the inscriptions with which the advancing teams were prepared for their task: “Attention, enemy is listening!” Or “Only turn on the light when the gap is closed!”.

Aachen-Saar program

Combat bunker, standard type SK / 6a No. 153 near Entenpfuhl in Aachen

Similar typical structures were the double MG casemates of the type 107 and the standard building type 106a (MG casemate with group shelter) of the Aachen-Saar program with concrete thicknesses between 2 m and 3.5 m. In these bunkers, however, there were usually no frontal notches and they were arranged sideways. Frontal notches were only built in in exceptional cases and then provided with massive armor protection. The changed concept of the bunker took into account the experiences from the previously built standard buildings. The space available per soldier was increased from 1 m² to 1.3 to 1.4 m². The lack of space for food and ammunition in the bunkers of the Pioneer and Limes program was remedied by creating special rooms for food and ammunition. The program, decided on October 9, 1938 and started in early 1939, included the two cities of Aachen and Saarbrücken because of their economic importance. These were initially west of the defense line of the Limes program. In the Saarland , the Saarufer position was expanded in this context, with the main battle line (HKL) being advanced from the Hilgenbach position to the Saar. Thus, in the area from Beckingen to Saarbrücken, the Hilgenbach position became a second line, which until then had been HKL.

Regelbau 107b with bullet marks from armor-piercing weapons in Dillingen / Saar

West air defense zone

In 1938, the Luftwaffe first started planning a zone that was to be named West Air Protection Zone . This should consist of 60 light and heavy flak batteries and run from Jülich to Speyer . One focus should be on the Moselle-Rhine area. The first construction work began in the area of ​​the aforementioned focus. On November 12, 1938, the extension of the now available sent by air defense zone West called Flakzone decided. March 1, 1939 was recorded in the decree as the date for the start of construction on this extended zone.

The West Air Defense Zone (LVZ-West) connected to the east parallel to the lines already described. The distance between the LVZ-West and the main battle line was around 40 kilometers. The LVZ-West essentially consisted of concreted air defense positions . The weapons used there were intended to force an approaching enemy to a greater height, thereby increasing its fuel consumption and reducing its range of action at the same time. The standard buildings used were very similar to those of the Limes program that was started at the same time and were also built when the army switched to more modern standard buildings from 1939.

For local defense, these positions had their own bunkers for machine guns or to accommodate crews or an anti-tank gun. Only between the Moselle and the Rhine were the flak positions their own position with LVZ-West standard structures for ground defense.

The LVZ-West could never be fully realized. It was not possible to continuously equip a zone longer than 600 km with anti-aircraft guns. By March 1, 1940, 1,544 systems had been built in the expansion area of ​​the LVZ-West from Düren to Basel . After the successful French campaign , LVZ-West was also included in the disarmament of the Siegfried Line. At the beginning of the campaign in the west, Hitler had a former LVZ post in Münstereifel-Rodert , which had previously been converted by members of the Todt Organization, built as a leader's headquarters under the name Felsennest , after he had previously rejected the "Adlerhorst" as too feudal.

LVZ-West gun bed in Feckenhausen near Rottweil, similar to the "Ginnik" type (octagonal with five ammunition niches), but with an attached shelter
Bunker of the Geldern position near Kleve

Geldern position

The Geldern position extended the Siegfried Line to Kleve on the Lower Rhine and was only built after the outbreak of the Second World War . Originally the Westwall ended in the north near Brüggen in the district of Viersen. Primarily unarmed shelters were built in the most massive concrete construction . These standard buildings of the type 102V were often built in the vicinity of agricultural farms for reasons of camouflage . The double machine gun casemates of the standard type 107, which were also erected here, have been completely removed.

Anti-tank traps

Five-row tank obstacle of the Aachen-Saar program of the 1939 type
Anti-tank trench near Elmpt
Remnants of an obstacle made from Czech booty near Geilenkirchen

In addition, anti- tank barriers were built for many kilometers along the western wall . There are different types of these barriers, including hump lines, escapement curves, armored walls and also road barriers. The cusp line was so named because of its shape, the cusps were also referred to as dragon teeth . The reinforced concrete cusps stand in several rows on a common foundation. There are two regular types of obstacles: the 1938 obstacle with four teeth rising from front to back and the 1939 obstacle with five of these teeth. But there were also a lot of irregular cusp lines built. Inhibition curve obstacles should also stop tanks. The 36-ton obstacles, made of steel girders, rise in a curve in the direction of travel of the enemy tanks. Armored walls consisted of slope walls and a vertical, three-meter-high reinforced concrete wall. Tanks would crash at this point. If the topography of the site allowed, water-filled trenches were dug, called wet tank trenches. Such systems can be found north of Aachen near Geilenkirchen , for example .

