Brief history of the Organisation Todt and its operations in the AOK 15 area of command in Belgium and northern France

   

 

The Organisation Todt was the civil and military construction organisation in the Third Reich in Germany, named after its founder, Dr. Fritz Todt. The organisation was responsible for a massive range of construction activities in pre-WW II Germany and in Germany and the occupied territories during WW II.  As such, it was the construction arm of the Wehrmacht. It was also the organisation responsible for the construction of the Atlantikwall. Click on the shortcuts below to go immediately to the section(s) which interest you.


1. BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ORGANISATION TODT

2.
BRIEF HISTORY OF ORGANISATION TODT OPERATIONS IN BELGIUM

3. BRIEF HISTORY OF ORGANISATION TODT OPERATIONS IN NORTHERN FRANCE

4. Cooperation between the OT and the Festungspioniere in the construction of fortified defenses.

5. OT OVERVIEWS OF BUNKER CONSTRUCTION

For a visit to the remaining bunkers of the headquarters of the Oberbauleitung Belgien click here.

1. BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ORGANISATION TODT

 The Organisation Todt was the civil and military construction organisation in the Third Reich in Germany, named after its founder, Dr. Fritz Todt. The organisation was responsible for a massive range of construction activities in pre-WW II Germany and in Germany and the occupied territories during WW II. As such, it was the construction arm of the Wehrmacht. It was also the organisation responsible for the construction of the Atlantikwall.

The OT personnel were classified as armed forces auxiliaries or Wehrmachtsgefolge and wore a military uniform. Thus, its German personnel and some of its foreign volunteers had the right to bear arms and resist enemy actions. They rendered the same oath of lifelong personal loyalty to Hitler as the regular army soldier.

The organisation was established in 1933 as a civil organisation by Dr. Fritz Todt. Importantly, it was not a Nazi-party organisation, but rather a Reichsbehörde, i.e. a government agency/ministry. Nevertheless, the OT was under the political control the Allgemeine SS, with an SS liaison officer at every echelon.

The OT was not given an official name until Hitler did so shortly after coming to power in 1933. Todt assumed the function of Generalinspektor für das deutsche Strassenwesen. In this capacity he and his organisation were responsible for building the network of motorways in Germany. Labour for this massive undertaking was provided by conscripted labour within Germany through the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD).

In 1938 Todt founded the Organisation Todt proper as a consortium of the administrative offices which Todt had personally set up in the course of the motorway project, private companies as subcontractors and the primary source of technical engineering expertise, and the RAD as the source of manpower. He was appointed by Hitler as Generalbevollmächtigter für die Regelung der Bauwirtschaft. Emphasis was shifted away from civil projects to military ones, more specifically the construction of the Westwall on Germany’s border with France, as a counterweight to the French Maginot line. As such, the OT took over responsibility from the Festungspioniere (Army Fortress Engineers), which had been working on the Westwall for two years without any prospect of completing it in time. The Westwall was duly completed early in 1940, with over 14,000 bunkers.

The OT was promptly put on a war footing in September 1939, on the outbreak of war and the organisation was officially declared to be Wehrmachtsgefolge (army auxiliary). There were, accordingly, two basic organizational changes. One was the establishment of the administrative OT Frontführung (front area personnel section), which took over the billeting and messing of personnel, tasks formerly performed by the Deutsche Arbeitsfront. (DAF). The other was the change-over from voluntary enrollment of construction firms to their conscription into the OT

In 1940 Todt was appointed as Reichsminister für Bewaffnung und Munition and the OT was integrated in this ministry.

1940-1941

OT’s first operational test came in the 1940 campaign in the West. Its primary task was to restore communications in the wake of the advancing German armies, assuring thereby the flow of supplies to the front lines. Upon the outbreak of the war a number of mobile and specialized OT-units were immediately allocated to the Wehrmacht as auxiliary troops (Wehrmachtsgefolge) and deployed to repair streets and bridges behind the front line, in replacement of the military engineer units (Baupioniere).

As the military situation became stabilized in the West, a similar process took place in the OT. After the French armistice in June 1940 the OT was tasked with constructing a number of military strongpoints along the Western European coasts, more specifically the long-distance artillery batteries at the Pas-de-Calais and Schnellboot (Oostende, Ijmuiden, Dunkirk) and U-Boot bases (Lorient, La Rochelle, Brest), initially all in support of the planned invasion of the British Isles.

