Remagen

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Remagen
Apollinariskirche
Apollinariskirche
Coat of arms of Remagen
Coat of arms
Remagen   is located in Germany
Remagen
Remagen
Coordinates: 50°34′43″N 7°13′50″E / 50.57861°N 7.23056°E / 50.57861; 7.23056Coordinates: 50°34′43″N 7°13′50″E / 50.57861°N 7.23056°E / 50.57861; 7.23056
Country Germany
State Rhineland-Palatinate
District Ahrweiler
Subdivisions 5
Government
 • Mayor Herbert Georgi (CDU)
Area
 • Total 33.16 km2 (12.80 sq mi)
Elevation 60 m (200 ft)
Population (2012-12-31)[1]
 • Total 15,887
 • Density 480/km2 (1,200/sq mi)
Time zone CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
Postal codes 53424
Dialling codes 02642, 02228
Vehicle registration AW
Website www.remagen.de

Remagen is a town in Germany in the Land Rhineland-Palatinate, in the district of Ahrweiler. It is about a one hour drive from Cologne, just south of Bonn, the former West German capital. It is situated on the left (western) bank of the River Rhine. There is a ferry across the Rhine from Remagen every 10–15 minutes in the summer. Remagen has many beautiful and well-maintained buildings, churches, castles and monuments. It also has a sizeable pedestrian zone with plenty of shops.

Overlooking the west bank of the Rhine just north of the city centre is the Apollinariskirche. It has a great observation deck that is only open to parishioners on Sundays. Pedestrians reach the church via a dirt trail that passes a series of roadside monuments representing each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross. The church grounds contain an outdoor crypt and an abbey. Further down the river is one of the many castles along the River Rhine, perched even higher than the Apollinariskirche.

History[edit]

The Roman Empire built a border fort at Rigomagus (or Ricomagus), west of the Rhine. This was about 12 miles north of the site of the first bridge ever built across the Rhine (at Neuwied). This bridge fought the river current by being built on timbers which were driven into the bed at a slant. Caesar's troops spent nearly three weeks on the east side of the river, then crossed back over, destroying the bridge to prevent its use by German raiders. A second bridge was likewise destroyed by the builders once they were through with it.

The fort was one of a series built by Drusus, commander of the Roman army along the Rhine. Other Roman construction survived the centuries, including a gateway and Remagen became a tourist destination, popular with history buffs.

Local legend says that a ship carrying various relics from Milan to Cologne was stopped in the river in 1164, unable to move despite the strong current, until it mysteriously edged in toward the shore. The remains of St Apollinaris were put ashore, and the ship was then able to sail onward. These remains were interred in a chapel which had been part of the Roman fort, which became the basis for a church which bore his name, and was rebuilt several times over the years.

The Bridge at Remagen[edit]

The Ludendorff Bridge was originally built during World War I as a means of moving troops and logistics west over the Rhine to reinforce the Western Front. The bridge was designed by Karl Wiener, an architect from Mannheim. It was 325 metres (1,066 ft) long, had a clearance of 14.8 metres (49 ft) above the normal water level of the Rhine, and its highest point measured 29.25 metres (96.0 ft). The bridge carried two railway tracks and a pedestrian walkway. During World War II, one track was planked over to allow vehicular traffic.

The capture of the bridge[edit]

Main article: Ludendorff Bridge

The Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen—the last standing on the Rhine—was captured by soldiers of the U.S. 9th Armored Division on 7 March 1945, during Operation Lumberjack. On 7 March 1945, soldiers of the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, led by Lieutenant Karl H. Timmermann, from West Point, Nebraska, approached the bridge, and found it standing. The first American soldier across the bridge was Sergeant Alex Drabik; Lt. Timmermann was the first officer across.

