Belgien / Geschichte

Elsenborn Camp


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The Elsenborn military training ground was established for the Prussian Army in 1894, when the region was part of the Prussian Rhine province. Today the 28 km² area and the adjacent camp are used by the Belgian army and at times by allied forces.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the presence of the camp contributed to developing infrastructure, economic and social life in the surrounding rural area. New water pipes were built, the electricity network was expanded, roads were paved, and schools and residential areas were built. The railway network was also expanded. The troops and their equipment, as well as heavy tank transports, arrived at nearby Sourbrodt station.

During the First World War, the training ground was also used as an artillery depot and as a prison camp for Polish and Russian soldiers. These were forced to build a bypass road from Kalterherberg to Nidrum in 1914 to 1915. After the First World War, British troops briefly occupied Elsenborn. In 1920, the districts of Eupen and Malmedy became part of Belgium and the grounds were henceforth used by Belgian troops.

On 10 May 1940, the grounds were taken by German armed forces, which used them once more as a training area and prison camp. On 6 August 1944, US aircraft attacked the military area, killing soldiers, Russian prisoners and civilians. After the fleeing German troops had set on fire and destroyed large parts of the installations, on 12 September 1944 the US 9th Infantry Division (Old Reliables) managed to take control of the area. Over 200 victims, which included civilians, prisoners and German soldiers, were buried in Nidrum.

In the course of the Battles for Elsenborn Ridge from 16 to 26 December 1944, German armed forces at first pierced most front lines, except for the lines of defense near Elsenborn. They only managed to gain temporary control over the eastern part of the Elsenborn military area. The US National WWII Museum presents the Battles for Elsenborn Ridge as ‘the real crusher to the German offensive plans in the Ardennes’ (https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/battleselsenborn-ridge-part-i).

Today, the camp consists of accommodation for troops, social and administrative facilities, as well as a chapel and, since 1998, a public museum. During the ‘migration crisis’ in 2015 to 2016 it was used as a centre for refugees.

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