In the autumn of 1940 the OT established the OT Gruppe West in Paris, a headquarters organisation, in order to coordinate the construction projects between itself, the military service arms and French authorities At around the same time in Lorient the Einsatzstab der OT Gruppe West, not to be confused with the above, was established in Lorient. It was directly responsible for the construction of military infrastructure along the coasts and subdivided into a number of Einsätze: Einsatz Westküste (Atlantik), Einsatz Luftwaffe (Mittel- und Nordfrankreich) and an Einsatz Kanalküste, the latter covering the coasts of the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France. The Einsätze were further subdivided into a number of Oberbauleitungen, themselves subdivided into Bauleitungen, which were directly responsible for the execution of the local building projects. The latter were again subdivided into a number of Abschnittsbauleitungen, which controlled any number of building sites or Baustellen, the smallest component in the hierarchy. For the construction work mainly German private enterprises were uses, which themselves subcontracted work to local Dutch, Belgian and French construction companies.

Thus, the above Einsätze were further subdivided as follows:

After the attack on the Balkans and Russia in 1941 in the spring and summer of 1941 the area in which the OT had to perform its tasks slowly became too big for the existing organisation, prompting Fritz Todt to establish a central headquarters in Berlin, the OT Zentrale, which became responsible for all OT operations. This command was further subdivided into a number of departments each specializing in a single activity. Thus, some of these departments were Technik, Mannschaftsführung, Nachrichtenwesen, Verwaltung, Transportwesen, Strassenbau and Propaganda.

In late 1941, with the reorganization of the OT units in the West into the Einsatzgruppe West the headquarters for coastal fortification were transferred from Lorient to Paris (Champs Elysées 33-35). Its commander was Oberbaudirektor Weiss and Baurat Haut as deputy commander.

Until December 1941 the OT had mainly been working on the construction of the U-boat and Schnellboot bunkers, while the three services of the Wehrmacht had been responsible for the construction of smaller fortifications. This, however, radically changed in December 1941 when Hitler ordered the construction of the neue Westwall, the original name for what was soon to become the Atlantikwall. Coastal areas the fortification of which was to be given priority were Norway, the Atlantic ports between Bordeaux and Brest, the Channel Islands, the Channel ports, Brittany and Normandy. However, as the Kriegsmarine was unwilling to divert its already stretched forces away from the ports and was not really interested in a long-stretched and uninterrupted line of defence, the Heer was forced to organise the coastal artily defences, including the construction of own naval batteries (Heeresküstenbatterien). However, despite this shift, the Kriegsmarine continued being allocated huge volumes of concrete.

1942

On 8 February 1942, Fritz Todt died in a plane accident in suspicious circumstances which still haven’t been fully cleared up today (his wife, a son and a daughter survived). Two days later, on 10 February 1942, Hitler appointed his personal architect Generalbauinspektor für die Reichshauptstadt Albert Speer as the new head of the OT, also assuming all of Todt’s former functions. In addition to his previous office which he held, Speer was thus appointed as Reichsminister für Bewaffnung und Munition, Generalinspektor für das deutsche Straßenwesen, Generalinspektor für Festungsbau and Generalinspektor für Wasser und Energie.

After Speer had assumed command of the OT, his ideas as well as the ever increasing activities of the organisation caused a second major reorganization of the organisation in the spring of 1942. It consisted of four major internal changes all tending towards coordination within and centralization of the organisation:

1. The central HQ at Berlin, OT-Zentrale, was established about that time. At its head was Ministerialdirektor Xaver Dorsch.

2. A second change was the establishment of a uniform basic pay tariff, equaling Wehrmacht basic pay. In addition, a new and elaborate scale of bonuses, allowances, compensations and allotments was drawn up.

3. The gradual tightening of control over OT-firms, including issuance of a uniform type of contract between the OT and the firms.

4. Greater organizational coordination within the various German-occupied territories in Europe. This change is discussed in further detail below. Most importantly the organisation was no longer divided in a number of specialized departments (see above), but rather in a number of geographically-based Einsatzgruppen, which were responsible for all construction activity in their assigned area. Nevertheless, these each still had a logistical staff in Berlin which represented their interests.

The fourth change above resulted in an organizational scheme which, albeit with many exceptions, established administrative levels in the following order:

OT-Zentrale

-

Einsatzgruppe

(at army group level)

-

Einsatz

(at army level)

-

Oberbauleitung

(OT construction sector, 5,000-15,000 men))

-

Bauleitung

(OT construction sub-sector, 1,000-3,000 men)

-

Abschnittsbauleitung

(OT Local supervisory staff)

-

Baustelle

(OT construction site)(up to 1,000 men)

Besides the above units engaged in the planning and coordination of the construction work the Organisation Todt also had a number of rear services ensuring the most efficient use of personnel and equipment, as well as transport units (Nachschub) and a Frontführung (dealing with e.g. accommodation issues in the occupied territories).

Atlantikwall construction only really started in earnest after Hitler’s Führerweisung Nr. 40 of 23 March 1942. From this moment onwards the OT also started using non-German labourers and construction companies on a large scale.