Although the bridge's capture is sometimes regarded as the "Miracle of Remagen" in U.S. histories, historians[who?] debate the strategic importance of the capture of the bridge at Remagen. General Eisenhower said that "the bridge is worth its weight in gold". However, few U.S. units were able to operate east of the Rhine ahead of the main crossings in the south, under Generals Patton and Bradley, and in the north, under Field Marshal Montgomery (Operation Plunder). Ultimately, only a limited number of troops were able to cross the Rhine before the bridge collapsed. However, the psychological advantage of having crossed the Rhine in force and in pursuit of the retreating Wehrmacht improved Allied morale while communicating disaster to the retreating Germans.

In the immediate days after the bridge's capture, the German Army Command desperately attempted to destroy the bridge by bombing it and having frogmen mine it. At least 5 anti-aircraft artillery battalions including the 452nd AAA had one or more of their mobile batteries located strategically around the bridge and repelled wave after wave of enemy planes, shooting down at least 30 of them. Hitler ordered flying courts-martial that condemned five officers to death. Captain Bratge, who was in American hands, was sentenced in absentia while the other four (Majors Scheller, Kraft and Strobel, and Lieutenant Peters) were executed in the Westerwald Forest.

Soldiers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked long hours to stabilize and repair the bridge (with American combat troops stationed to guard the bridge sometimes shooting out their worklights to make their position less visible to the enemy). To increase traffic capacity, the engineers also laid pontoon bridges upstream and downstream of the Ludendorff Bridge. However, ten days after its capture, the bridge suddenly collapsed into the Rhine, killing 28 soldiers of the Army Corps of Engineers. Some[who?] speculate that the wear and tear of weeks of bombardment, combined with the vibrations produced when a V-2 rocket slammed into the earth at 2,880 kilometres per hour (1,790 mph), was enough to cause the collapse of the bridge.[citation needed]

U.S. Army Military Police 1LT John "Jack" Hyde commanded a detachment of MP in the 9th Armored Division. Only 4 months before, he was a 2LT serving in the Battle of the Bulge when he refused access to LTG George Patton to a restricted area. Patton demanded to be let through and asked for his name. Patton saw that Hyde was promoted, and Patton stopped by the bridge to make sure he was promoted. Hyde was the Division's Officer in Charge of the flow of men and materials across the bridge and established a rigid traffic control that his soldiers enforced. Hyde even refused to stop traffic for Field Marshal Montgomery, the highest-ranking officer in the British Army, who demanded traffic be stopped so he could take a picture. After Hyde's stiff refusal, MG William Hoage commended him for his obedience to his post and orders. Hyde received a Silver Star for his efforts, and his military police soldiers much praise; as they were last to cross the Rhein.

When the bridge collapsed, the Americans had established a substantial bridgehead on the far side of the Rhine and had additional pontoon bridges in place. Because the pontoon bridges and other secured crossing points had supplanted the bridge, its loss was neither tactically nor strategically significant. Still, the Ludendorff Bridge remained important as the first point at which Allies crossed the Rhine.

A large number of books and articles in newspapers and magazines on the subject of the bridge have been published. The best-known work on the battle is 1957's The Bridge at Remagen by the American author Ken Hechler. In 1968 David L. Wolper produced an American motion picture, The Bridge at Remagen. The film depicts actual historical background, but is fictional in all other aspects.

Memorial[edit]

Remagen commemorative plaque.

Hans Peter Kürten, at that time Mayor of Remagen, had long considered the idea of constructing a memorial. The negotiations with the German Federal Railway alone lasted seven years before the city could finally acquire the former railway property. Announcements sent to government officials concerning the intended preservation of the bridge towers and the construction of a Memorial to Peace stirred no interest.

In the summer of 1976, it was necessary to remove the still intact bridge support pilings in the river. The mayor had the stones deposited on the Remagen river bank, with the idea in mind of selling small pieces of the bridge stones enclosed in synthetic resin and containing a certificate of authenticity.

On 7 March 1978, he went public with his idea and achieved such an unexpected degree of success, that he had realised more than 100,000 DM (around 50,000 EUR) in sales profits.