Also in the vicinity of Geilenkirchen are the remains of an anti-tank barrier that was taken from the prey from the Czechoslovak Wall . Two continuous thresholds made of reinforced concrete with a height of about one meter were placed two U-profiles placed against each other at irregular intervals . The space between the two approximately two meter high steel girders was poured with concrete .

After the war, the steel girders were removed with a cutting torch and scrapped. The thresholds are still there.

The working conditions in construction

Most of the construction work for the pioneer program was carried out by private companies, but private companies were unable to provide the necessary workforce for the subsequent programs. The Todt organization , named after its founder Fritz Todt, filled this gap . By utilizing the first service obligation on June 22, 1938 by Hermann Göring as the representative for the four-year plan , up to half a million people were at times busy with the construction work on the Westwall. The detachments took place at extremely short notice, sometimes in less than 24 hours. The food and accommodation of the workers was organized by the German Labor Front , which had to contend with great logistical difficulties. Not only specially built barracks were used as living space, but also gymnasiums, private houses and dance halls; Inadequate sanitary facilities led to considerable hygienic deficits.

The transport of construction workers from all over Germany and the necessary material was carried out by the Deutsche Reichsbahn , which was able to fall back on a well-developed network of strategic railways on the western border from the time before the First World War .

Wet ditch near Geilenkirchen

The working conditions on the construction sites were extremely bad, accidents often occurred because, for example, armored parts weighing up to 60 tons had to be moved and assembled with simple means. Shifts lasting up to 36 hours (pouring a bunker), initially without vacation up to seven days a week, stressed the workers to their limits or beyond. The average working time was ten to twelve hours; Overtime became mandatory.

Due to harsh working conditions, inadequate care, forced separation from families and extensions of the actually limited service obligations, attempts were often made to escape through arbitrarily extended vacation, “strolling shifts” or fleeing. The first collective strikes also occurred. In Saarland in 1938 over 1,000 workers stopped their work and demanded better wages and meals, which they were granted. A second wave of strikes led to the withdrawal of wage cuts made in June 1939. From the beginning of the war (September 1, 1939), the government practiced harsh sanctions: SS special camps and police detention camps were set up at Todt's insistence for uncooperative workers, from whom the workers were driven to work and “ideologically instructed”. The Hinzert concentration camp was after the defeat of France (June 1940) a transit camp for Jews (details here ) and other prisoners from France to concentration camps or extermination camps were deported. The SS special camp in Hinzert was placed directly under the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945 .

Todt himself said of the role of this camp that it made the construction of the Siegfried Line possible.

Armor parts and armament

The steel armor parts necessary for the installation of weapons in the bunkers could not be supplied by the industry in the required quantity or in the necessary quality, so that the military value of the facilities was not particularly high. The armor parts included the notches and their locks as well as armored domes for all-round defense. Regarding the alloy metals for the production of these armor parts (primarily nickel and molybdenum ), the company was dependent on foreign countries, so that either no armor parts were built in at all or they were made from inferior substitute material. This deficiency was evident even in official photographs.

Furthermore, the bunkers were designed for artillery pieces that already turned out to be undersized in the first years of the war and were therefore expanded again. The large-caliber weapons necessary for an effective defense could not, however, be built into the existing bunkers.

Nozzle plate 7P7, thickness B1
Six-notch tower 20P7 with stair notches and hits from armor-piercing ammunition

The role of the western wall at the beginning of the war

A furnace for heating a Siegfried Line bunker

Despite France's declaration of war on the German Reich at the beginning of World War II on September 3, 1939, there were no major battles on the Siegfried Line until the start of the Western campaign, the German apron of which was evacuated as the Red Zone in 1939. Instead, both opponents persisted in the so-called sit -down war , whereby neither side wanted to attack the other and instead remained in their safe positions. After the completion of the western campaign , all movable weapons were removed from the bunkers of the western wall and used in other places. The concreted parts were left standing in the landscape, making the system completely unusable for defense within a very short time. Instead, the bunkers were used as storage rooms, for example for agricultural equipment. Other furnishings, such as the beds that were no longer needed, were also removed from the bunkers and installed in newly built civilian air raid bunkers. The beds were often referred to as "Westwall beds" because of their origin.

