The Siegfried Line

In 2012 whilst touring World War Two battlefield sites of the Battle of the Bulge (Germany’s last major western front offensive of the 1944/45 winter) in the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg I realised I was very close to the German border and also the remnants of the old Siegfried Line. I knew it would be the perfect bookend to my venture into history to seek out this former defensive wall.

The Battle of the Bulge in the Winter of 1944/45
The Battle of the Bulge in the Winter of 1944/45

The Siegfried Line (known in Germany as the West Wall) was a line of defensive pill boxes (over 3,000 of them), bunkers and concrete tank traps built by Germany from 1938 to 1940 (500,000 men worked on its construction). It ran from the border of the Netherlands down to Switzerland (large parts of it ran parallel to the French Maginot Line defences) and was intended by Hitler to be a symbol of protection for Germany. Propaganda portrayed it as an impenetrable wall.

The Siegfried Line in 1938 Germany
The Siegfried Line in 1938

We’re gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line,

Have you any dirty washing, mother dear?

We’re gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line,

‘Cause the washing day is here.

We’re Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line (1939)

It took a few more years for this British song to become reality!

Siegfried Line Westwall map
The Siegfried Line stretched along the German border from the Netherlands to Switzerland

Ultimately in 1940 it would not have been overly effective as the weapons available were insufficient to adequately defend the line. Luckily for Germany during the 1940 blitzkrieg of Western Europe the Allied nations of France and Britain never really had any chance to go on the offensive and invade Germany as they were quickly pushed back by the fast German advance.

Blitzkrieg German Panzer Korps 1940
Blitzkrieg! German Panzer Korps 1940

After the 1940 campaign, Germany had control of Western Europe and many of the weapons were removed from the line to be put on the French coast defences and much of the Siegfried Line fell into disrepair. Things changed of course when the Allies were on the offensive and began the June 6th, 1944 D-Day landings and airborne assault on France. In August 1944 Hitler ordered the Siegfried Line to be repaired and reconstructed. New defences were put in place by the Reich Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst) and forced labour.

The Siegfried Line Germany
The Siegfried Line

By September 1944 the first battles started to take place along the Siegfried Line and continued through to December 1944 when Germany launched their Ardennes offensive on December 16th, 1944. Various locations of the line experienced fierce and bloody fighting. The Allied offensive on the Siegfried Line restarted in February 1945 and it was not until March 1945 that the last of the German held defences were defeated at (Saarbrueken).

US troops under German fire on the Siegfried Line
US troops under German fire on the Siegfried Line
US troops cross the Siegfried Line into Germany in 1945
US troops cross the Siegfried Line into Germany in 1945

Although the Siegfried Line was not the impenetrable wall portrayed in German propaganda, it did tie up Allied resources and bought Germany some time to mount their counter-offensive. It was never enough though to prevent their inevitable defeat.

US Jeeps at the Siegfried Line 1945
US Jeeps at the Siegfried Line 1945
Field Marshalls Montgomery and Brooke with Prime Minister Churchill and General Simpson on the Siegfried Line in March 1945
Field Marshalls Montgomery and Brooke with Prime Minister Churchill and General Simpson on the Siegfried Line in March 1945

Although many of the bunker and defences were destroyed or covered over following the war, I knew that there were still places where you could see the concrete “Dragons Teeth” tank traps and the nearby farmland around Losheim, Germany was one of these places, so I set off to find them. At first I was kind of driving around aimlessly through country roads just looking at empty fields until I noticed a tree line that seemed to be following a fairly structured course. Success!

The "Dragons Teeth" of the Siegfried Line at Loshiem, Germany 2012
The “Dragons Teeth” of the Siegfried Line at Loshiem, Germany 2012
The "Dragons Teeth" of the Siegfried Line at Loshiem, Germany 2012
Mother nature has not fully taken over the Siegfried Line even after 70 years

 

The "Dragons Teeth" of the Siegfried Line at Loshiem,
Guarding the border through the decades
The "Dragons Teeth" of the Siegfried Line at Loshiem,
They really built the “Dragons Teeth” to last!
The "Dragons Teeth" of the Siegfried Line at Loshiem,
Modern day technology and visions of the past

 

The "Dragons Teeth" of the Siegfried Line at Loshiem,
Taking in the history

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s