--Gennaro Postiglione

introduction essays

--The atlantic rampart;
--Rudi Rolf

--Organisation Todt, un
--etat dans l’etat;
--Remy Desquesnes


--Atlantic Wall Heritage:
--maintenance and decay;
--Hans Edge Nissen

--Le Mur de l’Atlantique
--dans la modernitè;
--Claude Prelorenzo

--Le Mur de l’Atlantique
--en representation;
--Andrea Santangelo

--The Atlantic Wall: why a
--museum on European
--soil; Gennaro Postiglione

--Europe: subcutaneous
--geographies; Giulio

--The AWLM web Site
--Paola Lenarduzzi

--The AWLM exhibition
--Lorenzo Bini

page-------1.3-> THE ATLANTIC RAMPART
Rudi Rolf

Artillery observation post with armoured turret of type 120 north of Oye-Plage, France. A feature of the Westwall constructions applied in the early days of the Atlantikwall is the clearly visable high position of the armoured turret above the body of the bunker, 1994 (© R. Rolf)









The major fortress construction element of the D- C- and B1-series of the Westwall was the flat armoured plate. Depicted is the plate of type 7P7 of a type B1 7a-bunker in the vicinity of Mettlach, Germany, 1984 (© R. Rolf)











The small observation cupola type 486P2, intended for Westwall constructions became only available for Atlantikwall constructions. This example is part of a tpe 105 in strongpoint 21a near Le Pointeau in the Loire mouth, 1995 (© R. Rolf)


Our notion of the Atlantikwall is a product of German and Allied propaganda. Emphasizing the length and strength of the Atlantic Rampart, Germany boasted of its immense defences against English aggression—defences which could prevent another ‘1918’.Having breeched the Atlantic Wall, as the English called the defence system, the Allies equally stressed the sheer invincibility of the system, thus suggesting their own military power that overran the Wall.Apart from the propaganda the Atlantic Rampart is very interesting from architectural and historical perspectives. The concrete constructions it was composed of represent designs that are unequalled by the fortification efforts of other nations, or by civil architecture in general. These bunkers show extraordinary free features in general design as well as a crude finish in surfaces. Historically the constructions of the Rampart belong to those remaining artefacts that bear witness to the last war in Europe. In a military sense the Rampart was the first fortification system in which functions were fully integrated, and at the same time the last major system to be built.Like all phrases of war propaganda, the term “Atlantic Rampart” came to signify far more than the defence system it initially referred to. From 1943 on, “the Atlantic Rampart” was, in the mass media, a collective term that stood for all German military constructions along the European coast between Finland and Spain. Actually, these constructions were built according to different programmes, in different times, by different organisations and for different purposes.

After the conquest of Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France in 1940, the German military forces were in a winning spirit. All efforts were given to the offensive, aiming at the defeat of Great Britain. Defensive activities were limited and consisted of taking over former enemy coastal batteries, and moving German naval batteries to the newly obtained ports and harbours. These batteries were for the greater part withdrawn from the coastal defence of the German North Sea islands and ports as well as the Baltic shores. A list of defence measures in Norway dated November 9th, 1940 shows a total of 52 equipped coastal batteries near Norwegian ports of which 29 were ex-Norwegian batteries. Of the remaining 23, four were armed with looted Russian guns, two with English guns, and one with former Polish guns. Sixteen batteries were given German guns, among others the 28 cm Batterie Husöen off Trondheim. These batteries consisted of three or four open gun emplacements, a firing control post, shelters and ammunition bunkers made of thin concrete, wood or brick.
Along West European coasts similar activities took place. Former Dutch and French batteries were restored and modernised, keeping their original armament.

