Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Defense of the Rhine 1944-1945

The Rhine has been Germany's traditional defensive barrier in the west since Roman times. In the autumn and early winter of 1944-45, the Wehrmacht conducted an extensive fortification effort in the foreground of the Rhine, consisting of the rejuvenation of the derelict Westwall fortifications, the incorporation of parts of the Maginot Line, and the construction of numerous new defensive lines. This was known as the West-Stellung (West Position). This defense system has been surrounded by confusion and obscurity. It is often confused with the Westwall, the German fortification effort of 1936-40. While large parts of the Westwall were incorporated into the new fortification scheme, the new defensive lines covered areas not previously reached by the Westwall, and considerably amplified the depth of the defenses. Another source of confusion is the nickname "Siegfried Line," which has been loosely used over the years to refer both to the 1940 Westwall as well as the far more extensive defenses of 1944-45. The Siegfried Line misnomer stemmed from Hitler's April 28, 1939 Reichstag speech in which he described the new Westwall as 40 times stronger than the old Siegfried-Stellung fieldworks of 1918. Due to a misunderstanding, the British press began referring to the Westwall fortifications as the Siegfried Line in 1939-40.