Wartime Bridge: Loschwitz Bridge (Blue Miracle/ Blaue Wunder) in Dresden

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Wartime Bridge Series

Many cities have places where miracles happen and people remember them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Minneapolis Miracle of 2018 in professional football, visiting the Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, or even the parting of the Red Sea- the last two points dealing with Christianity. Then there’s the liberation of Europe in 1945 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent German Reunification of 1989-90 from the historical standpoint.

In the sense of infrastructure- in particular, bridges, if there’s a place where miracles did happen, one needs to travel to Dresden and to this bridge. There are several nicknames to describe the Loschwitz Cantilever Truss Bridge, which spans the River Elbe and connects the two suburbs of Blasewitz and Loschwitz. The most common is the Blue Miracle (Blaue Wunder in German). It has nothing to do with the bridge’s color nor does it have to do with its perfect photo with a blue backdrop. It has to do with the fact that the bridge, built by Claus Köpcke in 1893 has survived death three times- two of which came towards the end of World War II.

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Bridge of Blue Miracle (Dt. Blaue Wunder Brücke) in Dresden, Germany. Photo taken in December 2011

While Dresden was bombed a total of six times from 1944 to 1945, the city was hit the hardest during the infamous raid on February 13-16, 1945. British and American air troopers dropped thousands of tons of bombs onto the city, effectively destroying the entire city center and its prized architectural jewels, such as the Semper Opera House, the Castle of Dresden, and the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche), all of them dated back to the Baroque Period of the 17th Century. 80% of the entire city was in flames with as many as 30-40,000 people perishing. Temperatures from flames rose to 10,000° Celsius- hot enough to melt metal and vaporize people nearby. The Dresden Bombings are comparable with the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because of the intensity and the impact on the structural landscape of the city.

The bridge itself sustained damage to the trusses and decking during the air raids but they were minor enough that repairs were made to the structure and the crossing was back in service again. While the other crossings were damaged to a point where they were impassable, the Loschwitz Bridge survived its first miracle.

Shortly before the end of the War, the bridge had its second miracle. And there were five people to thank for this- two of whom were honored for their work. Before Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on May 1, he had ordered every bridge to be imploded to impede the march of Allied Troops that were encroaching Berlin on all sides. Already destroyed were all the crossings along the Rivers Oder and Neisse in present-day Brandenburg, Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pommerania, it was hoped that the crossings along the Elbe would follow suit and be met with dynamite. And this despite thousands of refugees evacuating areas already bombed out because of the raids.

Places like Dresden, where tens of thousands were homeless and looking for ways to escape the war, even if it meant surrendering to the approaching enemy unconditionally.  With crossings, like the Carola and Augustus Bridges severely damaged or destroyed, it was hoped that the Blue Miracle would go down with them. However, on 7 May, two men- Paul Zickler and Erich Stöckel- made sure it didn’t happen. The two men defused the bombs by splicing the cables disabling the bombs and later removing the dynamite that would have brought the bridge down. However, three other men- Max Mühle, Carl Bouché and bridge commander Wirth also contributed to the cause. The bridge was saved and had its second miracle. Ironically, Germany capitulated to the Allies in Berlin that same day, thus bringing the European theater to a close.  A monument commemorating this courageous event and honoring the two men can be found at the bridge along the pedestrian path on the Blasewitz side of the structure. Why the plan to blow up the bridge was foiled remains unknown to this day. However variables such as protests by the locals as well as the acceptance that the war was no longer winnable must not be left out.

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The third close call was the plan to tear down the bridge and replace it on a new alignment, presented by the Socialist Party (SED) in 1967, but it was met with opposition and after almost two decades, the project was scrapped by 1985.

Fast forwarding to the present, the Blue Miracle is still standing, tall and strong. It has earned its nickname after 125 years of literal wear and tear. It has survived all the extremities that most historic bridges built of steel would have succumbed to. It survived a blazing inferno through war, while the rest of Dresden burned to the ground. It survived the worst of winters, such as that of 1978/79 that crippled both East and West Germany. It survived several windstorms, including Kyrill in 2007, which leveled forests and buildings and caused widespread power outages. It survived severe flooding- most notably those in 2002 and 2013 which put much of Dresden under water. And lastly, it survived the gravitational pull caused by the weight of vehicles and street cars traveling across it.  All of this has not affected the bridge’s beauty as it is one of the most beloved and photographed not only in Dresden but also along the River Elbe. While some pushed for its demise, others made sure their plans never bore fruit, hence allowing for the bridge to stand for generations to come.

