Prefaceatlantikwallplatform.eu: A work in progress – for you, by you... to be continued!
This site is dedicated to describing the Atlantic Wall, its history, the landscape that surrounds it and its social ramifications during and immediately following the Second World War: evictions, evacuation, destruction, clearance, and reconstruction. You will find a layering of national, local and detailed maps (currently only for the Netherlands), brief articles containing background information, descriptions of points of interest (POIs), historical and present-day maps and photographs as well as audio and video fragments. The authors (see publication notes under Colophon) think of this site as a work in progress, with a steadily expanding body of textual, cartographic and photographic content, which will ultimately encompass all of the Atlantic Wall and become a truly comprehensive European site. We encourage your contribution!
The lectures below are by Arjan Nienhuis en Steven van Schuppen, presented at the occasion of the launch of the website www.atlantikwallplatform.eu, during the Expert Meeting “Redefining the Atlantikwall” held on 2 September 2010 in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.
A strange, alien and controversial heritage
The Atlantic Wall heritage was much maligned during the first decades following the Second World War. This sentiment abated in recent years, but from a Dutch perspective the Atlantic Wall remains, above all, an alien heritage. In due course, the realization took hold that even alien structures are worthy of investigation, documentation and preservation. And that is where we are today, with a growing interest in this type of heritage, as evidenced by this gathering and the launch of this website. The Atlantic Wall should be seen as more than simply a complex of bunkers, ditches and other remnants left behind by the German military in the years between 1942 and 1945. More and more, the wall’s significance is seen in terms of the interrelationship between landscape, society and commemoration.
Landscape, society, commemoration
With regard to landscape: what have been the intentional effects of an intervention of such unprecedented scale during construction and subsequent “operation” of the wall? It was a project that involved massive destruction, off-limit areas (Sperrgebiete or forbidden zones), sea fronts and land fronts. What were the unintended consequences? Think of demolition as an opportunity for urban renewal during the reconstruction period.
With regard to the society: The Atlantic Wall lead to massive evictions and evacuation of the population from demolition areas and Sperrgebiete. Bombing raids caused additional displacement of civilians. A post-war return home could be delayed and difficult for the evacuees. The social consequences of these events on urban and rural development cannot be underestimated.
Memory, commemoration and assigning meaning: Initial interest in the Atlantic Wall focused mainly on its fortification aspects. But how should it be judged in the history book of the Second World War? What will be its place in our collective memories?
The cartographic approach
The site is built around a cartographic framework. Cartography enables us to see the Atlantic Wall in the broader context of public space, environment and landscape, with thematic maps, aerial photographs and so on. The social and historical context is presented in the form of audiovisual (ego)documents, memories and experiences, localized to specific sections of the wall. In mapping a wide section of coastline, the impact of the wall comes into full view. That is the intended purpose of this site.
The Dutch section of the Wall
The Netherlands part of the website has been fully operational since December of 2010. The IJmuiden area is currently most complete and it is a good indicator of the authors’ ambitions with regard to the content of the entire site. Take a look around, hover over the maps with your mouse and click on detail maps. Allow yourself to be surprised and impressed by the diversity and presentation of the content. You will find in-depth treatment similar to IJmuiden for the area of The Hague. The Scheldt estuary, Hoek van Holland, Den Helder and the island Texel are as yet less comprehensive. As we said, it is a work in progress… please check back later.
To be continued!
Clearly, the site is far from complete and it can be expanded. It is our intention to focus on all aspects of the wall, as well as on the other segments located in Norway, Denmark, northern Germany, Belgium and France and of course the British Channel Islands. International contacts, already initiated, were strengthened during the Expert Meeting held on 2-3 September in Amersfoort and on Walcheren in the Netherlands. To be continued…
Please click on the contact button at the top of the page if you would like to help expand and improve the site and/or have content such as text, photographs, videos etc. to contribute…
Click here to visit the conference proceedings site...