In 1942 the OT in western Europe was organised as follows:

1943

In the spring of 1943 some 260,000 labourers of the total of 500,000 used by the OT at the time were engaged in the construction of coastal fortifications within the Einsatzstab Gruppe West. The three largest contingents were the Dutch, followed by the Flemish and the French. Initially, the OT was able to hire volunteers, attracted as they were by the job security and the good pay. These were supplemented by forced labour (including prisoners of war) from 1942 onwards and later, in 1943/44 by slave labour as well.

The above numbers, however, were seriously reduced as a result of the intensifying allied bombings on Germany, causing ever more labourers to be deported to the German homeland to repair damage there. This began in the summer of 1943 and had reached a culminating point by the spring of 1944 Thus, towards the end of June 1944, the number of labourers working on the Atlantikwall had dropped to 160,000.

Hitler’s directive no. 51 of 3 November 1943 caused a further intensification of Atlantikwall construction work with the launch of the Regelbauten 600 series, specifically designed for use in the Atlantikwall and the naming of Generalfeldmarschal Erwin Rommel as the inspector of coastal defences at the end of 1943

In 1943 the OT in western Europe was organised as follows:

1944.

In May 1944 preparations in anticipation of Allied landings really got under way. Work on the Atlantikwall was strictly limited to completing constructions which had been started, especially to camouflaging and clearing of fields of fire.

On 18 May 1944 orders were issued by the Armeeoberkommando 7, changing the composition of the entire OT in its command area to mobile units with two main purposes. Firstly, to support army engineers both in the battle and rear areas; secondly, to function as emergency air-raid salvage and repair crews. As things turned out, after the invasion all of the OT’s resources in NW France were employed exclusively on the second purpose, as outlined in an order signed by von Rundstedt on 18 June 1944. The administrative organisation of the Oberbauleitungen, however, remained the same, even after the invasion, when their headquarters were shifted. The firms, however, became the operational units in the field, each firm being responsible for feeding, billeting and paying its entire personnel. At this time OT-units were divided into 5 main types: Bautrupps in the battle zone and zone of communications, Bautrupps in rear areas, Bautrupps for the Luftwaffe, Nachschubtrupps in the battle zone, Arbeitstrupps in the rear zone and NSKK transport units.

On 24 August 1944 Speer also took over the construction administration over all phases of construction within Greater Germany, as result of a decree signed by Hitler on that day.

In the end, though, the OT was a well-oiled and extremely efficient organisation which managed in construction, amongst many others, the biggest defensive line in the history of warfare. In addition to the submarine bases and V1 and V2 installations, close to 15.000 permanent bunkers were constructed in record time, albeit with the help of forced and slave labour.

A major problem for the study of the OT remains that its records were mostly destroyed.

 

2. BRIEF HISTORY OF ORGANISATION TODT OPERATIONS IN BELGIUM

 

For a visit to the remaining bunkers of the headquarters of the Oberbauleitung Belgien click here.

 

1940-1941

 

Not much is known about the operations of the OT in Belgium this early in the war.  In May 1940 a number of OT units followed in the footsteps of the advancing armies in order to repair roads, bridges and ports as quickly as possible. Presumably, the role of the OT in this was limited to giving technical advice and providing heavy machines. The actual repair work would then have been carried out by the Bautruppen.

 At the end of July 1940 the following OT-units were operational along the Belgian coast:

  •  Einsatzstab Ost-Dünkirchen

  • 4. Abteilung der OT (Westende)

  • Abteilung La Panne (De Panne)

The overall organisation at this point in time, however, is as yet unknown. Presumably, though, at this point in time the coastal strip between the Dutch-Belgian border and Oostende was subordinated to the OBL Holland (also see below).

What we do know is that there was intense cooperation with the units of the Reichsarbeitsdienst. In this period the Belgian coast, and more specifically the ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend, was only important for the Germans in as far as they were to play a (small) role in the planned invasion of Britain, Operation Sealion. Important repairs were thus carried out to the power grid of the port of Ostend and the sea lock at Zeebrugge, most probably under the supervision of the OT. Also, a Schnellbootbunker was constructed in Ostend. With this operation postponed, the OT-units probably moved away from the Belgian coast until the end of 1941, after which date they gradually became involved in coastal fortification.

1942

After the release of the Führerweisung on 23 March 1942 the OT returned to the Belgian coast in strength. To coordinate operations a large OT headquarters was set up in the Benedictine abbey of Zevenkerken in Loppem, south of Bruges and called the Oberbauleitung Belgien, Interestingly, the flags of many Belgian regiments had been hidden in the very same abbey. Despite the German presence in the abbey throughout the war, the Germans were totally unaware of their presence and never found them. Until 1 November 1942 the commander of the OBL Belgien was Baurat Kurt Wiendieck. From 1 November 1942 (to an unknown date in 1943) he was succeeded by Baurat Sarky.