Reactivation of the West Wall in 1944

A new situation arose when the Allies landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944, when the war broke out again in the West. On August 24, 1944, Hitler issued a Führer decree to rebuild the western wall. 20,000 forced laborers and members of the Reich Labor Service (RAD for short) tried to restore the defense readiness with improvised means, but this did not succeed because of the Allied air superiority . Even during this work it turned out that the bunkers were no longer able to cope with the advanced armor-piercing weapons. The local population was also called in for work, mostly to build trenches for anti-tank defense. Parallel to the reactivation of the actual west wall, small concrete ring stands , so-called Tobruks , were built along the borders to occupied countries . These stands were essentially small foxholes for a single soldier, like those used in the Maas-Rur position .

Combat operations on the Siegfried Line

Operation Market Garden, carried out by the Western Allies in September 1944, can be seen in connection with the Siegfried Line. With this operation the Allied High Command tried in vain to gain Rhine crossings in the Netherlands in order to bypass the Siegfried Line to the north.

Remains of a plant southwest of Karlsruhe (towards Durmersheim)
American soldiers cross the Siegfried Line

In October 1944, the first acts of war began in front of the Siegfried Line. The most contested area of ​​the west wall was the area of ​​the Hürtgenwald in the northern Eifel , about 20 km southeast of Aachen. In the confusing forest area, 12,000 Wehrmacht soldiers and around 32,000 US soldiers died in the battle in the Hürtgen Forest by February 1945 .

Further north, US troops succeeded in the Battle of Aachen in October 1944 , breaking into the first line of defense of the western wall and taking Aachen as the first major German city. The breakthrough in the Aachen area led to a breakthrough in the second position of the western wall over a width of 40 kilometers, which was driven as far as the Rur in the course of Operation Queen in November and early December . However, it was not possible to cross the river, instead the long contested Rur front formed .

It was not until February 23, 1945 that the 9th US Army crossed the Rur ( Operation Grenade ).

Alsace / Saarland / Palatinate

Further south the situation was as follows: in August and September 1944 the Allied troops had pushed the Wehrmacht out of large parts of France; they had made a Blitzkrieg-like advance. This came to a halt in mid-September on the Belgian-Dutch and Belgian-German border as well as on the Moselle and its tributaries. There were various reasons for this; among other things, the Allied supply lines had become longer and longer due to the advance. Allied troops were now standing in front of parts of the southern western wall.

Since SHAEF initially pursued other priorities with the Rhine Delta and Aachen , there were only local fighting in September and October 1944.

At the insistence of France and because of the hope of breaking into the Siegfried Line here and avoiding high losses as in the previous battles, SHAEF decided to launch an offensive in this section. From mid-November to mid-December 1944 , Allied troops were able to bring large parts of Alsace and Lorraine under their control. On November 12, 1944, the 6th US Army Group, in cooperation with the 3rd US Army, launched an offensive on both sides of the Vosges. The Allied armies broke through the Zaberner Steige and the Burgundische Pforte and reached the Upper Rhine on November 19th near Mulhouse and on November 23rd near Strasbourg .

On December 16, 1944, the Wehrmacht began the Ardennes offensive from the cover of the Western Wall, in the area between Monschau and Echternach in Luxembourg . This offensive - which surprised the Allies - brought only short-term German territorial gains, cost many lives and had no influence on the outcome of the war. It is often referred to as the last offensive on the Western Front; in fact it was the penultimate and the North Wind Company (see below) the last.

There was also heavy fighting in other places on the Siegfried Line. The crews of many bunkers refused to hand them over without a fight out of fear of the German court courts . Many German soldiers paid for this decision with their lives, as the group shelters in particular offered no protection from the attackers' weapons.

From December 31, 1944 to January 25, 1945, the Wehrmacht attempted an offensive in Operation Nordwind . A major part of the fighting took place from January 8 to 20, 1945 in the area between Hagenau and Weißenburg ; Fights on the Vosges ridge and over a newly formed bridgehead on the Upper Rhine determined the events much more strongly. The battle ended after the withdrawal of American troops on the Moder line near Hagenau and their defensive success against the last German attacks on January 25th.

In the spring of 1945, the last Westwall bunkers fell on the Saar and in the anterior Hunsrück , such as the Osburg-Neuhaus chain of bunkers .

The propaganda value of the West Wall

British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill inspected the “Siegfried Line” near Aachen on March 4, 1945

The construction of the West Wall was presented by German propaganda as an indomitable bulwark, well beyond the necessity, both at home and abroad. The empire is threatened from outside and is therefore building a purely defensive facility, which in turn should appease the neighbors. From the perspective of the National Socialists, this strategy proved to be extremely successful at the beginning and at the end of the Second World War . At the beginning of the war, the opposing troops remained behind their own border fortifications; the Siegfried Line represented not only a real but also a psychological border for them.

In addition, the Siegfried Line, especially under the name "Siegfried Line", was the subject of parodies in soldiers' songs of both warring parties.

