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So the Siegfried Line's still there

01:00 Mon 08th Apr 2002 |

A.Yes - and it looks as though it's going to stay that way. The Siegfried Line, 400 miles of Second World War defences built to keep the Allied armies out of Germany, has been granted protected monument status.< xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

The defensive line on Germany's western frontier, from Belgium to Switzerland, is known in Germany as Westwall, but the Allies always referred to as the Siegfried Line.


A.A derogatory nickname, as in the popular British soldiers' song at the beginning of the war: 'We're going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line - if the Siegfried Line's still there.'

Q.And did they

A.No. That part of the battle was fought by American troops. German troops retreating from France in 1944 found it an effective barrier against the pursuing Americans, who did not break through until spring 1945. The fighting at Aachen was particular fierce, with thousands casualties on both sides.

Q.So what actually is the Westwall

A.A series of concrete bunkers, walls, gun pits and 'dragon's teeth' tank traps. More than eight million tons of cement and a million tons of steel were used in the line's construction.

Q.But surely there's not much of it left to conserve

A.Over the years, many farmers filled in bunkers with earth. Others tried destroying them. It was difficult, though. These fortifications - mainly reinforced concrete - withstood military explosives, so they weren't going to succumb to rural sledgehammers.

Campaigners backed up their case for conservation with the unsuccessful attempts by the French to remove the Nazis' concrete fortifications along the Channel coast. The German Ground Monument Protection office has agreed that an eight-mile stretch of the line between Lammersdorf and Hargard facing Belgium should be preserved. Another part - from Hellenthal to Aachen - will be granted protection later this year. It's not yet known what will be done with the rest of the Westwall.

Q.I suppose it can be left as a sort of monument

A.The decision marks a victory for historians and environmentalists who want to keep for posterity one of the most visible survivors of the Nazi era.

One of the campaigners, Heinz Sch�mmer, said: 'We should leave this for future generations to wonder about the crazy regime that spawned it in the first place.'

Q.And what about this famous song

A.It was written by Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Carr in 1939 and here's a segment of it:

We're going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line.

Have you any dirty washing, mother dear

We're gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line

'Cause the washing day is here.

Whether the weather may be wet or fine

We'll just rub along without a care.

We're going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line

If the Siegfried Line's still there...

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Steve Cunningham

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