Initially, the OBL Belgien was responsible for the Netherlands, the Belgian coast and the French coast until Dunkirk (Petite-Synthe). This changed on 1 November 1942 when the OBL Holland (actually consisting of an OBL Holland-Nord and OBL Holland-Süd) was no longer subordinated to the OBL Belgien.

The OBL Belgien was subdivided into presumably 6 Bauleitungen, four of which were probably responsible for coastal fortifications, with probably two headquartered at or near the coast in Belgium. The only headquarters currently known to have existed at the Belgian coast was in Knokke. There would also appear to have been two Aussenstellen, namely in Vlissingen and Brussels. As regards the Aussenstelle Vlissingen, we do know that in 1942 the island of Walcheren and the coastal strip between the Westerschelde and Oostende were transferred from the OBL Holland to the OBL Belgien. The latter possibly happened as of 1 November (see also above).

 In May 1942 we find proof that the OT also employed prisoners-of-war in the construction of the Atlantikwall, even though this was prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Thus, a resistance report reveals that the Kriegsgefangenenbau- und Arbeitsbataillon 37 was located in Bruges at this time with a headquarters and some 3 companies, made up of mainly French soldiers of African origin. From resistance reports we know these prisoners-of-war contributed to the construction of the railway battery at Bredene and (coastal) fortifications at Heist, Jabbeke and Wenduine.

The Kriegsgefangenenbau- und Arbeitsbataillon 37 was established for French POW’s in the Wehrkreis XVII. On 20 August 1941 it was located in Hagen/Westfalen (WK VI). In 1943 it was part of the Kommandeur des Landesbautruppen 3, while in 1945 it was located in Mosbach/Baden (WK XII). At least 8 such battalions were established for French POW’s (nos. 29, 33-40).

On 1 October 1942 we get a detailed overview of the complete OT-presence in the KVA A2. The details can be found in this document.

On 1 December 1942 we get a detailed overview of the complete OT-presence in the KVA A2. The details can be found in this document.

1943-44

 

The following schema shows the probable organisation of the OBL Belgien (in May 1943):

A resistance report informs us that Bauleiter Trost of the Bauleitung 4 was headquartered in the Villa Beaumesnil in the Zoutelaan in Knokke. 

According to a German report from 1943, the headquarters of the OBL Belgien was apparently made up of four parts:  

  • Oberbauleitung (Loppem, Brügge): 1 Sonderführer, 131 German civilians, 16 Flemish and 16 Dutch workers (mission: defence of the headquarters and training)
  • Stabsrevier (Loppem, Brügge): 8 OT soldiers and 3 Flemish
  • Frontführung (Knokke): 126 OT soldiers, 22 Flemish and 18 foreign workers (mission: guard duty at Sammellager Westkapelle)
  • Bauleitung angestellte Firmen (Heist): 25 OT-soldiers (mission: liaison between OT and construction companies)

By February 1943 6,407 labourers were working along the Belgian coast, of which close to 60% were Flemish. The labourers were housed in a number of OT-Lager or camps. According to the above report these were in the KVA A2:

  • OT Lager Breskens, OT Lager Cadzand, OT Lager Hoofdplaat, OT Lager Schoondijke, OT Lager Westkapelle, OT Lager Lissewege

Together, the above organizations accounted for 2,874 men (1 Sonderführer, 250 OT-troops, 131 German civilians, 666 Flemish labourers, 1737 Dutch labourers and 89 other nationalities). A resistance report calls the OT Lager Westkapelle the most important one of the entire coast, situated some 150m of the regimental headquarters.

 A map of the 39 Infanteriedivision of the same period shows the OT camps in the KVA A3:

  •  KVA A3: OT Lager Wenduine (79), OT Lager Ostende, OT Lager Middelkerke (90), OT Lager Oostduinkerke (19), OT Lager La Panne (53), OT Lager Adinkerke
Together, the above organizations accounted for 3529 men (151 (German) OT troops, 292 German labourers, 3074 Flemish labourers, 8 Dutch labourers and 4 French labourers. In addition, an SS-Verbindungsführer der OT (2 men) was located in De Panne, as well as the Frontführung der OT in Loppem (2 men). If we add up the above sub-totals, the overall number is indeed 6407 exactly. In addition to the OT camps, the special materials used by the OT were stored in depots (Breskens and Zeebrugge in KVA A2 and Jabbeke in KVA A3). A resistance report locates the Zeebrugge depot in the fishing harbour, with supplies of  pebbles, cement, wood, steel and iron. 

On 1 June 1943 we get a detailed overview of the complete OT-presence in the KVA A2. The details can be found in this document.

