Germany / Fortification
Located near the Dutch border in Horbach, a district of Aachen, are tank traps that were once part of the Westwall. Constructed in March 1938, they are now protected monuments, showcasing the fortification line’s course.
From Horbach heading northeast-southwest, runs a section approximately 2km long of the armoured fortifications of the ‘Westwall’. In total, this stretched from the Swiss border to Brüggen, near Viersen. Spanning over 630km in length with more than 18,000 bunkers and tunnels and countless trenches and tank traps, the Westwall used enormous amounts of material and human resources. In the Rhineland alone, 7,500 trucks and 4,500 train carriages delivered the building materials, with 3,500 buses used to transport workers to the construction sites.
During the war, Horbach was strategically important for both Allied and German forces. Fortifications were built here from March 1938, and consisted of an initial four-span tank barrier (four lines of armoured barriers in a row), later expanded to five-span (five lines of armoured barriers in a row). These anti-tank barriers formed the final stage in the development of approach obstacles such as the Roman Limes or the medieval land fortifications. The four rows of concrete bumps were dug into the ground and protruded further and further out of the ground as seen from the attack side. Strip foundations were used to reinforce the structure, which had a width of up to 13.45m.
The construction of armoured obstacles was intended to reduce the danger of enemy tanks by requiring them to concentrate the attacks in certain places. Here, the hope was to intervene by a mobile defence of tank forces and anti-tank missiles.
As the Front continued to advance from the west in 1944, the Allies developed several methods to overcome the obstacles. Usually, infantry forces went ahead, formed a bridgehead, and then blew a gap in the obstacle so that their tanks could pass. From the German side, the Allies' movements were successfully controlled through the use of these obstacles, but they lacked forces of their own in the form of tanks and artillery pieces to counter the Allied advance.
Today, the tank traps remain well preserved and are almost the only traces of the former fortification line. They document its course and are now protected monuments.
Horbacher Straße 276, 52072 Aachen