The giant grey concrete bunkers disfigure Europe’s coastline from Norway via the Channel Islands, down to the French-Spanish border. The remnants of Adolf Hitler’s so called “Atlantic Wall” remain as grim reminders of Nazi occupation some 70 years after they were built. In most cases attempts to remove them have proved far too costly and local authorities have opted to leave them standing or turned them into macabre tourist attractions.
But near Ringkobing, on Denmark’s windblown west coast, nature is lending a hand. Its work has prompted the government to embark on a €1.5m (£1.3m) bunker demolition scheme. Bulldozers, drilling machines and even explosives experts have been brought in to raze 120 of Denmark’s 500 bunkers because they now pose a threat to fishermen and swimmers. More may follow in their wake.
Beach erosion by wind and waves means many of the bunkers are now surrounded by water at high tide. The sea has started to destroy their concrete superstructures and exposed the sharp and rusting iron rods used to reinforce them.
Most have welcomed the removal of such Nazi blots on the landscape. “The bunkers have not exactly beautified our coast,” says Ringkobing’s mayor, Iver Einvoldsen. But some, like Danish landscape architect Louise Kjaer, regret their removal. “The bunkers give the coastal landscape an edge,” she told Germany’s Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper. “And that’s not such a bad thing when there’s not much left to remind people about the horrors of war.”