Alsace has always been a coveted land. The history of the successive conflicts from 1870 to 1945 on the territory of Alsace Verte has marked its landscape, its people and its culture. Their traces are still visible today, witnesses of troubled times, but also symbols of peace won.

Construction of the Maginot Line

In 1918, at the end of the four years that the First World War lasted, from which France emerged victorious, Alsace and the Moselle returned to national territory. The subsequent shift of the border to the East now places the Séré de Rivières system of fortifications, built between 1870 and 1914, behind the border, making it obsolete. In a fragile political and economic context where the hereditary enemy remains a threat, it is quickly decided to reinforce the protection of the whole of the French border by building the Maginot Line, line of defense made up of 108 works and extending over 750 km from the north of France to the Mediterranean Sea. 

Built between 1929 and 1936, the Maginot Line was operational from the start of the Second World War. It then makes it possible to slow down the advance of enemy troops and effectively defend the border by counting on a limited number of soldiers. 

Witnesses to the territory's history, some villages still bear the scars of war. The entrances and concrete blocks of the Maginot Line which blend into the landscape today remind us of the tormented hours of this border territory.

The works of the Maginot Line in Alsace Verte

On the territory of Alsace Verte, Germany's immediate neighbor along its entire northern limit, the stakes are major. Indeed, the wealth of the region such as the iron industry in the Reichshoffen sector or the exploitation of oil in Merkwiller-Pechelbronn for example, justify the construction of a particularly developed defense system for an optimal protection of the interests economic. It is under these conditions that the choice is made to set up three large structures in the area. 

Fort Schoenenbourg on the communal ban of Hunspach and thework of the Four-à-Chaux in Lembach still testify today to the ingenuity of this line of defence.

Fort Schoenenbourg from Hunspach and the work of Four-à-Chaux in Lembach still testify today to the ingenuity of this line of defence. 

Located 30 meters underground and lined with an impressive underground network of galleries, the works of the Maginot Line housed crews, numbering several hundred men who lived there, like in a submarine, often for several months, without seeing the light of day. 

These works, veritable war machines, were equipped with blocks of combat, infantry or artillery as the case may be, which could ensure the protection of the territory at 360° over a radius of 10km around. Their location close to each other allowed them optimal coverage of the terrain and prevented any enemy intrusion.

The casemates, other witnesses of this tormented period

A highly developed network of interval casemates and observation posts located all along the border backed up the large works and provided them with essential logistical support.

The Rieffel casemates in Oberroedern, Esch in Hatten, as well as the many remains visible on the Maginot Line footpath confirm the complexity of this defense system.

Finally, to complete this network, barracks to house the crews of the casemates at the rear of the line of defense had been built. They usually housed several hundred beds.

The memory museums of Alsace Verte

In Hatten, le Vault Museum, perfectly restored, makes it possible to understand the organization of these shelters.

Le Walbourg Memorial Museum has given itself the mission of explaining and transmitting this rich and heavy past to its visitors, offering a collection of objects collected on the territory of Alsace Verte which tells the story of the men who fought for peace. and allows real memory work.

The "phoney war" and the story of the "Despite-Us"

the 1er September 1939, when war broke out, the soldiers were immediately mobilized and joined this fortification network. During the first months, the "phoney war" took hold and it was in May 1940 that operations accelerated. As a protective measure, all civilians living in the area between the German border and the Maginot Line (10 km deep), were evacuated at the start of the offensive, most of them taking the road to exile to take refuge in Haute-Vienne. After severe fighting, the armistice was signed on June 25, 1940. Alsace and Moselle were annexed to Germany, forcing the inhabitants of these regions to change nationality once again. The war continued and in 1942 Alsatian men (now Germans) of fighting age were forcibly incorporated into the German army, they were called "Despite-Nous": 100 of them were sent to the Eastern Front, 000 of whom never returned. In 40, at the end of the war, Alsace and Moselle were returned to France.

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Fort de Schoenenbourg – Ligne Maginot

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Fort of Schoenenbourg – Maginot Line

Hunspach

Musée de l’Abri

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Vault Museum

Had

Casemate de Neunhoffen

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Casemate of Neunhoffen

Dambach

Casemate Esch

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Caschate Esch

Had

Casemate Rieffel

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Casemate Rieffel

Oberroedern