In Saint-Clément-des-Baleines on the l’Ile de Ré, four blockhouses built by German Army during World War II, as part of Atlantic Wall, have been bulldozed to the ground in past days. The reasons provided by the local goverment have been by safety and for protecting environment. In fact, these bunkers have accentuated the erosion of the dune in a short term time. 

(TV report via Pascal Foucaud, Nathalie Combes, Marc Millet, and Julien Fagot)

l’Ile de Ré is an island off the west coast of France near La Rochelle; La Rochelle was the main Atlantic base for the occupying Nazi navy during the Second World War. The island is well known for its sandy beaches. During World War II, the beaches of the l’Ile de Ré were fortified by German forces with bunkers, in order to block a possible seaward invasion. This island is completely flat; it is 30 km long and 5 km wide. 

(Photography via

(Photography via © XAVIER LEOTY)

(Photography via © PASCAL COUILLAUD

Many of the bunkers are still visible, in a more or less derelict state. The huge bunkers until now proved extremely difficult and costly to destroy and they stayed as monuments to period of occupation.

The gently sloping beaches are so good that this island was used to film some of the scenes for the classic war film "The Longest Day", about the D-Day landings in June 1944. But, apart from some derelict German bunkers, little remains of the Second World War nowadays. 

Fortunately, previous the demolition of the blockhouses, these have been the object of a accurate inventory. Specialists have taken a lot of photographies and have made 3d projections. Blockhouses will be included in the General Inventory of heritage in progress, as Sud Ouest reported. 

Atlantic Wall was Hitler's defensive system against an expected Allied attack. It was composed of an extensive system of coastal defence and fortifications. It was built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944; it stretched all the way from the Spanish border to Scandinavia.

France was country where the most extensive building took place. As a result, nowadays, still thousands of blockhouses, barracks and gun emplacements are visible along 800 miles (1,287km) of French coast. They are substantial and evocative vestiges of war-time Europe.

(Photography via © PASCAL COUILLAUD

Immediately after the war, in France there was little interest in preserving the wall due to the negative memories associated with the Nazi occupation. Until the emergence of local associations like Gramasa (Archaeological Research Group for the Atlantic Wall: Arcachon Sector) dedicated to safeguarding remains of the Atlantic Wall, in France there had been no effort to preserve this extraordinary historical landmark.

The situation in other countries, where there are still portions of this impressive defensive system. In many cases this sites have been renovated as tourist attractions or for educational visits. As BBC News reported five years ago "the internet boasts Atlantic Wall fan sites in Germany and the Netherlands - and strong interest in the UK - but nothing in France". 

(Photography via © PASCAL COUILLAUD

Nevertheless, In the north of France, the situation looks be different. The tourism based on visit to Normandy beaches, memorials, cementeries, batteries, etc. is very important and supposes a source of enrichment for everyone. Every years, thousand and thousand of visitors arrive at Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha beaches to remember the historics facts which took place there, and pay tribute who lost their lives fighting in the last stages of World War II.

An good example of conservation and better exploitation is the Todt Battery which is one of the best preserved parts of Atlantic Wall. Although the bunker of Eperlecques, the biggest bunker in the north of France, is not part of the Atlantic Wall, is also a good example of preservation and renovated use. It was open to the public in 1973 and was listed as "Ancient Memorials" in 1985.

In defense of the demolition decision, it is necessary to tell that the area is a popular tourist destination. It has approximately the same number of hours of sunshine as the famous southern coast of France. The island is noted to have a constant light breeze, and the water temperature is generally cool. The island surrounded with gently sloping, sandy beaches is a real treat for families and tourists.

Source: | | | Wikipedia |

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