Fort de Guentrange - ThionvilleFort de Guentrange - Thionville
©Fort de Guentrange - Thionville|STEPHANE THEVENIN

Theater of the First and Second World Wars

In the second half of the 19th century, the Pays Thionvillois underwent changes to its borders and landscape.

The beginning

The Franco-Prussian war

After the capitulation of Metz, Prussian troops set out in search of another Moselle city. Thionville underwent a terrible bombardment on November 22, 1870. During the siege, 283 bombs and 8,322 shells fell on the city center. On November 25, the town capitulated and was occupied by the Prussians. It became Diedenhofen.

The Treaty of Frankfurt was signed on May 10, 1871, making Thionville officially German.

The Festen

The torpedo shell crisis left traditional stone forts vulnerable. This led to the emergence of a new fortification system, the festen. To protect the Moselle valley, the Germans built a second fortified belt around Metz and another around Thionville. This was the birth of Moselstellung.

The principle of the feste, or fortified group, is to use the space with different fortifications: barracks, concrete trenches, shelters, observatories and artillery batteries. All linked by underground galleries of reinforced concrete and armored equipment.

The festen have the most modern comforts for the early 20th century: central heating, shower, kitchen and electric plant.

Birth of the Maginot Line

With the development of weaponry during the First World War, the festen were already obsolete.

The return ofAlsace-Moselle to France in 1919, with the Treaty of Versailles, redrawing the borders, led to the construction of new fortifications. This was the birth of the Maginot Line.

In 1925, the Commission for the Defense of Borders included the Moselle in its conclusions as a priority zone to be fortified. These included 2 of the most powerful sectors in the fortified Metz region: the fortified sectors of Thionville and Boulay.

Focus on Michelsberg

The undefeated defenders

Attack on June 21, 1940: The German 95 Infantry Division attempted to attack the fort from the entrance. They came across blocks 9 and 9 bis, which opened fire with their machine guns. However, support from the Michelsberg artillery was needed to halt the attack.

Attack on June 22, 1940: This was the Michelsberg’s heaviest day of fighting, with blocks 2 and 3 targeted by 4 88 Flak guns. Fearing that the concrete would be pierced, the commanding officer left a minimum of manpower. As soon as the firing stopped, the German guns were spotted and destroyed after just 12 135 mm shells.

The Maginot Line

in action

The Maginot Line is a collection of different fortifications: artillery works, infantry works, casemates, shelters and command posts. The artillery works were very modern for their time, and included power plants, kitchens, trains and turrets. One of its mastodons is theHackenberg fortification, with its 10 kilometers of galleries.

This fortification was put to the test of fire during the Battle of France. In autumn 1944, the Festen and the Hackenberg were used by the German army to delay the American advance into the Thionville region.