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The Blue Miracle at present. The bridge has become an attraction both during the daytime, but also at night, thanks to the addition of LED lighting in 2011. The bridge is still used by commuters entering Dresden from the south, even though another bridge- the Waldschlösschenbrücke, built down stream- has taken the stress off the bridge since its opening in 2013. The bridge will be getting a much-needed facelift beginning in 2025 but when it is done, the crossing will continue to carry traffic and its historic flare as one of Dresden’s greatest places of interest will remain for locals and tourists to see. Already a book has been written about the bridge but from a photographer’s perspective. There will be more written and talked about with this bridge- the Blue Miracle: the structure that not only connects the south of Dresden, but one that has been in use through the best and worst of times. And that is thanks to five people who made it happen before the end of a war that was long lost and that people yearned for a new start.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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The German term “Blaue Wunder erleben” originated from the name of the bridge in Dresden and implies that the person got an unexpected and sometimes unwanted surprise because of something done that was considered illegal.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 135: The Bridge at Zentendorf

Photo taken by Frank Vincentz (wikiCommons)

Our next mystery bridge takes us to the Lausitz (Lusatia) region of eastern Saxony and the remains of this bridge.  The bridge is located in the village of Zentendorf, located along the River Neisse at the German-Polish border. It approximately a kilometer north of the easternmost point in Germany and another kilometer south of the railroad bridge that connects Niesky and Weglieniec. It’s 20 kilometers south of the nearest city of Rothenburg (Lausitz/Lusatia), which is home of the Saxony Police University.

The bridge remains is on the Saxony side of the River Neisse, yet its mystery remains completely open for research and interpretation. It features a single span closed spandrel concrete arch span, yet the rest of the bridge has long since disappeared. Furthermore, there’s absolutely no information on the bridge’s history anywhere to be found- not even on a bridge website, like brueckenweb.de or structurae.net.  Therefore we have no idea what the bridge looked like, let alone when it was built and who was responsible for it.

We do have speculation that this bridge was one of many along the Neisse to have been imploded towards the end of World War II, as Nazi troops were ordered to detonate every bridge to slow the advances of Soviet troops, an act that was considered futile as Allied troops were already inside Germany in March, liberating every village and region in its path enroute to Berlin, where Hitler was holed up and eventually committed suicide on May 1st. Germany surrendered six days later.  Ironically, the railroad bridge, a Warren deck truss span, survived the war and remained in service until 2015, when it was replaced. Like the bridge in Fürstenberg (near Eisenhüttenstadt), the structure was never replaced but that was mainly due to another crossing at Deschka, only a few kilometers to the south, that is still open. Because of its dwindling population of close to 300 people plus financial constraints, the villagers of Zentendorf find it unnnecessary to replace the structure in their village.

Still, to close the book on the bridge’s history, we should solve it first. Therefore, any information on the bridge’s history is more than welcomed. You can find more pics of the bridge in another website; the link is found at the end of this article.

Good luck in the research and happy bridgehunting until we meet again. 🙂

 

Portal View on the German Side. The German border marker is in front of the bridge ruins

A link where you can see more bridge photos can be found here: http://b.mtbb.de/2012/08/23/strasenbrucke-in-zentendorf/

 

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Abandoned Bridge in an Abandoned Village in Sudetenland

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Photo by Lara Lary

Wartime Bridge Series

Our next wartime bridge story takes us across the border into the Czechia- specifically, between the Bavarian town of Rehau (south of Hof) and the Czech town of Asch, near Eger (CZ: Cheb). At the westernmost point in Czechia was the village of Újezd (Krásná).  It was first mentioned in the 12th Century and is in the area oft he Rehau Forest in the valley of Mähringsbach Creek near the border with Bavaria. In fact, it was located six kilometers east of Rehau. It belonged to what was once called the Sudetenlands. At the time of the Munich Accords of 1938, the Sudetenlands were handed over to Germany and with that, the village itself. At the time of the annexation, the village had 43 houses and just under 300 inhabitants. For 300 years up until that time, an average of 300+ people had lived there and it had mostly houses, but also a church and a stockyards.  After World War II ended in 1945, Újezd (Krásná), as well as the rest of the Sudetenlands were handed back to what was then Czechoslovakia. Germans who had lived there were forced from their homes and expelled back into Germany. As for Újezd (Krásná), it was emptied by 1950, and by 1953, all the villages along the Czech- German border were razed. This was one of them.

