Visitor’s museum open to the public Historical Bridge of Remagen inaugurated 100 years ago

Remagen · The Bridge of Remagen was built for military purposes, inaugurated on August 15 of 1918. In World War II, it played a decisive role for the Allied troops. The story was depicted in the 1969 movie, “The Bridge at Remagen.” A museum is open to visitors.

The capture of the bridge in 1945 went down in history as the “Miracle of Remagen.” But instead of the originally intended purpose of improving the military supply to the western border of the German Reich during World War I, it played into the hands of the Allied troops in World War II and helped hasten the end of the war.

With nearly 4,800 tons of steel, it spanned 325 meters between massive bridgeheads in Remagen and Erpel. The actual name of the bridge is the Ludendorff Bridge, designed by Mannheim architect Karl Wiener. It was considered one of the most beautiful steel bridges over the Rhine. But the main purpose, however, was not optical.

Bridge was built for military purposes

The bridge was built by Kaiser Wilhelm II for military purposes, and named after Infantry General Erich Ludendorff. It was inaugurated on August 15, 1918. Its surviving gloomy bridge towers are also recognizable as fortresses, basalt bulwarks, with loopholes, troop quarters, storage warehouses and flat roofs, which ensured an excellent vantage point. The plan was that German troops and war supplies could more easily be transported to the western front.

In 1916, in the middle of the First World War, the Cologne-based company Grün & Bilfinger began construction on the Erpel side of the Rhine, digging a 383-meter-long tunnel through the rock of the Erpeler Ley formation. The bridge was finished in 1918, and after 1926, it was used for diverted freight trains and a few passenger trains on the weekends.

But it became both important and famous at the end of World War II because if gave the Allied troops a strategic advantage. In the autumn of 1944, when the Allied air forces bombed all the Rhine bridges to prevent the supply of German forces, the Ludendorff Bridge took hits too, but it was always repaired and kept is use.

Allied troops could reach the other side of the Rhine via the Remagen bridge

On March 7, Lieutenant Karl-Heinz Timmermann pushed forward with the 9th US Armored Division to Remagen and the bridge so Allied troops could reach the other side of the Rhine. "The bridge is worth its weight in gold," said General Eisenhower. Desperate German attempts to destroy the bridge with artillery fire, V 2 rockets, army swimmers and air strikes failed. Because the German troops were not able to destroy the bridge to prevent it from being used by the Allied troops, a tribunal sentenced five Wehrmacht officers to death and had four shot dead. One was already a prisoner of war with the Allied troops.

On March 17, the damaged bridge crashed into the river, killing 32 US soldiers. Before that, however, the Allies were able to transport 18 regiments across the Remagen bridge. The capture of the bridge by the US Army is said to have shortened the war by weeks. Remagen city archivist Kurt Kleemann is not alone in his assumption that this may even have prevented Germany from dropping nuclear bombs.

The Peace Museum Bridge of Remagen is open to visitors until the end of October every day from 10am until 6pm, and from the end of October until November 15 every day from 10am to 5pm. Admission is 3.50 euros (some qualify for reduced rate of 1 euro). Translator note: The movie “The Bridge at Remagen” was released in 1969, based on the 1957 book by Kenneth William Hechler under the same title. From Bonn, Remagen is a scenic 20 to 30 minute drive along the Rhine in the direction of Koblenz.

Orig. text: Hildegard Ginzler, Translation: ck

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