See: We're Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line

A documentary film about the building was also shot for propaganda purposes. Since at the time of shooting there were hardly any construction sites on the Siegfried Line, construction sites on the Oder-Warthe-Bogen were identified and filmed as building sites on the Siegfried Line.

post war period

Bunker ruins near Aachen: The depicted bunker with the whole group of bunkers was overgrounded or destroyed and removed in January 2005. Despite the existing monument protection, this part of the area around Aachen is today "bunker-free".

In the post-war period, many of the Siegfried Line were demolished by blasting. During this work and the clearing of the many mines , people again lost their lives.

"Monument value of the unpleasant"

In North Rhine-Westphalia there are still around 30 bunkers undamaged; most of the rest were either blown up or covered with earth. Large parts of the anti-tank barriers can still be seen in place, for example in the Eifel over many kilometers. The Irrel Westwall Museum can also be found there. Under the heading The Monument Value of the Unpleasant , an attempt is now being made to place the remains of the western wall under monument protection, as this is the only way to present history to the following generations. As with other buildings of National Socialism, this was also repeatedly a cause for controversy.

Public funds are still being made available to clean up the remains of the western wall. Since the bunkers from the past wars are now part of the archaeological fund, emergency excavations are carried out in North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, if a piece of the western wall has to be cleared again - for example to widen the road. Although these emergency excavations cannot prevent the complete destruction of the associated section, they always bring new scientific knowledge and previously unknown details about the respective structure to light. In this context, some people, whether contemporary witnesses or the following generation, raise the question of the justification of the monument protection of such military buildings of National Socialism . Should and do we want to preserve these concrete contemporary witnesses for posterity - similar to, for example, the Roman fortification wall Limes ?

In 2007, the Rheinische Bodendenkmalpflege organized a symposium of 135 historians and experts working on memorial sites on the subject of the Westwall , who essentially complained that the culture of remembrance for this was carried out rather without history, in the manner of war narratives, without the Nazi story, which To critically question Nazi propaganda and the crimes associated with its construction. To this end, the existing museum facilities should be carefully converted and an alternative museumization strategy developed.

In Rhineland-Palatinate , all installations belonging to the Siegfried Line and the West Air Defense Zone, which have been completely, partially or destroyed, are under monument protection, including "bunkers, mine passages, positions, hump lines, other barriers, (...), artificial obstacles, (...) , remodeling interventions in the natural surface structure and natural surface waters (such as in particular raised ramps or dammed natural streams) ”. They form the "route and area monument 'West fortification'", which for historical reasons has a monumental value. It extends over eight rural districts and four independent cities.

In 2005, the Besseringen plant in Saarland was opened to the public. It is the only one that has survived from the former 32 tank factories of the construction strength "B".

Many bunkers ruins have become popular destinations for geocachers . Due to nature conservation regulations in various federal states, in particular due to bat protection , the caches, insofar as they are located in the interior of the former bunker, are only open in the summer months. In Rhineland-Palatinate, geocaches in bunkers have been banned since 2013 by order of SDG South.

Nature conservation on the Siegfried Line

The Siegfried Line as a chain of biotopes

In the dispute over the remains of the west wall, conservationists have also spoken out. Large remains of the western wall are now valuable chains of biotopes , into which rare animal and plant species have withdrawn. You are undisturbed here because the concrete ruins cannot be used for agriculture or forestry.

In August 2006, the Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany took over a Westwall bunker near Hellenthal from the Federal Property Administration for the first time for its Grüner Wall project in the west . The initiative sees this as an initial spark for municipalities and associations to become active in a similar way to save other parts of this Green Corridor and bring them to nature conservation. The Federal Ministry of Finance provided the BUND with 7,000,000 euros to secure the facility, which is 70% of the otherwise necessary demolition costs.

Over the decades, the bunker ruins have developed into valuable habitats for wildcats and bats , among others , and represent valuable retreats for animals and plants in the densely populated and intensively used cultural landscape the landscape. The former Siegfried Line can thus merge the various landscape areas as a “Green Wall in the West” to form a large network of biotopes. With their hollow spaces, the bunker ruins serve as a retreat for small and large mammals such as wild cats, badgers , shrews and others. The crevices in the ruins and tunnels are ideal summer and winter quarters for bats. Reptiles such as the wall lizard or sand lizard can be found again and again.

