The Czech 'Maginot' Line



In 1918 when the armistice was signed, formally ending hostilities, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up. Having been one of the European dominant superpowers, it covered a vast area and in its wake a number of new countries emerged. It is important to remember that while these new nations were ratified by the Treaty of Versailles, it was not responsible for their creation. Czechoslovakia was one such such nation. The new nation was dominated ethnically by the Czechs and this was ultimately what would lead to future tensions.



From its earliest days, the new republic was in turn heavily influenced by the French (to the point where the French Military Attaché also served in the government as the Minister for War!) When Czechoslovakia began to look towards reinforcing its external borders, this French influence saw the creation of a defensive system being constructed based on the principles of the Maginot Line.



The Nazi policy of Lebensraum sought to exploit the internal tensions of their various neighbours, for their own ends. The ethnic tensions in Czechoslovakia were no exception to this. When the Germans absorbed first the Sudetenland region followed by the rest of the country after the Munich crisis in 1938, they quickly took the opportunity to use the newly-constructed border fortifications as a practice ground for future assaults on the Maginot Line itself. Due to the weapons tests and their later conversion for use as underground factories, the forts have been largely 'trashed'. Today it is possible to visit a number of the sites, although even with the love and attention now being paid to them, they are unlikely to ever fully represent what they originally were.


A good friend of the museum, Lukas Klein, a resident of the Czech Republic, recently visited some of the fortifications and has kindly given us permission to use his images here, for which the team at Dunkirk 1940 is most grateful. Along with the main images accompanying the text, please see the album below.


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To view more images on a Czech website, click here.

 
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