Wartime Bridge Story Nr. 1: The Tangermünde Crossing

2001 Tangermünde Bridge. Photo: Mazbln assumed (based on copyright claims). / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Film clip

Wartime Bridge Series

Located in the southern part of the district of Stendal, the city of Tangermünde is located on the River Elbe in the northern part of the German state of Saxony Anhalt. The city has over 10,400 inhabitants and is famous for its historic architecture dating back to the Medieval period. It’s one of only a handful of walled cities left in Germany that is in tact and one can find many historic places within the walls of the city, such as the towers, St. Stephan’s Church, Elbe Gate, and the historic city hall.  The hanseatic city survived almost unscathed during World War II, for only a few trussed houses (Fachwerkhäuser) were destroyed.

Yet one of the city’s prized historic works, the Elbe River Crossing, was destroyed, leaving a scar on the city.

The Tangermünde Bridge was built in 1933, after taking two years of construction. The 833-meter long bridge features a steel through arch main span (at 115 meters) with a height of 15 meters and a vertical clearance of 9 meters. There were a total of 24 spans featuring many forms of steel girders, through and pony alike.  The bridge remained in service for only 12 years. On 12 April, 1945, in an attempt to hinder the advancing American army, Nazi soldiers blew up the crossing while retreating towards Berlin. Nevertheless, to avoid being sent to Soviet camps,  sections of the 9th and 12th Wehrmacht armies (Germany) surrendered to the Americans. They had used the destroyed spans to help residents fleeing the advancing Soviet army. A temporary crossing was constructed afterwards.

Here are some videos of the Tangermünde Crossing after it was destroyed by explosives. This was filmed after the Nazis surrendered to American troops. The gravity of the destruction of the bridge was huge and was a symbol of the destruction that would be bestowed upon in all of Germany.

 

Aftermath:

The Tangermünde Crossing was rebuilt by the Soviets and the East Germans after Tangermünde became part of East Germany in 1950. They recycled the bridge parts and rebuilt a multiple-span crossing that featured as a main span a curved Pratt through truss with welded connections. Ist portal was I-beam with 45° angle heels. The remaining spans featured Bailey trusses, both pony as well as through truss. A tunnel view oft he Bailey through truss can be found in a blog which you can read here.

Ulamm / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

The structure lasted through the Fall of the Wall before it was replaced with the current structure, a steel through arch that mimicks that of the 1933 span. The bridge itself is almost twice as long as the original span, having a total length of nearly 1.5 km. It was built nearly two kilometers to the north of the old span, which remained in use until it was closed to all traffic in 2001 when the new bridge opened to traffic. The old structure was removed two years later. At the same time, the main highway, B-188, was rerouted, thus bypassing much of the city and having only local traffic going through town.

Today, the Tangermünde Crossing still serves local traffic. Its design has fit into the rest of the city’s historic landscape, much of which has been restored since 1990. Yet as we celebrate the end of World War II, many people remember how their prized work was destroyed towards the end of the war in a cowardly attempt to prevent the inevitable. And because the city was for the most part spared, Tangermünde has continued to become a tourist attraction. People can go back to the Medieval times and enjoy the architecture, before heading to the River Elbe to see the structural beauty. Despite being one of the youngest crossings along the Elbe, it is one with a story to tell to children and grandchildren alike.

BHC 10 years

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