In June 2010 the Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) Landesverband Rheinland-Pfalz e. V. started the project “Grüner Wall im Westen”. The aim of this project is to protect the former Siegfried Line from destruction as a tangible testimony to recent history, an architectural monument and an important habitat and network axis for rare and endangered species. This network axis is to be permanently secured in the sense of "monument protection through nature conservation". The Foundation for Nature and Environment Rhineland-Palatinate supports the project. Nature conservationists from various associations work hand in hand with monument conservationists, historians, representatives of tourism, forestry and land consolidation authorities as well as the state center for political education. The project aims at a strong cooperation with the neighboring federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia , Saarland and Baden-Württemberg and is to be extended to the entire former Westwall in the future.

Conservation of nature during the planning and construction of the West Wall during the National Socialism

Nature conservation was involved in the planning and construction of this line of attack and defense at the time of National Socialism: At that time, its task was to insert the military installations into the landscape. He made the green camouflage for the Wehrmacht.

The most important actors in this context were the so-called landscape lawyers under the leadership of Alwin Seifert . This group of specialists originally worked with the Todt Organization on the National Socialist Reichsautobahn construction. They provided e.g. B. for ensuring that the route harmonized with the landscape or that the planting along the new routes was done with native vegetation.

When Fritz Todt was also commissioned to accelerate the expansion of the West Wall in 1938 , the landscape lawyers succeeded in expanding their range of tasks to include the corresponding military buildings. A. Seifert handed this task over to the "landscape attorney" Wilhelm Hirsch (1887–1957), who in turn involved at least seven other specialists. Each of them was allocated a section of the west wall. While the Wehrmacht decided on the strength and position of the buildings, the landscape lawyers took on the task of embedding them in the landscape in such a way that the enemy could neither see them from the air nor from the ground. They developed the corresponding plans, and the execution was carried out by private gardening and landscaping companies. It is very likely that forced laborers were also used. In addition to the military purpose of the green planning, there was also a theoretical background.

According to the blood and soil ideology of National Socialism, the landscape lawyers tried to use the immense intervention in the course of the construction of the Siegfried Line to “heal” or “upgrade” the landscape.

W. Hirsch noted: “The Siegfried Line is and will remain historical ground for all times. It becomes the historical greatness of German creativity when, after the technical-military feat of equal magnitude, the cultural act of rebuilding the sore landscape follows. ”It is to be avoided that it becomes stepped, scrubbed or the utility is lost after the intervention . "The people living in it cannot grow up to be strong-willed people."

This ideological connection between the landscape and the people living in it was a criterion for the development of the planting plans. Only native, German plants should be used for green camouflage. For example, blood dogwood, privet , blackthorn , wine rose or wild blackberry. In this context, nature conservation saw its role as helping to create the "National Socialist People's Community " with its resources. The landscape attorneys pursued the goal in particular to connect the individual structures with one another with hedge structures, plantings, embankments etc. via "green bridges" and thus hide them from the eyes of the enemy as a seemingly organic part of the landscape. The aim was a so-called National Socialist defensive landscape in which the structures "disappeared."

In any case, the corresponding work lasted until October 1941.

The construction of the Siegfried Line brought the landscape lawyers into contact with the German Wehrmacht and the SS. The specialist knowledge gained here was subsequently also applied in the construction of the so-called Atlantic Wall and in the conquered areas in Eastern Europe, including in the vicinity of the Auschwitz concentration camp .

But not only the landscape lawyers were active as nature conservationists in the planning and construction of the west wall. In the Palatinate, for example, the Bavarian government commissioner for nature conservation was also involved. And the Federation of Nature Conservation in Bavaria noted u. a. In the “Blätter für Naturschutz” published by him in May 1940: “In the war zone, of course, there is no place for nature conservation, because where human life and property are destroyed, one cannot long consider nature, which, however, also takes care of itself here and even pouring its miracles over the ravages of the theater of war. But already in the hinterland of the war, in the area of ​​the West Wall, the demands of nature conservation are met everywhere, albeit mostly for other reasons, because of camouflage. But not only the camouflage, the nature-friendly organization Todt helps to tear as few small wounds as possible in the landscape and to adjust the absolutely necessary major interventions as soon as possible to the surrounding landscape - often in touching detail. "

The Reichsbund für Vogelschutz , the forerunner organization of today's NABU , ensured that nest boxes were hung on the Westwall bunkers in order to protect species.


The Siegfried Line, usually referred to in English as the "Siegfried Line", was mentioned in a soldier's song by the British Expeditionary Force stationed in France during the Seated War . We're Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line parodied the weakness of the West Wall.