An important change occurred on 13 July 1943. On this day the Armeeoberkommando 15 ordered that the German constructions firms and 10% of the OT-labour working on the Atlantikwall were to be transferred to Germany to repair the damage there resulting from the allied bombardments. As a result, the local sub-contracting firms now became solely responsible for the construction activities. In the area of the 712 Infanteriedivision 200 labourers were to be transferred. On 19 July 1942 120 of these were rounded up by the Feldgendarmerie in Knokke. More importantly, however, many more labourers went into hiding to avoid deportation. The latter, however, could also be avoided if proof could be provided by the construction companies that the continued presence of labourers at the Atlantikwall was of vital importance. In addition to the good pay, this was another important reason why labourers wanted to work for the OT.

3. BRIEF HISTORY OF OT OPERATIONS IN NORTHERN FRANCE

 

1940-1941

At this time the highest OT headquarters in northern France was the Einsatz Kanalküste. This unit was responsible for construction work not just in northern France, but also in Belgium (see above) and the Netherlands.  Subordinated to it were three Oberbauleitungen:

  • Oberbauleitung Audinghen (Oberbauleiter Dorsch (succeeded by Gittinger), from Dunkirk to Rue, with headquarters in Audinghen. It consisted of 7 Bauleitungen:
    • Bauleitung Calais
    • Bauleitung Wissant
    • Bauleitung Wimereux
    • Bauleitung Le Portel
    • Bauleitung Dannes
    • Bauleitung Le Touquet
    • Bauleitung Rue
  • Oberbauleitung Kanal (Oberbaurat Grienberger), from Rue to Granville, with headquarters in Dieppe
  • Oberbauleitung Normandie (Oberbaurat Bürger), from Granville to St-Brieux, with headquarters in St-Malo

 The first two of the above commands operated in the French area occupied by the AOK 15. Also located in northern France, but further inland, was the Einsatz Luftwaffe, with the Oberbauleitungen Lille, St-Omer, Beauvais and Chateaudun. This unit was responsible for the construction of airfields and will not be further discussed here.

 

The Oberbauleitung Audinghen, on the other hand, played an important role in coastal fortification in this period. The OBL Audinghen was created in 1940. Initially the OBL Audinghen worked solely for the Kriegsmarine. Still intent on invading Britain, the Kriegsmarine ordered the construction of Schnellboot bunkers in Dunkirk and Boulogne and of long-range naval artillery batteries (Fernkampfbatterien) between Calais and Boulogne to control the Channel (Batterie Grosser Kurfürst, Batterie Lindemann, Batterie Siegfried-Todt, Batterie Friedrich-August). These constructions were a direct result of Hitler’s Weisung Nr. 16 of 16 July 1940.

 

A similar important role was played by the Oberbauleitung Kanal. This command was also created in 1940. Unlike the above command, however, the Oberbauleitung Kanal, was not involved in constructing either Schnellboot bunkers or long-range naval artillery batteries.

 

1942

 

Construction on the Atlantikwall in France started in earnest in 1942. At this time the Einsatz Kanalküste still existed but some changes had taken place in the subordinated Oberbauleitungen. More specifically, in the beginning of 1942 the Oberbauleitung Kanal was renamed Oberbauleitung Rouen and, accordingly, transferred to Rouen, where it was now placed under the command of Oberbauleiter Plankl.

 

1943

 

In 1943 the Einsatz Kanalküste had expanded to no fewer than 5 Oberbauleitungen:

  • OBL Audinghen (now commanded by Oberbauleiter Knail), from Dunkirk to Rue. It consisted of 7 Bauleitungen:
    • Bauleitung Calais
    • Bauleitung Wissant
    • Bauleitung Wimereux
    • Bauleitung Le Portel
    • Bauleitung Dannes
    • Bauleitung Le Touquet
    • Bauleitung Rue
  • OBL Nordwest (St-Omer, Oberbaurat Wagner), with Regierungsbaurat Hartmann as deputy)
  • OBL Rouen (Oberbaurat Liebermann), from Rue to Trouville. In May 1943 it consisted of the following Bauleitungen:
    • Bauleitung Le Havre (Blankenhorn, previously Bau-Ingenieur Jellenberg)
    • Bauleitung Trouville (Fabig, previously Bau-Ingenieur Brambacher)
    • Bauleitung Fécamp (Kentemann, previously Schultz)
    • Bauleitung St-Valéry-en-Caux (Bau-Ingenieur Führig)
    • Bauleitung Dieppe (Bickel, previously Bau-Inspektor Lang)
    • Bauleitung Le Tréport (Brauers, previously Dipl. Ing. Berthold)
    • Bauleitung Lyre (Bau-Ingenieur Kühne)
    • Bauleitung Coumont-la-Bouille (Rouen) (Baurat Müller)
    • Bauleitung Bos-le-Hard - St Saëns (Rouen)
    • Bauleitung Dieppetal
  • OBL Cherbourg (Oberbaurat Cardinal, previously Dipl. Ing. Gittinger, with Dipl. Ing. Bense as deputy), from Trouville to Granville, with HQ in the Hôtel Atlantique)
  • OBL Normandie (Baurat Bürger, previously Oberregierungsbaurat Spangenberger, Baudirektor Sarley, Baurat Bilger, with Dipl. Ing. Kübler as deputy, from Granville to St.Brieux with headquarters in St-Malo)