Only bits and pieces of Újezd (Krásná) exist to this day, including a memorial for the fallen soldiers, a cemetary and this bridge, a box culvert carrying a roadway that once went through Újezd (Krásná).  It appears to have been dated back to the 18th or 19th Century. Fellow bridgehunter and photographer Lara Lary found this on one of the tours and included some history behind this structure, which is being added to this Wartime series. Like the rest of Újezd (Krásná), it looks quiet and abandoned, but one can hike through the remains just after crossing the bridge at the Bavarian-Czech border.

More on Újezd (Krásná) can be found here: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%9Ajezd_(Kr%C3%A1sn%C3%A1)

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Wartime Bridge Story: Prinz Heinrich Brücke in Kiel

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Wartime Bridge Series

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These are the first bridges you will see while biking along the Baltic- North Sea Canal: the twin spans featuring the Olympia Bridge on the left and the Prince Heinrich Bridge on the right. The bridges are located at Highway B-503 at the entrance of the locks at the Baltic Sea side and appear to be totally identical.  Yet the Olympia Bridge was built in 1972 and the Prince Heinrich was built in 1996. It is the one on the right that was a successor to the original Prince Heinrich Bridge. The bridge was built by Friedrich Voss in 1912 and featured a single span continuous truss bridge with trestle approaches on each side. The bridge lasted for 80 years until it was torn down in 1992.

According to a new documentary by German public TV station NDR however, had it not been for the courage of two people, Heinrich Magnus Ivens and Hermann Storm, the bridge would have succumbed much earlier and there would have been a new structure built much earlier than the Olympia Bridge in 1972.  On May 5, 1945, with the war long since a lost cause, seven Nazi soldiers were carrying explosives to the bridge in an attempt to bring down the structure into the canal. At the same time, British troops were marching into Kiel, where residents and soldiers, tired of all the fighting, surrendered unconditionally.  Desparate to avoid the inevitable, the soldiers at the foot of the bridge tried to set up the bombs. On the bridge itself, however, the British troops were negotiating with the locals to end the war.  One of the two negotiated with the troops, the other stopped the troops from performing the act and thus saved the bridge from its doom.

The rest was history. Even though the war was lost and the troops that were stopped cried at the end, Germany capitulated to the allied troops two days later on May 7th, 1945. With that, a piece of history that would have succumbed with the rest of Kiel was saved and would later become a major crossing over the canal going north towards Flensburg, Denmark and all of Scandanavia, even when a twin crossing was added and the bridge itself, a victim of severe corrosion plus wear and tear would be replaced.

A documentary, which features a summary of the event plus a film provides you with the details of the event. Even though it is in German, the pictures and interview presented in the film will tell a story.  Click onto the link below:

https://www.ndr.de/fernsehen/sendungen/schleswig-holstein_magazin/zeitreise/Zeitreise-Erinnerungen-an-Prinz-Heinrich-Bruecke-in-Kiel,zeitreise2668.html

Furthermore, you can read up on the history of that plus the bridges in a link on the Bridges of Kiel-Holtenau, where this bridge is located. There you will find all the infomration on the crossings, both past and present, including the neighboring Levansau Bridge and some of the crossings along the Alt Eider Canal. The information has been integrated into the bridge tours written in English.

Link:http://www.apt-holtenau.de/holtenau-info/history/bruecken.htm

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Wartime Bridge Story: Lange Brücke in Forst (Lausitz)

Source: A. Savin vis wikiCommons. Photo taken in 2016

Wartime Bridge Series

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Our next Wartime Bridge takes us a bit further south in the German state of Brandenburg but this time, we continue along the Neisse River until we reach the city of Forst. With a population of 18,000 inhabitants, the city is located east of Cottbus. Prior to the Fall of the Wall, Forst was well known for its textile industry, for a large factory was located there. Yet since its closure, the city has been on the decline, falling from 31,000 inhabitants in 1945 to under 20,000 by 2011. Despite its steady decline, the city is dependent on tourism as there are several historic artefacts one can see either by bike or by car, including the historic water tower, the factory, the church and historic city center…..

…..and its bridges that span the River Neisse.

There are four bridges that connect Forst with its neighbor to the east, Zaseki on the Polish side. The village of 250 inhabitants used to be a suburb of Forst when Germany had its state of Schlesia. In fact the town was modernized beginning in 1897 to accommodate more people as many of them found jobs in the textile factory and other industrial sites nearby. Three bridges connected Forst with its former neighbor prior to 1945. Today only one of them, a six-span truss span is still in use, providing rail service to Lodz from Cottbus.