See also


  • DAWA news. Edited by German Atlantic Wall Archive. Lippmann, Cologne 1983 ff. ISSN  1431-4541 (biannual magazine with articles on fortress construction, including many instructions on how to visit the Westwall).
  • Harry Lippmann: The most common barriers on the West and Atlantic Wall in words, sketches and pictures. In: Tank traps and other obstacles. DAWA-Nachrichten, special volume 13. Ed. German Atlantic Wall Archive. Lippmann, Cologne 1997, ISBN 3-931032-13-2 , ISSN  1431-4541 .
  • Harry Lippmann: Military Museums in Germany. DAWA news. Special volume 16. Ed. From the German Atlantic Wall Archive. Lippmann, Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-931032-16-7 , ISSN  1431-4541 (with many inspection instructions for Westwall bunkers and all Westwall museums ).
  • Rheinisches Landesamt für Bodendenkmalpflege (Hrsg.): Der Westwall. On the monumental value of the unpleasant. Guide to the archaeological monuments in the Rhineland. Text and maps 1: 50,000. Rheinland-Verlag, Cologne 1997, 1998. ISBN 3-7927-1668-2 (a detailed description of the remains of the West Wall in North Rhine-Westphalia with summaries in English and French. Appendix 6 topographic maps on a scale of 1: 50,000).
  • Manfred Groß: The Siegfried Line between the Lower Rhine and Schnee-Eifel. Rheinland-Verlag, Cologne 1989. ISBN 3-7927-0644-X (detailed description of the west wall in the area of ​​North Rhine-Westphalia with a lot of technical drawings of the individual systems as well as exact maps in which each individual bunker is drawn).
  • Dieter Robert Bettinger, Hans-Josef Hansen, Daniel Lois: The Westwall from Kleve to Basel. On the trail of German history. Podzun-Pallas, Wölfersheim-Berstadt 2002, ISBN 3-7909-0754-5 (A tour planner with extensive descriptions of surviving Siegfried Line structures, museums and contact persons), updated new edition 2008 in Nebel Verlag, Eggolsheim, ISBN 978-3-89555-414- 8 .
  • Dieter Bettinger, Martin Büren: The West Wall. The history of the German fortifications to the west in the Third Reich. Vol. 1. The construction of the western wall 1936–1945, Vol. 2. The technical execution of the western wall. Biblio, Osnabrück 1990, ISBN 3-7648-1458-6 (both volumes are extremely detailed and also cover the political, organizational and financial aspects of the West Wall).
  • Hans-Josef Hansen: Felsennest - The forgotten leader's headquarters in the Eifel. Construction, use, destruction. Helios Verlag Aachen, 2nd, expanded edition 2008 (including information on the West Air Defense Zone), ISBN 3-938208-21-X .
  • Hans-Josef Hansen (Ed.): On the trail of the west wall. Discoveries along an almost forgotten fortification. Helios, Aachen 2009. ISBN 3-925087-76-1 (illustrated book about numerous interesting / curious discoveries along the former fortification zone).
  • Wolfgang Franz Werner: Leftover! German workers in the National Socialist war economy. Schwann, Düsseldorf 1983, ISBN 3-590-18121-4 .
  • Helmut Lauer: The Siegfried Line. Zweibrücken 1979, 1989.
  • Jörg Fuhrmeister: The West Wall: past and present. Motorbuch, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-613-02291-5 .
  • Wolfgang Wegener: The Siegfried Line. Monument and Myth. In: Rheinische Heimatpflege . Rheinland-Verlag, Pulheim 2006, ISSN  0342-1805 , p. 279 ff.
  • Contributions to the history of the Bitburger Land. Vol. 14 Historical Working Group Bitburger Land, Bitburg 1994, ISSN  0939-0189 .