Only the first three of the above Oberbauleitungen were entirely based in the AOK 15 area of command, while the OBL Cherbourg  was partly responsible for the AOK 15 area.

 

A new appearance in the above list was the OBL Nordwest. Interestingly, this name already occurred in 1940, but was apparently replaced by OBL St-Omer in 1941. However, OBL Nordwest reappears at the beginning of 1943, covering an area east of the OBL Audinghen.

 

Originally, the area of Cherbourg formed a Bauleitung within the Oberbauleitung Normandie. However, at the end of 1942 Bauleitung (then called Abschnitt) Cherbourg was raised to the status of Oberbauleitung

 

In April 1943 a record amount of concrete was produced, namely, 769,000 tonnes. This record would never be broken again during the war. Rather, the amount dropped. The allied strategic bombardments on Germany forced a number of OT-firms and their personnel to transfer to Germany to carry out repair work there. Even the construction programme for the Grossbauten, established in September 1943 and intended to build the large bunkers to fire the V-1, V-2 and V-3 weapons could not prevent the drop in the amount of concrete being produced.

On 24 November 1943 the village of Audinghen was completely destroyed by an RAF bombardment. The OT infrastructure in the village was also severely damaged. Part of the infrastructure was transferred further inland to the village of Hardinghen.

 

1944

 

In 1944 the Einsatz Kanalküste had been reorganized once more. Even though it was still made up of 5 Oberbauleitungen, these were now: OBL Nordwest (which had absorbed the OBL Audinghen, Oberbaurat Wagner), OBL Schmidt (V-weapons), OBL Rouen (Oberbaurat Spörl), OBL Cherbourg (Oberbaurat Cardinal) and the OBL Seine (Oberbaurat Eichholz). The Oberbauleitungen which interest us here were further subdivided into the following Bauleitungen:

  • OBL Nordwest
    • Bauleitung St-Pol (Bauleiter Schiller, previously Dipl. Ing. Jonas, Dr. Schütte
    • Bauleitung Calais (Bauleiter Hohensee, succeeded by Wagner)
    • Bauleitung Wissant (Bauleiter Schiller)
    • Bauleitung Wimereux (Bauleiter Möves)
    • Bauleitung Le Portel (Bauleiter Brändlein)
    • Bauleitung Dannes (Bauleiter Bartels, succeeded by Hohensee)
    • Bauleitung Le Touquet (Bauleiter Mucke)
    • Bauleitung Rue (Bauleiter Mucke)
    • Bauleitung Watten (Bauleiter Koch)
    • Bauleitung Wizernes (Bauleiter Gieselhardt)
      • In March 1944 Watten and Wizernes were changed to Abschnitte,and organized into Bauleitung St-Omer under Dipl. Ing. Koch.
    • Bauleitung Clairmarais (Bauleiter Möller)
    • Bauleitung Aire-sur-la-Lys (Bauleiter Rost)
    • Bauleitung Lottinghem (Bauleiter Schneider)
    • Bauleitung Wiese (Bauleiter Benkert)
    • Location of OT-Lager: Audinghen, St-Omer, Calais, Erz(?), Dannes, St-Pol, Nordwest(?), Allenville(?), Bazinghen (OT Lager Marschall Paulus), Wissant (OT Lager Bauriedel)
  • OBL Rouen
    • Bauleitung Le Havre (Bauleiter Blankenhorn)
    • Bauleitung Trouville (Bauleiter Fabig)
    • Bauleitung Fécamp (Bauleiter Kentermann)
    • Bauleitung St-Valéry-en-Caux (Bauleiter Führig)
    • Bauleitung Dieppe (Bauleiter Bickel)
    • Bauleitung Le tréport (Bauleiter Brauers)
    • Bauleitung Lyre (?)
    • Bauleitung Bosc-le-Hard - St. Saëns (Rouen)
    • Bauleitung Croisset (Rouen)
    • Location of the OT-Lager: Rouen, Fécamp, Lyre(?), Ponthiery(?), Beauvais, Trouville, Conches-en-Ouche
  • OBL Cherbourg
    • Bauleitung Nord (Arsenal  Cherbourg)(Bauleiter Zimmermann)
    • Bauleitung Süd (Bauleiter Riese)
    • Bauleitung Caen (Bauleiter Ott)
    • Bauleitung Ost (Bauleiter Deppe)
    • Bauleitung Mitte (Bauleiter Wagner)
    • Bauleitung West (Baurat von Kreutzbruck)
    • Bauleitung Adolf (Alderney)(Bauleiter Ackermann)
    • Bauleitung Granville (Bauleiter von Mulert)
    • Location of OT-Lager: Cherbourg, Adolf (Alderney), Arsenal, Caen

