About Westwall Museum
The Westwall Museum or Siegfried Line Museum near the western German village of Niedersimten allows visitors to enter a warren of tunnels which formed part of this renowned line of World War Two fortifications. Two decommissioned tanks guard the entrance to the Westwall Museum.
Westwall Museum history
The Siegfried Line was a military defense system along the western border of Germany. It was one of the most extensive construction projects of the Third Reich. The structure consisted of over 18,000 bunkers, tunnels, anti-tank barriers and graves and ran a total of 630 kilometres from the Dutch border to the Swiss border.
During the postwar period, many sections of the Siegfried Line were removed using explosives. In North Rhine Westphalia, about thirty bunkers still remain, most of the rest were either destroyed with explosives or covered with earth.
Since 1997 an effort has been made to preserve the remains of the Siegfried Line as a historical monument. This was intended to stop reactionary fascist groups from using the Siegfried Line for propaganda purposes.
At the same time, state funding was still being provided to destroy the remains of the Siegfried Line. For this reason, emergency archaeological digs took place whenever any part of the line was removed. The archaeological activity was not able to stop the destruction of these sections but it did reveal details of the line’s construction.
Westwall Museum today
Two decommissioned tanks guard the entrance to the fortress and museum. There are several museums across Germany that deal with the topic of the Westwall. In addition to this site in Pirmasens, there are Westwall museums in Irrel, Konz and Saar-Mosel.
The temperature throughout the fort is a constant 8 °C. Visitors can see an impressive amount of military equipment, mainly received from private collectors. Its artefacts include an armoury stocked with all types of weaponry, including smaller items such as gas masks and machine guns as well as larger exhibits. Examples include an anti-aircraft gun weighing more than 2 tonnes, large lorries, heavy motorcycles and a VW Kübelwagen. Soldiers’ quarters have been reconstructed and populated with mannequins dressed in Wehrmacht and Nazi uniforms.
Nature conservationists consider the remains of the Siegfried Line valuable as a chain of biotopes where rare animals and plants can take refuge and reproduce.
Getting to the Westwall Museum
The Westwall Museum lies underground in the former fortification of Gerstfeldhöhe. The village of Niedersimten, two kilometres south of Pirmasens, is reached via Bitscher Straße.