Remembrance places, Northern Alsace
Torn asunder by France and Germany in recent history, the heart-rending past of Alsace began with the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. The outcome of the fighting and battles (Wissembourg and Froeschwiller) was the annexation of Alsace to Germany. New lines of defence were then built, such as Mutzig Fort, to make sure Alsace would remain a part of Germany.
The return to French rule in 1918 and the threat of further war led to the construction of the Maginot Line in 1929 along the river Rhine and close to the northern border with the Palatinate. Contrary to common belief, this line played a key role in pushing back the German troops eight days after the armistice of 22 June 1940. But the French defeat led to Alsace and Moselle being annexed by the Third Reich until 1944-45. From this time, the places of horror had a name : Natzweiler-Struthof, the only concentration camp located in France, and Schirmeck-Vorbruck, a high-security prison camp of which virtually nothing remains.
Today, Struthof bears witness to this troubled past, as does the path for prisoners linking the two camps and the smugglers’ trail, which was the road to freedom for escaped prisoners, deserters and men who refused to be drafted into the German army. The Alsace-Moselle Memorial at Schirmeck stands as a powerful reminder of these events in Alsace, a land where history is ever present.