By Gerald Morgenstern
“Fortress fighting area Grafenwoehr“
Several meters thick bunker ruins, armored with lots of iron, line open areas and tank roads on the training area. They are witnesses of the disastrous time when Adolf Hitler directed that the bunker types of the West wall to be built on the “Fortress fighting area Grafenwoehr.“ While the original West Wall with its more than 22,000 bunkers and barricades was built along the border of France, a miniature version with bunkers true to scale was built on the training area in 1938. A large number of workers was necessary to finish the bunkers in a short amount of time.
When he was a young man, the deceased mason Georg Brunner was one of the workers. Trucks were rented and farmers with their horse and oxen carriages hired to transport sand, gravel, concrete, iron and other materials, Brunner reported. The motorized concrete mixers ran and the craftsmen and helpers of the Reich’s Work Service worked day and night on the construction sites. Group shelters, casemates, artillery observation posts, regimental fighting positions, communication towers, shooting positions and other types of bunkers were built. Several tons heavy steel caps, observation domes, steel notches and towers were built into the various bunkers. Several meters high dry and wet tank ditches, lines of wooden posts, chevaux-de-frise, concrete bumps and hay-wire circuits were located in front of the bunkers on the Pappenberg defense area. Bridges were built there as well.
West Wall exercise never took place
Hitler toured the construction sites of the bunkers in June 1938. An unprecedented number of maneuvers took place on the training area during that time. The large West Wall exercise entitled “Fortress War Exercise Grafenwoehr“ was scheduled for August 1939. But the huge bunker exercise never took place because World War II started only a few weeks later with the attack on Poland. During the war, the bunkers were used for various tests and as target construction bunkers and artillery observation posts, reported Franz Felten, an artillery soldier stationed in Grafenwoehr in 1938.
The facilities were destroyed with vast amounts of explosives after the invasion of the Americans. Only two of the 34 structures were not demolished. The construction of the West Wall system can still be retraced today by following the bunker ruins and defense lines that are located everywhere.