Channel Batteries
In one area, however, things were different. For the planned invasion of the British Isles, the Straight of Dover had to be crossed. In order to secure a future landing and to control shipping through the English Channel, the German navy installed so-called offensive batteries in the Cap Gris Nez area. Construction of these began as soon as July, 1940, even before a ceasefire with France was agreed. The Channel batteries comprised four medium 17 cm batteries and five heavy batteries, of which Batterie Siegfried was armed with modern 38 cm guns that could reach English soil. The guns of Batterie Siegfried (later Todt) were mounted in huge casemates with 3.5 m thick concrete walls and roof. The Oldenburg and Friedrich August were initially placed in open emplacements and casemated afterward. The Batterie Prinz Heinrich, open as well, stayed open until it was moved to Leningrad in 1941. The fifth battery, Großer Kurfürst, received shielded guns which were exchanged for armoured turrets in 1942.
Apart from the installation of existing and new coastal batteries, construction was limited to the erection of air-raid bunkers for naval and dockyard personnel in Norwegian and French ports.

Maritime Operations
10-10-40 marks the beginning of an enormous construction programme, the products of which were featured as Atlantikwall elements some years later. In October of the first year of war in Western Europe it was decided to provide Norwegian and French ports with sheltered U-boat bases. U-boat bunkers with wet and dry repair pens were introduced in Brest, Lorient, St. Nazaire, La Pallice and Bordeaux, followed by Bergen and Trondheim in Norway.
The designs of these bunkers were derived from two sources. The most remarkable were the Dombunkers of Lorient. These had the shape of concrete pointed barrel vaults in which U-boats (Unterseeboot, submarines) could be transported on rails. Similar Dombunker, or Cathedral bunkers, were constructed in the Pas de Calais area and in occupied Poland, where they gave shelter to railway guns (Pas de Calais) or entire trains (Poland).
Most other designs, however, were based on pre-war structures, like the U-boat bunker in Bruges, Belgium, of 1917, and the pens of Heligoland that were built in 1938. They consisted of a series of parallel pens (up to fifteen in the case of the UBB in Brest), a transportation corridor crossing the rear of the pens, and repair shops and stores at the rear end of the bunker. The amount of concrete poured for the U-boat bunkers was sometimes immense. The pens in Brest, for instance, took more than 500,000 cubic metres.
According to the same scheme, pens for motor torpedo boats (Schnellboote) and minesweepers began in 1940. The S-boat bunkers were, however, smaller, and initially were given lighter walls and roofs of 1.5 m-thick concrete. On two occasions, both in Cherbourg, existing French docks were vaulted with a concrete roof.

Protection Against Raids
In June, 1941, Germany extended the war eastward, attacking the Soviet Union. In preparation for Operation Barbarossa vast quantities of troops, equipment, and material were withdrawn from the occupied countries in the west. After initial successes, German advances slackened by the end of the year. At the same time, the British carried out some raids against German strongholds, mainly in Norway. As a result of the prospect of a prolonged war in the east and the threat of raids, it was decided to provide defence in Norway with coastal batteries, manned by the German army. An initial total of 160 batteries, in addition to the existing naval batteries, were planned in March, 1941. The armament of these batteries consisted of field guns with calibres of 10.5 to 15.5 cm, mainly of French origin, placed in open emplacements, in addition to which brick shelters were erected to house the crew.
Some months later, in October, 1941, a next step was taken in fortifying the German-held coasts. The Channel Islands, the only British soil to be conquered by German forces, were to be altered into an ‘un-attackable’ fortress by means of permanent fortification. This included naval batteries, anti-aircraft batteries of the German air force, and extensive infantry defences to be constructed for the German army. In order to develop a construction programme two fortress engineers staffs were sent to the islands. Construction itself had to be entrusted to the Organisation Todt (OT), a party-connected super-contractor. Progress of the programme itself was slow. Almost a year later some 160 permanent works were finished together with 1,150 lighter constructions. Most of these permanent constructions were part of naval coastal defence and included the heavy Batterie Mirus.

A New Western Rampart
The separate orders regarding Norway and the Channel Islands were soon followed by a general directive applying to the entire Atlantic and North Sea coast.