And this is where we look at the other two bridge ruins- one that used to serve vehicular traffic and one that used to serve pedestrian traffic. The pedestrian crossing had been in use from the 1920s until the end of World War II and  featured multiple spans of concrete, using Luten arches.  The other one is known as the Lange Brücke.

The Lange Brücke was a six-span concrete arch bridge with closed spandrels. The structure was built in 1921 and had a total length of 170 meters. The width was about 14 meters. It was an ornamental structure where it was decorated with fancy light posts and rail posts at the entrance to as well as on the bridge. The bridge was a predecessor to a wooden crossing, which featured multiple spans of kingpost pony trusses. It had been built in 1863, had a total length of 101 meters and was only 5.75 meters wide. In 1889, it was widened by another 3 meters. Still, because of the increase in traffic due to the expansion of Forst, the city council agreed to build a new span, which took two years to complete.

Neither of the bridges survived as well as much of the city of Forst in 1945. In the middle of February of that year, the Soviet troops had lined up on the Polish side of the River Neisse at the entry to the Lange Brücke. While it is unknown whether the Nazis had blown the structure up prior to that, it was known that Forst became under seige with bombs and bullets devastating much of the city. Half the population had perished by the time the town surrendered on 18 April, 1945; 85% of the city was in ruins.

A video showing the ruins of the Lange Brücke can be seen here. The river span was the only one imploded, while the outer spans have remained in tact. Interestingly enough, many of the ornamental relicts belonging to the bridge are still standing today.

 

 

At the present time, talks are underway to rebuild the Lange Brücke and its pedestrian counterpart in an attempt to reconnect Forst with Zasieki. The city council had originally planned to add at least two bridges to the Neisse before 2020. At present the Northern Bypass Bridge, which carries Highway 157 is the only vehicular crossing that connects Forst with Poland. The concrete structure was built only a few years ago. The railroad bridge to the south of Forst is the other crossing. It’s a contrast to the situation in Eisenhüttenstadt (see article), but there’s a ways to go. Because of the interest in a central connection via Lange Brücke, it is very likely that a new span will be built sometime in the near future, whether it is reconstructing the Lange Brücke to its original glory or building on on a new alignment and leaving the old one as a monument. The question is with not only the planning but also the finances, especially during these difficult times with the Corona Virus. But nevertheless, a new bridge will happen because of the will of the people to make it happen.

 

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As a treat, I have this video showing the ariel view of three of the four crossings connecting Forst and Zasieki. Check out the gorgeous views of the bridges from up above and up close.

 

Sources:

History of Forst: https://edoc.hu-berlin.de/bitstream/handle/18452/7622/knpv.PDF

History of the Bridge: https://www.lr-online.de/lausitz/forst/die-alte-_lange-bruecke_-36431060.html

 

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Oderbrücke at Fürstenberg at the German-Polish Border

Remains of the Bridge. Source: Lechita / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Wartime Bridge Series

Our next bridge in the series keeps us in Poland but we go towards the Oder-Neisse border to Germany. Specifically, to this bridge at Fürstenberg- or what’s left of it.  This bridge spannned the River Oder at the Polish-German border near the village of Fürstenberg in the German state of Brandenburg.  The River Oder is one of the widest and most navigatable rivers in Poland for 80% of its 742 kilometers can be travelled by boat as it flows through the western part of the country. Its width of over 300 meters in areas is largely due to it confluencing with rivers, mostly from the German side as well as it flowing through a large lagoon in the northwestern part of the country before it empties into the Bay of Pommerania at Swinemünde.  Its width made it difficult to build many bridges along the river.  And this leads us to the bridge remains.

The bridge was built by August Klönne in 1914 and was the only crossing over the River Oder in Fürstenberg prior to 1945. The 600 meter bridge featured four concrete closed spandrel arch approach spans on the Polish side and a steel through arch span with Pratt truss upper chords as its main span over the river- half the length of the entire structure. The through arch span is signature of the bridges that were built by Klönne and many of these spans still exist today in Germany, including the famous Hollernzollern Bridge in Cologne.  A diagram depicting the bridge at Fürstenberg can be seen below:

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Source: structurae.net

This takes us to the event where the crossing was brought down.  After a failed attempt to bring down the Jastrowie Bridge (see the article here), German soldiers fled towards the river and used it as its stopping point for advancing Soviet armies that were closing in on Berlin at an alarming rate. To buy them some time and regroup for their possibly last stand against the Soviets, Hitler ordered all the bridges along the Oder and Neisse Rivers to be blown up. One day after the Jastrowie Bridge partially collapsed, the Fürstenberg Bridge was detonated. While the steel arch span was brought down, the arch spans remained in place. Unfortunately, one person was killed in the explosion, a Justus Jürgensen, who was later given the Ritterkreuz post humously on 5 March. Still the honor would not stop the Soviets and Polish troops from occupying the town.  The bridge remains on the Polish side can be seen through a video below:

What became of Fürstenberg at the end of World War II was a totally different story.  The bridge was never rebuilt and all that remains are the arch spans on the Polish side.  Poland was freed and the border along the Oder and Neisse was reestablished. As many as 8 million Germans living east of the border were subsequentially expelled to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), which was under Soviet control until a government was established in East Berlin in 1949. The community of Fürstenberg that had existed since the 13th century folded into a newly created Communist city that became known as Stalinstadt, named after the Soviet dictator and one of the victors of the war, Josef Stalin.  The city had 15,000 inhabitants when it was established in 1951 but thanks to the industries and Communist-style apartments that were built there, the population had reached an all-time high of 53,500 people by 1988, including many displaced Germans from the Polish side.  It was renamed Eisenhüttenstadt in 1990 and at present, only 23,000 people live there. It remains the only city in Germany that has no bridge along a major river. Those wishing to cross into Poland have to through Frankfurt (Oder) or Guben; in each direction at least 30 kilometers.

While Fürstenberg became Eisenhüttenstadt and still has a predominantly Communist cityscape but without a bridge over the River Oder, much of the historic old town still remains in tact, including a large church and a former city hall. It is still considered by many to be a border town because of the Oder-Neisse boundary and its location on the river. Still there is hope that after 75 years, planners will come through with a crossing over the Oder that will eventually bring the two countries together and with that, the villages on the Poland side and Fürstenberg on the western side. Whether this will happen depends not just on the finances but also the will of the people to make it happen.

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Jastrowie Rail Bridge in Poland

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Source: https://gramho.com/media/2315186164545818312

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Wartime Bridge Series

Our next Wartime Bridge story takes us to northeastern Poland and to the town of Jastrowie. With a population of 8900 inhabitants, the community is located on the edge of the Gwda River valley. Germans have translated the river’s name into Küddow. During World Was II, Jastrowie was a stronghold for Nazi soldiers especially as a railroad line had existed and it was needed to ship war supplies and other materials to the areas needed, especially as soldiers on the eastern front tried to invade the Soviet Union and were only 60 kilometers away from Moscow by the end of 1941.

By the beginning of 1945, with the Nazis fighting a losing battle with the Allies encroaching Germany and its capital Berlin from all sides, Soviet troops were making strides as the soliders, tired and worn out from the fighting, were fleeing towards Germany, marching through Poland along the way. Despite Adolf Hitler’s orders to fight to the very end, there were only three options for the Nazi soldiers:

1. Fight until death,

2. Slow the advancement of Soviets to buy time to retreat and eventually regroup or

3. Desert the army and if caught, accept the terms of surrender with the hope of returning home to their families.

In the case of this bridge at Jastrowie, it was the attempt of carrying out option 2  that went as awry as it could be.  The railroad bridge was built in 1914 and spans the River Gwda east of Jastrowie. It can be seen from the State 189 Bridge as it is approximately 300 meters away to the south. While it is unknown who built the bridge, the inscriptions on the truss beams indicated that a Union Steel Company may have fabricated the steel parts to put together the polygonal Warren deck truss design.  Because Poland was part of the German Empire until the end of World War I, it is most likely that the company came from the German side.

Attempts to blow up the bridge to slow the advancement of Soviet troops happened on 2 February, 1945 as Nazi soldiers tried to bring the bridge to the ground using explosives. Unfortunately, due to a lack of explosives and other materials needed to destroy the bridge, combined with the quick advancement of the encroaching soldiers and opposition from locals in the area, only one side of the bridge came down, the other was still attached leaving the truss span hanging on one side. It has been in this partially collapsed position ever since. A video shows the partially collapsed span in full detail:

While the Soviets captured the city on the same day, they would remain in the region for another 44 years. Although Poland was reestablished as a country, it became part of Soviet control through the Potsdam Agreement of 1945, when Germany, and eventually the rest of Europe was divided into East and West.  While under Soviet control, residents of Jastrowie were forced to resettle further westward as much of the population were of German descent. It was part of the practice by the Soviet Union and the eastern European countries that had been under control of Nazi Germany but were later reestablished as individual states. People of German descent were rounded up and deported to what later became the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), their assets seized and redistributed among the native populations, including the Polish in Poland and the Slavics in what later becamse Czechoslovakia.

