The last battles in 1940
The Maginot Line proper together with its casemates and blockhouses remained inactive from the outbreak of World Warr II, on 3 September 1930, until June 1940. Yet, by mid-June all its positions were already encircled by German armoured vehicles, which had reached Pontarlier, a town bordering Switzerland. The interval troops, who were to cover the gaps in-between the 'ouvrages' and casemates, had been withdrawn from their supporting positions, namely in the French Saar and in the areas stretching beyond Schoenenbourg up to the Rhine, in order to help create a new defence line on the river Meuse and the Canal de la Marne au Rhin. To reach their new positions these troops were to walk throughout the night and to escape diving Stuka bombers' strikes in day time.
From June 15 to June 19, the Germans attacked the Maginot Line itself and crossed the river Rhine near Colmar, in a well coordinated amphibeous operation. They also proceeded through the weakly defended Saar gap, where the water barrier was but a negligible obstacle without the interval troops, which were in retreat to the south.
The 'ouvrage' Schoenenbourg, located on a key position covering the road from Wissembourg to Haguenau, was actually attacked by the 246 German infantry division. This co-ordinated onslaught was supported by 105, 150, 280, 355, 420 mm guns, as well as by stuka dive bombers, dropping 50, 100 and 500 kg bombs and by Heinkel 111 bombers, dropping up to 1,000 kg bombs. Soon, the earth on and about the fighting blocks got deeply cratered. The 81 mm mortar turret suffered damage and a good hit by a 420 mm gun nearly penetrated into its magazine. The other fighting blocks also underwent heavy shelling. Some shells penetrated into the permeable soil to explode many feet below. Nevertheless, after the bombing and shelling the turrets carried on shooting as much and as efficiently as before.
On the whole, the 'ouvrage' underwent little damage, which could be repaired in the night. Together with its neighbours, the 'Hochwald' and the 'Four à Chaux', the 'Schoenenbourg' fired off 16,000 shells and denied the German forces the way through.
There was no tresspassing on such areas as were covered by an artillery 'ouvrage'. Its defenders could always hold their ground and an enemy attack was bound to fail under heavy casulties. The 'Schoenenbourg' actually surrendered only a few days after the armistice, complying with the orders given to Commandant Reynier by the French High Command in Paris.
The 'Schoenenbourg' was occupied by the German forces from July 1940 to year end 1944. Before leaving the 'ouvrage' the Germans destroyed the two entries. Yet, the latter were built up again in the early 1950s and cared for by army engineers until 1968.
In 1986, the 'Schoenenbourg' was broken into by iron dealers and in 1981 it was eventually taken over by the association 'ALMA', and has been cared for by its devotees ever since.
Outstanding dates to remember :
Friday 10 of May :