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Ouvrage Simserhof

Ouvrage Simserhof

A forest full of fortifications

In 1926, the French Ministry of Defense unveiled plans to fortify the country's eastern borders against possible surprise attacks, such as during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

France was defeated and had to cede Alsace and part of Lorraine to Prussia, two economically important regions. Not to be repeated.

The roles were reversed after the First World War, and France rejoined both regions. To adequately protect the regained territory, new defenses were needed.

Minister Maginot

French Minister of Defense and veteran of the First World War, André Maginot, revived his predecessor Paul Painlevé's plan in 1929 to fortify the eastern border with Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy with casemates, cannons and barrages. The defense line was named after Minister Maginot.

One of those strongholds, a so-called 'Gros Ouvrage,' was Simserhof. Its name refers to a small farm that was located nearby. In eastern Lorraine, close to the fortified town of Bitche and the German border, deforestation of the site began at the end of 1929 and the first bunkers were cast.

By 1933, the shell works were completed and the fortifications were equipped with gun turrets and technical equipment.

The fortification could accommodate 820 soldiers who were protected by six-meter-thick ceilings. Hundreds of meters of underground tunnels connected the eight combat bunkers. The ammunition was delivered via a narrow track.

Tank barriers

The Ouvrage du Simsershof was surrounded by a permanent line of barbed wire and tank barriers, including a forest of rails stuck into the ground. The rails were planted in 1937 and were up to two meters deep underground.

On paper, Simserhof, and by extension, the Maginot Line, seemed like an impregnable fortification. In practice, this was disappointing. Germany waltzed into France in 1940 via the Belgian Ardennes. Hardly any fortifications had been built because an attack via that inhospitable route was considered unlikely.


In June 1940, the German army pounded the Maginot Line. Thirty thousand shots were fired from Simserhof to defend the nearby strongholds in vain. On June 30, five days after France capitulated, the soldiers in the Simsershof also laid down their arms. The Germans subsequently looted the ammunition supply and recovered some parts of the fortifications for the Atlantic Wall.


Four years later, in November 1944, the Allied troops reached the Pays de Bitche, where the Germans had dug into the Maginot Line and occupied the former fortifications of Schiesseck and Simserhof. During the fighting, the bunkers in Simserhof suffered severe damage. The Germans fled from there on December 19. In February 1945, all of France was liberated.

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