The Atlantic Wall: the remnants of Nazis on the Dutch coast

You might need seen concrete bunkers within the dunes alongside The Hague’s shoreline, ominously stating towards the ocean. What’s up with these bunkers and why are they there within the first place?

The fortifications extending by a lot of the Dutch coast are a part of the Atlantic Wall, constructed by Nazi Germany. This huge venture was deliberate to increase from the Spanish border within the south, alongside the coast of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, proper as much as the the Norwegian coast.

The defensive bunkers and partitions didn’t actually do their job, but their remnants stay as a reminder of a not so distant previous. On this article, we’ll discover the historical past of the Atlantic Wall, its failings and its present scenario.

1942, the beginning of the Atlantic Wall

Within the first stage of the conflict, from 1939 to 1941, it appeared as if the victory of Nazi Germany was on the horizon. The Lowlands and France have been swiftly conquered in 1940, whereas Nice Britain was present process a brutal blitz. In the meantime, on the jap entrance, in 1941, Operation Barbarossa kickstarted the invasion of the Soviet Union.

However, the Nazi management was cautious of the potential of a two-front invasion. With the Blitz within the UK stalling, and Stalingrad blocking Nazi development on the jap entrance, issues have been raised of a potential Allied invasion on the western seaboard.

Constructions began in 1942 because of the worry of an invasion from the west. Initially, it was known as the New West Wall, however this didn’t actually have a lot a hoop to it. So, they then modified its identify to the Atlantic Wall for propaganda functions.

Marshall Erwin Rommel of the German military inspecting one the bunkers alongside the Atlantic Wall. Picture: German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Nazi Germany directed lots of its manpower to the development of the wall, with as much as half 1,000,000 individuals engaged on it throughout its peak. The employees included pressured labour from conquered international locations, but additionally German troopers {and professional} builders from native communities.

The preliminary plans concerned constructing 15,000 bunkers alongside the French, Belgian and Dutch coast. Nonetheless, because of the restricted assets and manpower, solely 6,000 of these bunkers ended up being completed by their deadline on Could 1, 1943. Within the Netherlands, for instance, the preliminary plan was to construct 2,000 bunkers. Solely 510 of these bunkers have been completed.

Constructions of the Atlantic Wall

The Atlantic Wall was fashioned out of impartial constructions that would assist themselves within the occasion of battle. The bunker was the primary fortification discovered alongside the Atlantic Wall, and there was fairly a significant variation of measurement relying on the strategic location alongside the coast.

The wall additionally consisted of batteries containing anti-aircraft weapons and radio installations, in addition to storage services for ammunition and troops. The defences have been related by a collection of underground trenches.

Past bunkers and trenches, fences and pure limitations equivalent to steep dunes have been additionally established.

Demolitions alongside the Atlantic Wall

Constructing the Atlantic Wall proved to be a traumatic expertise for the communities dwelling alongside the coast. Within the Netherlands alone, a whole lot of 1000’s of individuals needed to relocate from their properties which have been demolished for the Wall, some by no means to return once more.

Within the Hague, for instance, the Nazis constructed a 10-kilometre stretch that was 500 metres huge with a purpose to make an anti-tank ditch, demolishing by a number of neighbourhoods. In Katwijk, lots of the buildings alongside the primary boulevard have been demolished, together with a historic fisherman’s quarter.

airplane photo of tank ditch in the Hague
The tank ditch constructed by The Hague as seen from above in 1944. Picture: RAF/Wikimedia Commons/Public Area.

Nature was additionally hard-hit by the demolitions, affecting the dunes which have been excavated and modified for the aim of constructing the Wall. Forests have been minimize down, and 1000’s of hectares of farmland have been destroyed as trenches and mines have been constructed on prime of them.

Fall of the Atlantic Wall

From the get-go, the Atlantic Wall was extra of a determined try to forestall a Western invasion than it was a well-thought-out technique. The Wall was at finest a deterrent by propaganda, meant to detract from an invasion.

The failure of the Wall grew to become evident with the Normandy Invasion by Western forces in June 6, 1944. Whereas in some areas of the Wall proved to be helpful for a while in repelling assaults, each on the bottom and within the air, general, the defences have been breached comparatively quick.

Submit-war Atlantic Wall

Instantly after the conflict, lots of the bunkers have been demolished, together with within the Netherlands. A psychological reminder of a horrific conflict and occupation, a lot of them have been demolished all through the late ’40s and the ’50s.

One other spherical of demolitions occurred within the ’60s in Zeeland and Zuid-Holland, because the bunkers proved to be a hazard that would result in flooding alongside the coast.

The Atlantic Wall however left its mark on the Netherlands and different international locations, and ruins, starting from bunkers to railways and sandpits, could be discovered all alongside the coast. The Hague is likely one of the most distinct locations the place you may nonetheless see this heritage, not solely within the ruins scattered round but additionally within the metropolis’s post-war growth, that emerged from the demolitions carried out to construct the Atlantic Wall.

A brutal conflict, however heritage nonetheless

Instantly after the conflict, no person wished to see the Atlantic Wall for its historic significance, and for good motive. Nonetheless, as years glided by, individuals seemed again on the Atlantic Wall not with horror, however with historic curiosity and curiosity.

Atlantic Wall ruins along the coast in Katwijk
Ruins of the Atlantic Wall alongside the coast in Katwijk. Picture: Janericloebe/Wikimedia Commons/Public Area

In the direction of the flip of the century, bunkers began to be excavated once more after a few years below the sand. Some have been open to the general public as museums, the primary and most notable bunker being the Atlantic Wall Museum within the Hook of Holland, which opened again in 1996.

atlantic wall museum in Hook of Holland
The Atlantic Wall Museum within the Hook of Holland. Picture: Frans Berkelaar/Wikimedia Commons/CC2.0

Different initiatives have been began in The Hague and Noordwijk, and bunkers are additionally being excavated and reopened elsewhere. Irrespective of the case, to see the bunkers, the most effective place to go is in Scheveningen, on the dunes extending in direction of Wassenaar. You can not enter them, however take them as an open-air museum!

Have you ever seen or visited any of the bunkers from the previous Atlantic Wall? Tell us within the feedback!

Function Picture: Frans Berkelaar/Wikimedia Commons/CC2.0
Editor’s Notice: This text was initially revealed in June 2020, and was absolutely up to date in February 2021 on your studying pleasure.

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