History Project

Hitler's Atlantic Wall

Season 1, Episode 4 of 10

Hitler's Atlantic Wall tells the remarkable story of the German Atlantic line of defense during the Second World War. On Hitler's orders, hundreds of thousands of people built a gigantic wall of bunkers, cannons and fortifications from the north of Norway to the Pyrenees, some 4,500 kilometers long. A megalomaniac project and a painful memory of a somber episode in Western history, Hitler's Atlantic Wall involved thousands of workmen of different nationalities who were, voluntarily or not, deployed to work on it. With good reason, Hitler feared an attack on that vast front and that an attack could hardly be defended. Fifteen thousand bunkers had to solve that problem. In spite of the Atlantic Wall's vastness, Hitler did not succeed. How that happened is explained in this program as the project's workmen testify how they tried to slow down the building of the bunkers and committed sabotage. For instance, Lucien Vandevelde (a Flemish worker on the project) recalls, "In order to show the English where the bunker with the V1's was, I ploughed an enormous arrow in the field above it. A few days later, they bombed it." Manfred Rommel, Field-Marshall Rommel's son, remembers how his father got involved in the struggle for power among the top German officers. Rommel, in charge of the project beginning in 1943, also wanted to have all the German tank divisions on the beach to prevent an invasion but he never succeeded in fulfilling his plan. Today, many people consider the remains of the Wall as relics, merely concrete blocks that are a blot on the beaches. To the workmen who built it and the soldiers who only barely survived the D-Day bombardments, the significance and memory still lives on

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