Most French people know or at least have heard of the "Siegfried Line".
In Germany, it is ignored under this name because it refers to the "Westwall" or western wall. However, its history, composition and importance are often ignored. It began with Germany's reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936 when some bunkers appeared near the border. Hitler wanted to mark his repossession.
But it was from 1937 and especially 1938 that the major construction effort was undertaken so that the structural work on the Westwall was almost completed in September 39. Hitler will then be able to announce the completion of 22,000 blockhouses between the Swiss border and Holland in Cleves over approximately 600 kilometres.
German propaganda around the Siegfried Line will act as a deterrent because it will boast and exaggerate its power and number of structures. Press photos, propaganda films and fiery speeches accredit this power. These films and photos will prove to be accurate and will serve the French intelligence services.
The depth and power of this rampart vary according to the importance of the areas to be protected and the ease of natural penetration. There is a low density on the Franco-German border of the Rhine and on the Dutch border but, between Rhine and Moselle, the position is highly organised.
The Siegfried Line generally consists of two zones:
pyramidal reinforced concrete plots varying in height from 0.7 to 1.30 m, in 5 to 8 rows spaced about 1.20 m apart and preceded by a ditch and a slope or wall. These are the famous "dragon teeth", symbol of the Siegfried Line.
water-filled ditches 35 m wide and 10 m deep.
deep screes sometimes several hundred meters deep and full of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines
While Hitler and the Third Nazi Reich had created a revolutionary and daring offensive tactic and dreamed only of expansion and invasion to extend their living space (Lebensraum), it was curious to see them build a defensive and conservative fortified system.
In fact, it was an early deterrent. The Westwall had a certain value, but the propaganda attributed a much higher value to it. Hitler only wanted to keep his back during the invasion of Czechoslovakia and Poland.
As General Bouley said, it was an ephemeral fortification whose usefulness lasted only for the few weeks of the invasion in the east. By May 1940, it had expired. As early as 1941, it was partially dismantled to equip another fortification of the Todt Organization: the Atlantic Wall or Atlantikwall.
In March 1945, in the Saar-Palatinate triangle, a denser sector of the Siegfried Line, rearmed and after having had time to reorganize since December, it held out for only 3 or 4 days against the French-American forces.
It must be said, however, that if the Westwall had remained as it was in 1939, the attackers' equipment had made great progress, particularly the tanks, whose firing by the tank destroyers was decisive.
The view from Ladbroke Grove station. The tower on the left that’s wrapped in sheeting is grenfell tower, I residential block that burned down last year. 114 people died (although some estimates are closer to 400) and 200 were made homeless. Recent findings have shown that the air and soil around the block are filled with carcinogenic chemicals from the burning building.