  • Edgar Christoffel: War on the Westwall 1944/45: the border region in the west between Aachen and Saarbrücken in the last months of the war . Verlag der Akad. Buchh. Interbook, Trier 1989, ISBN 3-88915-033-0 (out of print; also in Trier city library).
  • Franziska Bedorf and Daniel Holder: Future project “Westwall”. Ways to a responsible handling of the remains of the Nazi system. Conference report on the Westwall conference from March 3rd to 4th in Bonn. In: Archeology - History - Geography. 24, 2006, pp. 379-389. See also this: Conference report future project Westwall. Ways to a responsible handling of the remains of the Nazi system. 3rd to 4th May 2007, Bonn. In: H-Soz-u-Kult , August 8, 2007, < >.
  • Frank Möller, Karola Fings (ed.): Westwall future project. Ways to a responsible handling of the remains of the Nazi system (materials for the preservation of monuments in the Rhineland, vol. 20). Verlag Ralf Liebe, Weilerswist 2008, ISBN 978-3-941037-05-2 .
  • Martin Kaule: West Wall. From the fortress line to the memory landscape. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-86153-769-4 .
  • Christina Threuter: Westwall. Image and myth . (Imhof-Zeitgeschichte), Imhof, Petersberg 2009, ISBN 978-3-86568-365-6 .
  • Clemens Kieser: “Westwall” - neither protective wall nor architecture. The military western fortifications of National Socialism in Baden-Württemberg. In: Denkmalpflege in Baden-Württemberg , Volume 39, 2010, Issue 4, pp. 247-252, (PDF; 6.1 MB)
  • Till Kiener: The Siegfried Line in Baden-Württemberg (1): The Neckar-Enz position. In: monuments in Baden-Wuerttemberg .., 40. Jg 2011, Issue 1, p 53 f, (PDF)
  • Patrice Wijnands: The Siegfried Line in Baden-Württemberg (2). The Ettlinger bar. In: monuments in Baden-Wuerttemberg .., 40. Jg 2011, Issue 2, p 118 f, (PDF)
  • Friedrich Wein: The West Wall (3). The air defense position in Hornisgrinde (Ortenaukreis). In: monuments in Baden-Wuerttemberg .., 40. Jg 2011, Issue 3, pp 168 f, (PDF)
  • Gitta Reinhardt-Fehrenbach: Imperial Fortress - West Wall (Part 4) - Cold War. The main medical depot in the Isteiner Klotz (district of Lörrach). In: Denkmalpflege in Baden-Württemberg , Volume 40, 2011, Issue 4, pp. 235–238, (PDF)
  • Patrice Wijnands: The Siegfried Line in Baden-Württemberg (5). The "Korker Waldstellung" . In: monuments in Baden-Wuerttemberg .., 41. Jg 2012, Issue 1, p 52 f, (PDF)
  • Sascha Kuhnert, Friedrich Wein: The naval guns of the West Wall on the Upper Rhine. A contribution to the history of the German western fortifications . Explorate-Verlag, Königsfeld 2012, ISBN 978-3-937779-29-4 .
  • Nils Franke: The Siegfried Line in the landscape. Activities of nature conservation in the time of National Socialism and its actors. Publisher: Ministry for the Environment, Agriculture, Food, Viticulture and Forests Rhineland-Palatinate . 2015, ISBN 978-3-00-049532-8 , (PDF; 3 MB)
  • Ernst-Rainer Hönes : The large NS complex “Westwall” as a memorial . In: Verwaltungsrundschau (VR), 7/2016, pp. 223–238.
  • Ernst-Rainer Hönes: The former Siegfried Line as a monument? Entrance of the monument protection to a former Nazi facility . In: Nils Franke, Klaus Werk (ed.): Nature conservation on the former Westwall. Large-scale NS facilities in discourse = Geisenheimer Contributions to the Cultural Landscape 1. 2016, pp. 110–151.

