To the Germans, Denmark was of vital strategic and tactical importance, and on the 9th of April 1940, “Operation Weserübung” the German invasion of Denmark was set in motion, even though it was in direct violation of a German–Danish treaty of non-aggression, signed the previous year. The subsequent 5-year Nazi occupation of Denmark provided the Wehrmacht with unhindered logistical access to Norway, and control over the entrance to the Baltic Sea, as well as control over most of the North Sea coast.
German occupation lasted until May, 1945, and even now, 60 years later, the bunkers are still there, and have proved to be are extremely resilient, even though the ocean tides, storms and sands have been hammering them brutally over the years. This interaction creates an interesting composition between history and the forces of nature.
Military architecture is intended to be as invisible as possible, which means its integration with nature is very well planned. Today, in contradiction, the bunkers along the Atlantic Wall are even more visible, after 60 years of fighting with nature. The fortifications around Hanstholm were built into the hill surrounding the small fishing village, and four 38cm cannons were installed, with a range of about 55,000 meters, and the capacity to shoot almost half the distance to Norway. These were used to block allied access to the Kattegat and the Baltic sea, and similar cannon emplacements were installed in Kristiansand in Norway, sealing the other side of the channel.
The Bunkermuseum at Hanstholm is also partially submerged into the hill, with the main museum section still visible above ground, while the various gun emplacements, logistical corridors, soldier’s quarters and ammunition storage facilities, remain completely integrated into the surrounding environment. Access by motorbike is extremely easy, and you can park the bike just 100 meters from the museum’s entrance.
After visiting the main Museum, you can make your way down into the underground bunkers, and feel the cold chill of a submerged military ecosystem, and see how the soldiers lived, how they handled the ammunition, and moved it by train from the many ammunition depots, out to the huge cannons, ready for firing. From here, you can see just how well-integrated these fortifications were, hidden from view, and protected by the hillside.
The entire area surrounding the museum is definitely worth exploring also, as it is littered with smaller gun emplacements, anti-aircraft installations, supply bunkers, and even a light rail system, which was used for transportation of ordinance and ballistic material around the site.
We got there relatively early in the morning, and managed to explore the area before the museum opened at 10.00am, and after some refreshments, spent another few hours exploring the museum itself. One of the interesting exhibits is a 2-meter long model of the world's largest canon, the infamous railway-cannon 'Dora', with an 80cm gun, mounted on a railway carriage. But that's another story...
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