The German Offensive in the Saar

Along with the offensive along the Rhine against the Maginot works in Alsace, the Germans began a concerted attack against the Maginot Line from the rear. While the results would appear to be those of overwhelming victory, it is only a part of the story. The region of the Saar, had been late in terms of fortifications.


Anyone who has driven across France will have experienced the valley of the river Saar; the descent then the climb out of the valley is taxing, even for modern vehicles. Initially, when the line was planned and constructed, the area was referred to as the 'Saar Gap for two reasons; firstly there was the issue of the French-annexed area of the Saarland and secondly the suitability of the actual land for the construction of fortifications.



As the Saarland was going to be subject to a plebiscite, any potential constructions could easily finish up in what would ultimately become German territory, as proved to be the case. The area likely to be returned was, however, far better suited in its topography for deep level, subterranean fortifications, whereas the Saar region as a whole was low-lying, with a high water table. The defences of the Saar basin came under the second phase of construction; as such they were poorly provisioned, having only smaller infantry forts located either side of the valley, because large-scale artillery forts had not been built. Although a third phase was planned to upgrade and extend the smaller works, this too was never realised.



The defences constructed in the valley relied on flooding to prevent any potential advance, with small casemates defending the dams against any attempts to release the artificially-created lakes. In the valley and along the heights to the east and west, the additional interval troops had been withdrawn in a vain attempt to stem the advancing invaders elsewhere in France.



Even on the higher ground, unless the fortifications came within the protective range of a larger artillery work, they were vulnerable to attack, more so if the assault was from the rear, because the aviailable heavier ordnance was not oriented for such an eventuality.

Above images copyright of Dunkirk 1940 Museum.

The following images have kindly been provided by Markus Lauer and depict the aftermath of the battle. These images were originally taken by German troops; as such they have not previously been published. The locations are between Puttelange and Sarralbe.
















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