Web links

Commons : Westwall  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Towards the Heart of Germany , p. 676 below.
  2. Todt Line and Maginot Line . In: Oedenburger Zeitung . Oedenburg October 9, 1938, p. 4 ( ANNO - AustriaN Newspapers Online [accessed May 27, 2020]).
  3. In the east and west, where our flag flies ... In: Kleine Volks-Zeitung . Vienna December 24, 1938 ( ANNO - AustriaN Newspapers Online [accessed May 27, 2020]).
  4. Men from the Siegfried Line on vacation . In: Neues Wiener Tagblatt . Vienna October 28, 1938, p. 8 ( ANNO - AustriaN Newspapers Online [accessed May 27, 2020]).
  5. The insurmountable Siegfried Line . In: Vorarlberger Tagblatt . Bregenz May 20, 1939, p. 4 ( ANNO - AustriaN Newspapers Online [accessed May 27, 2020]).
  6. Conclusion of the Fuehrer's inspection tour . In: Das kleine Volksblatt . Vienna May 20, 1939, p. 3 ( ANNO - AustriaN Newspapers Online [accessed May 27, 2020]).
  7. ^ The "Atlantik-Wall" FAZ of June 2, 2004.
  8. 20% of the German annual production of cement (8 million tons) as well as considerable quantities from France were required for this; Le Havre's concrete construction charm results from the remaining cement factories in occupied France. "Le Havre, France - Poetry in Concrete"
  9. see here
  10. Military History Research Office : The German Reich and the Second World War . Volume 1, p. 267.
  11. Wolfgang Wegener: Myth Westwall . (PDF) 2007
  12. ^ Bunker system SK / 6a No. 153 in the Aachen city forest
  13. Obstacles and barriers. (No longer available online.) In: June 25, 2015, archived from the original on July 8, 2015 ; Retrieved July 7, 2015 .
  14. ^ Hürtgenwald community: The "Allerseelenschlacht" around Vossenack and Hürtgen in 1944 ( Memento from January 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  15. ^ Bonn: When the odds were even. P. 103 ff.
  16. ^ The Last Offensive , Chapter XII: The Saar Palatinate
  17. The echo of time triggers a pleasant shudder. Interview with Hermann Josef Berk. Taz on July 2, 2007, accessed September 25, 2015.
  18. ^ FA Heinen: Westwall commemoration is blind to history. In: Kölner Stadtanzeiger , 30./31. August 2008, Region, p. 7, review of the book by Fings / Möller.
  19. ^ General Directorate for Cultural Heritage Rhineland-Palatinate (ed.): Informational directory of cultural monuments: West Wall and air defense zone West . Mainz 2009 ( [PDF; accessed on December 6, 2010]). Informational directory of cultural monuments - West Wall and Air Defense Zone West ( Memento from January 30, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  20. ^ According to Kölner Stadtanzeiger , August 24, 2006 (see also web link Grüner Wall).
  21. A. Seifert: A life for the landscape . Düsseldorf / Cologne 1962. pp. 41–43 - Architect Alwin Seifert, lecturer in garden art at the Technical University: Planting the Reichskraftbahn. Munich, March 11th, 34. 2. S. typescript in the German National Library Sig. L: SB 5173 - 24. S. 1
  22. G. Gröning, J. Wolschke-Bulmahn (Ed.): Green biographies . Hanover 1997. S. 150/151 / Ministry for the Environment, Agriculture, Food, Viticulture and Forests Rhineland-Palatinate (Hrsg.): The Westwall in the landscape. Activities of nature conservation in the time of National Socialism and its actors . Edit v. N. Franke. Mainz 2015, ISBN 978-3-00-049532-8 , pp. 32/33
  23. ^ Ministry for the Environment, Agriculture, Food, Viticulture and Forests Rhineland-Palatinate (ed.): The Westwall in the landscape. Activities of nature conservation in the time of National Socialism and its actors . Edit v. N. Franke. Mainz 2015. ISBN 978-3-00-049532-8 , pp. 32–34.
  24. ^ W. Hirsch to A. Seifert. 11/17/1940. Enclosure: The Westwall in its landscape structure. 7 See file F1b / 131 Hirsch. Alwin Seifert held at the Technical University of Munich. P. 1
  25. ^ W. Hirsch to A. Seifert. 11/17/1940. Enclosure: The Westwall in its landscape structure. 7 See file F1b / 131 Hirsch. Alwin Seifert held at the Technical University of Munich. P. 6
  26. ^ Project wasteland. A section from the Siegfried Line. Edited as an example for the correct integration of technical structures into the organism of the landscape and their camouflage by the landscape attorneys Dipl. Rer. hoard. Otto Kurz - Ulm / Thu and Dipl. Rer. hort Max Müller - Bamberg as the owners of the company Kurz und Müller, a company for landscaping and civil engineering, which was employed in the area of ​​the Landau site management. Sports field construction Nuremberg-Landau / Pfalz. Federal Archives Freiburg / file RH 11 III / 380. Pp. 18/19
  27. ^ Ministry for the Environment, Agriculture, Food, Viticulture and Forests Rhineland-Palatinate (ed.): The Westwall in the landscape. Activities of nature conservation in the time of National Socialism and its actors . Edit v. N. Franke. Mainz 2015, ISBN 978-3-00-049532-8 , pp. 50/51
  28. ^ Ministry for the Environment, Agriculture, Food, Viticulture and Forests Rhineland-Palatinate (ed.): The Westwall in the landscape. Activities of nature conservation in the time of National Socialism and its actors . Edit v. N. Franke. Mainz 2015, ISBN 978-3-00-049532-8 , p. 35
  29. ^ Ministry for the Environment, Agriculture, Food, Viticulture and Forests Rhineland-Palatinate (ed.): The Westwall in the landscape. Activities of nature conservation in the time of National Socialism and its actors . Edit v. N. Franke. Mainz 2015, ISBN 978-3-00-049532-8 , pp. 62/63
  30. L. Rueß: Nature conservation in war . In: Blätter für Naturschutz , May 1940, Issue 2/3, pp. 29–31.
  31. ^ Ministry for the Environment, Agriculture, Food, Viticulture and Forests Rhineland-Palatinate (ed.): The Westwall in the landscape. Activities of nature conservation in the time of National Socialism and its actors . Edit v. N. Franke. Mainz 2015, ISBN 978-3-00-049532-8 , pp. 68/69
  32. see also
  33. As of September 2014: out ( Guide to archaeological monuments in the Rhineland. In: . Accessed on August 15, 2020 . )
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on July 14, 2004 in this version .