Because the town was emptied, the bridge and the rail line were both abandoned and have remained ever since, thus making it an important and popular tourist stop for bridge enthusiasts and photographers. Even some Polish bloggers have written about the bridge, one of which can be found here and is loaded with detailed photos of the bridge. More information about the bridge is found there but in Polish.

The Jastrowie Bridge is one of many historic structures that survived the Nazi attempts of being blown up for the sake of stopping the advancement of troops and delaying the inevitable. It is however one of the community’s prized historical treasures that serves as a reminder of how the residents survived two different occupations- one of which included the forced deportation to East Germany following the end of the war. It is also fortunate that the bridge has remained in tact for the purpose of future research on its history. While the chances of it being restored and reused as a bike trail crossing along the River Gwda is slim, historians can take the opportunity to learn about the structure’s history, not only tracing the history of Union Steel but also find out who was behind the construction of its unique design.  A relict as a memorial makes a community stand out as one that has gone through a lot over the years. And that in itself makes it an attraction for historians, bridge fans, photographers and tourists alike.

 

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Poland was occupied three times since its establishment in 1595: The Polish Partition happened from 1795 to 1918 in which the country was divided into three parts: the eastern part belonged to the Russian Empire, the southern part to the Habsburg Empire (Austro-Hungarian) and the western part to Prussia, which later became the German Empire through its creation in 1871. After being reestablished via Versailles Treaty in 1918, Poland was an autonomy until September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded and eventually captured the country. It remained under control until the Soviets drove them away in warfare successfully in 1945. After being part of the administration, Poland became a puppet of Communism until free elections of 1989, which led to it becoming an independent country. For more information on Polish history, click here.

 

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This 8 April 2018 video says about itself: Arnhem: A Bridge Too Far (WWII Documentary) In December, 1944, 400 men of the 1rst British Airborne Division paraded at Buckingham Palace to receive their grateful thanks from their king and countrymen. Although they paraded as heroes, victors they were not. They were some of the survivors […]

via Battle of Arnhem veterans stopped from commemorating — Dear Kitty. Some blog

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The Battle of Arnhem includes a film documentary which is part II, plus a detailed story behind it, which you can click on the text to read. Enjoy!

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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/)

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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.

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Wartime Bridges: Stories of Bridges and their Roles in World War II now being collected for series

The Bridge at Tczew, Poland. Supposedly the bridge that sparked World War II in September 1939. It was destroyed on September 1, 1939 during the Nazi Invasion. Drawn by Ernst Keil in 1858 after its opening.

Wartime Bridge Series

In connection with the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the 10th anniversary of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and sister column The Flensburg Files, we’re starting a series on Wartime Bridges. In this series, we’ll look at the (historic) bridges that played a key role in World War II. They include popular and historic bridges that were destroyed in the war, like the bridges in Cologne, Frankfurt and Berlin, the third city there’s a book written on it which will be presented as a separate article later.  They can also include bridges that were used for troops to cross as they march their way to victory. Two bridges have been mentioned in separate articles in the Chronicles- the Pegasus Bridge in France and the Remagen Bridge over the River Rhine in Germany.  Nonetheless, the question is which other bridges played a key role in the war, regardless of outcome?

There are two ways to present your articles:

  1. If you have a blog or other online column, you can proceed with doing a write-up on the bridge of your choice, send the link with the finished product and it will be reblogged onto the two columns.
  2. If you don’t have a blog or online column, or you have a blog but would prefer not having it reblogged, you can write an article on it and send it directly to the Chronicles, using the contact details provided here.

The articles will be posted in both the Chronicles and the Files including whatever photos you wish to have on there. If it comes from a source other than yours, please cite the source.

We will start with the bridges in the European theater for World War II ended on 8 May, 1945 with Germany’s surrender. The series on the Bridges of World War II in Europe will continue until September. From that point on until the end of this year, we will focus on the bridges in the Pacific theater and their key roles. Japan surrendered on 2 September, 1945.

To give you an idea what’s expected, here are the two sample articles that were posted recently:

The Bridge at Remagen (D)

Pegasus Bridge (Fr)

Another bridge mentioned is the Tczew Bridge in Poland, which was supposedly the place where the first shots were fired. The story can be found here.

Looking forward to your written works. It’s open to all, not just the pontists, historians and photographers.

BHC 10 years

FlFi10