In June 1944 the OBL Cherbourg was apparently upgraded to Einsatz Cherbourg, without further changes to the Bauleitungen, apparently.

In July1944 the Oberbauleitung Rouen was apparently upgraded and completely reorganized Firstly, it appears to have been upgraded to an Einsatz under an Einsatzleiter Spörl consisting of the following Bauleitungen:

  • Einsatz Rouen
    • Bauleitung Lisieux (Bauleiter Fabig)
    • Bauleitung Glos-Monfort (Bauleiter Jochurn)
    • Bauleitung Evreux (Bauleiter Diekelmann)
    • Bauleitung Motteville (Bauleiter Knetemann)
    • Bauleitung Sequex (Bauleiter Quehl)
    • Bauleitung Abancourt (Bauleiter Brauers)
    • Bauleitung Beauvais (Bauleiter Blankenhorn)
    • Bauleitung Gisors (Bauleiter Esser)
    • Bauleitung Lyre (Bauleiter Kühne)
    • Bauleitung La Bouille (Bauleiter Müller)
    • Bauleitung Dieppedale (Bauleiter Baumann)

In January 1944 the production of concrete had dropped to a low of 243,000 tonnes. However the arrival of Erwin Rommel as inspector of coastal defences prompted a new surge in concrete production, reaching 603,000 tonnes in April 1944. However, by July of the same year the amount had collapsed to 89,000 tonnes as a further result of the strategic bombardment. 

In order to be able to complete the massive effort of constructing the Atlantikwall the OT in France requires the use thousands of German, French and foreign workers, who worked for the OT either voluntarily or obligatory. In June 1944 the OT employed the following numbers in France: 15,000 Germans (OT personnel), 5,000 NSKK personnel, 85,000 French, 1,000 Norwegians and Danes, 10,000 Belgians, 20,000 Italians, 15,000 Spaniards, 5,000 workers from the Baltics, 25,000 Poles, 25,000 North-Africans and Indo-Chinese workers, 5,000 Russians, 10,000 Ostarbeiter and 50,000 other and political prisoners. Adding up these sub-totals produces a grand total of 291,000 workers. 

Spread along the Channel coast were the camps (Lager) and construction sites of the OT. In the Calais -  Boulogne area the following camps existed:

  • Audinghen (Oberbauleitung, Lager)
  • Monika Lager
  • Grand-Maison (Bazighen)
  • Warcove
  • Wissant (bombed by the RAF in spring 1944)
  • Audembert
  • Marquise (Luftwaffe-RAD)
  • Ferques
  • Château de Quennevacherie
  • Pihen-les-Guines
  • Guines (Luftwaffe - RAD)
  • Pueplingues (RAD-OT)
  • Sangatte
An exact number for the labourers employed in the Calais – Dannes area is difficult to establish, but might be around 25,000 at the height of the Atlantikwall construction 

In addition to volunteer labourers or temporarily forced labourers, there were of course also the forced slave labourers: political prisoners, Russian POWs, Jews and many. These were essentially locked away with no freedom and under bad living conditions in labour camps, when not working on the Atlantikwall. Such camps existed in Calais, Sangatte, Peuplingues, Bazinghen, Boulogne, Condette, Dannes, Merlimont and Fort-Mahon, amongst others. 

As a result of the massive use of (forced and slave) labour, but also the efficient organization of the OT, the construction of the Atlantikwall in France was undoubtedly a success, with 12,444 permanent (Ständig) bunkers of the Regelbauten types constructed (against 15,000 planned). To be added to this number are the more than 30,000 semi-permanent and light bunkers built in France during the war. If we divide the total number of bunkers constructed. With a coastline of 3,746 kilometres between Belgium and Spain, this means that at least 11.3 bunkers per kilometer were constructed on average. This effort, despite of the human suffering it caused, undoubtedly ranks the OT as one of the most successful and unique organizations in history.

