To learn about history there is no better way than to actually go and see it. A fascinating reminder of World War II is the Maginot Line in
The Maginot Line is 500 miles of fortifications intended to protect the borders from advancing German and Italian troops.
Named after French Minister of Defense Andre Maginot, it ran parallel to the border. The forts were set several kilometers apart with defending casemates in between. Even though they were built as early as 1930, many fortresses, casemates and bunkers can even be visited as museums.
One of the best places to see these remarkable locations is the Thionville area in France — a two hour drive from Kaiserslautern. Here, you can find Fort Immenhof (www.maginot-immerhof.info/en), a four block fort with machine guns and mortar turrets.
Nearby, Fortress Hackenberg (http://maginot-hackenberg.com/accueilanglais.htm) in Vrecking is the largest and most impressive fortress with 17 combat blocks.
Visitors can see the munition storage area, engine room, barracks and kitchen as well as uniforms and weapons, an electric train to an artillery combat block and a 135mm howitzer turret.
Other military history sights are the Cattenom Forest Fortifications (http://forticat.com, in French only), which provide the opportunity to see every element contained in the Maginot Line, including Fortress (marked as “Gros Ouvrage” on the French signs), Galgenberg (an artillery ouvrage with six combat blocks), Fort Bois Karre (a mono-block fort with a machine gun turret), Fort Sentzich (a monoblock fort with a machine gun turret), Infantry Shelter Bois-de-Cattenom, as well as an artillery observation casemate — all just a few kilometers away. Within an hour’s drive of Thionville, there are many more reminders of the Maginot Line, such as the museum of Fortress Fermont (www.ligne-maginot-fort-de-fermont.asso.fr) and Fort Bambesch (www.kerfent.com/guidesdubambesch.htm, in french only), to name just a few sights.
Another area well worth visiting is the border town Wissembourg with two notable Maginot fortifications. Fortress Schoenenbourg (www.lignemaginot.com/menu14/indexen.htm) located at Schönenburg near Bitche includes one of the best museums and has been carefully restored. In the vicinity of the town of Lembach, you can find the Fortress Limekiln (http://ligne.maginot.fac.free.fr/br/indexbr.html).
To experience the forts of the Maginot Line, careful plan beforehand. Because many sights are maintained by volunteers, there are no consistent opening hours or days. Therefore, it is advisable to verify visiting times via the Internet.
Because there is no public transportation to the fortresses, visitors need their own vehicle for traveling. Also, it has been recommended to wear appropriate boots and outdoor clothing as the fortifications are still wartime installations. To view photographic impressions of the fortifications, visit http://maginotlinie.org/index.php?language=en. Also, check out www.maginot-line.com or http://
thetunnel.free.fr/maginot-e.html for more information on the Maginot Line and its history.