There has not been another bridge built across the Rhine here, mainly due to opposition from the people of Remagen (and surrounding areas), contending that a bridge located at this point along the Rhine would spoil the view.

Prisoner enclosures[edit]

Reemagen enclosure.jpg

In 1945, the U.S. built one of the many enclosures on the west bank of the Rhine—the so-called Rheinwiesenlager—close to Remagen. The camps were used by the Allies to house captured German soldiers. Several thousand prisoners are estimated to have died in the various camps, including 1,212 who are now buried in the Bad Bodendorf Cemetery.[2] They were deprived of the legal protection that the Geneva Convention provides prisoners of war by being redesignated as Disarmed Enemy Forces. The International Red Cross was not permitted to investigate conditions in the camps.

Sights[edit]

Apollinariskirche[edit]

The Apollinaris Church was built 1839-1842 on the site of the medieval Church of St. Martin. The frescos on the inside of the neo-Gothic church were painted by members of the artists group called the "Nazarenes". Three cycles show the life of Jesus, the life of Mary, and the history of Saint Apollinaris, legendary Bishop of Ravenna. In the crypt is a silver bust of the saint, which is raised from the sarcophagus every year at the pilgrimage time at the end of July. From the statue of Saint Francis of Assisi on top of the church, there is a lovely view of Remagen and the romantic Rhine Valley.

Peace Museum "Remagen Bridge"[edit]

Bridge towers

The museum is housed in the towers of the famous bridge built between 1916 and 1918. It opened in 1980 and tells the story of the bridge and the US prisoner of war camp known as the Golden Mile, on the eponymous plain.

Arp Museum housed in the Bahnhof Rolandseck[edit]

The historic railway station at Rolandseck about 5 km north of Remagen, now houses a museum devoted to the work of Hans Arp. The 19th century railway station - itself a classic example of early German railway architecture - was transformed into a cultural venue for all the arts in the 19th century. Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt gave concerts there. George Bernard Shaw staged his plays there. The young poet Guillaume Apollinaire even fell in love there. Neglected, the building was listed for demolition after World War II, but in 1964 the Bonn art dealer Johannes Wasmuth brought it back to life. Musicians such as Martha Argerich, Stefan Askenase, and Yehudi Menuhin, artists such as Hans Arp, Oskar Kokoschka and Günther Uecker, and performers such as Marcel Marceau have all appeared there.[3]

Infrastructure[edit]

Remagen station is on the Left Rhine line and the Ahr Valley Railway. It is served by InterCity, Regional-Express (the Rhein-Express, at hourly intervals) and Regionalbahn services (MittelrheinBahn, at hourly intervals) operating between Cologne and Koblenz. It is also served by Rhein-Ahr-Bahn services on the Ahr Valley Railway to Ahrbrück at hourly intervals.

Personalities[edit]

  • Peter Maech, 23rd abbot of Maria Laach (1512–1552)
  • Henriette Jügel (born 1778 in Remagen), painter
  • Emilie Storck (born 1827 in Remagen), wife of Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen
  • Thomas Gottschalk (born 1950), German TV presenter, lives at Schloss Marienfels
  • Rudolf Caracciola (born 1901 in Remagen; died 1959 in Kassel), racing driver
  • Bernhard Philipp (born 1948 in Remagen), Capuchin, theologian, artist
  • Klaus Barth (born 1935 in Remagen), retired ambassador, assistant chairman of the German Nepal Friendship Association
  • Jean Lessenich (born 1942 in Remagen), tracer, author
  • Baptist Schneider (1867–1946), photographer in Remagen
  • Roland Ries (born 1930 in Remagen), prelate, first clerk of the Catholic bureau in Mainz, president of the Deutsche Krankenhausgesellschaft (German hospital association)
  • Willi Ockenfels (born in Remagen), missionary in South Africa
  • Stefanie Manhillen (born 1973 in Remagen), artist
  • Charles Rettinghaus (born 1962 in Remagen), actor and dubbing artist

Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]