4. Cooperation between the OT and the Festungspioniere in the construction of fortified defenses.

In 1942 guidelines were issued for the delineation of tasks and for the cooperation between the OT and the Festungspioniere in the construction of fortified defences. The document was signed by Xaver Dorsch, head of the OT-Zentrale in Berlin and General der Pioniere Alfred Jacob and consisted of three main parts:

a) RESPONSIBILITIES

The Festungspioniere were responsible for the tactical and fortress-technical interests, while the OT was responsible for the construction of fortified defenses.

b) TASKS OF THE FESTUNGSPIONIERE

The Festungspioniere had the following specific responsibilities:
  • the exploration (i.e. finding of locations)
  • the design of fortified defenses
  • the decision on the locations of the fortified defenses
  • the order (chronology) of the construction, taking into account the general tactical urgency
  • the making of construction drawing, including technical details and the tranfer to the OT
  • the instruction of the OT for each construction in the form of a written assignment
  • the guaranteeing of tactical-technical interests and ensuring that military regulations were observed during construction
  • the takeover of finished constructions
  • the transportation and delivery of armoured turrents and parts to the construction site
  • the fitting of:
    • the interior installation of armoured turrets
    • the work required on armoured plates in embrasures
    • the fortress-specific weapons and optics
    • the electrical installations for weapons and power
    • the machinery, including the machine-operated water supply as well as sewage infrastructure
  • the equipping of completed constructions with moveable objects and equipment (tables, chairs, tools, ...)
  • the management of the supply of fortress-specific parts and equipment (ventilation, heating, water, ...)
  • the management of the securing of construction sites and locally stored armoured parts which is to be executed by the OT in the context of available security units

c) TASKS OF THE OT

  • Assignments for the construction of fortified defenses for the Heer, Marine and Luftwaffe to the local OT-Baulietungen can only be given by the fortress engineer headquarters
  • On the basis of documents privided by the Festungspioniere the OT takes care by itself of the construction of the fortifed defenses right up until the schlûsselfertigen completion of the constructions (including camouflage and interior fixtures and fittings).
  • the OT is alone responsible for the supervision of the construction work and for the adequate nature of that supervision.
  • the OT provides all building materials (excepted those mentioned above) and directs the supply.
  • the OT is responsible for the defensive supervision of the labour force and guards the construction sites
  • the OT is responsible for making available the manpower and and vehicles required for the work to be executed by it.
  • the OT is responsible for providing the information required by the Festungspioniere as concerns construction progress and targets.
  • the OT takes over assignments for further defensive constructions (e.g. barbed wire, trenches, firing position, ...) when this is necessary for reaching fast operational capability or when the OT has labour forces available for this.
  • the OT is responsible for checking the quality of the concrete used during and after the construction

The document then finishes by stating that only the will to be closely cooperate in mutual trust will lead to success.

In an extra page the document then further mentions the information to be included in the report drawn up on site when the exact location of a buinker is being planned. Thus, the following was to be included:

  • Description of the construction (e.g. Regelbau, Unterstand  as depicted in deawing x, feldmässige  fire position for MG according to sketch y, barbed wire obstacle with a width of 5m, and so on)

  • The exact location on the terrain (to be marked with poles) and located on a sketch

  • The height of foundations and embrasures (relative to a fixed point of reference)

  • A visual representation of details that either non-standard or invisible (e.g. protection against ground water, protective walls, location of cable entrances/exists, wells, powersupply, etc)

  • Details of existing camouflage to be retained (e.g. trees), as well as the nature of the camouflage during the construction process, also of the construction site

  • A visual representation of the entrance space (Hof), as well as of the form and mass of the protection (by means of a sketch or drawing)

  • The type of cmouflage for the completed construction

5. OT OVERVIEWS OF BUNKER CONSTRUCTION

On 15 April 1942 the Einsatzgruppe West released a detailed status report of  U-boat, air force and coastal defence constructions in the West. What is striking is that while a lot of progress was made in the construction of the former two, the construction of coastal defences was lagging. Coastal defence constructions had clearly not been a priority. Indeed, at this time the OT had primarily been working for the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe, rather than for the Heer. The Oberbauleitungen located in the area of command of the AOK 15 were the Oberbauleitungen Belgien (Belgian coast and French coast until Dunkirk), Audinghen (Dunkirk until Berck-sur-Mer) and Kanal (Berck-sur-Mer to Granville)(partially). The overview below details the number of Heer VF-bunkers planned and realized in these sectors at this time.

As can be seen from the above table hardly any VF-bunkers had been constructed for coastal defence purposes. If we consider the entire sector of the Einsatzgruppe West only 75 of the planned 986 bunkers, none of the planned 66 gun emplacements had been constructed and 12,050m³ of the planned
229,150m³ planned concrete poured for miscellaneous constructions. In fact, of the 75 VF-bunkers constructed, 74 had been constructed on the Channel Islands (part of the Oberbauleitung Normandie).