the Maginot line

 

The Maginot Line is a defense line built between the two World Wars, whoose name comes from André Maginot, the Minister of the War at that time. It is often seen as a line whoose aim is to defend to french-german border, but it starts in the North of France and continues until the south to Italy, even if that part is often called the Alps Line.

There are a certain number of clichés about the Maginot Line. The most famous one is also the less respectful of the veterans, French or German: “The Maginot Line was of non-use.” It is important to know that the aim was not to stop the enemy, but to make him go around in order to give the country and the army the time to mobilize. This brings us to another cliché about this defense line: “The French army didn’t know the German one would go and invade France through Belgium”. Actually, it is quite hard to imagine France didn’t know this: the German army did the same in 1914, and for the same reason, go around the fortresses.

Such a defense line therefore allowed to defend the border (in theory, one fortress was enough to defend 20 km of frontier) with a limited number of men (The “classes creuses” caused by World War I, age groups depleted by low birthrate). In 1922, the CDF (Commission de Défense des Frontières / Comity for the Defense of the Frontiers) is founded, with Philipe Pétain being its leader. In 1927, this organization takes the name of CORF and the first works begin at the Italian border. At that time, the italian fascism seemed to be more dangerous than the Weimar Republic. However, building sites are to be seen in the north-east from 1929…

On January 14th 1930, the Senate votes for a budget to build the line. It is said it was about 3 billions gold francs (it is impossible to give an equivalent in euros), but it increased during the building, because of the crisis and the inflation. Another reason for this is that Adolf Hitler took the power in Germany in 1933. The day the budget was voted, André Maginot, a former soldier who was badly injured during World War I, was present. He was the War Minister at that time, and was one of the most important supporter of the building of fortresses at the border. Therefore, in his honor, his name was given to this line. He died on January 7th 1932, long before the end of the building. This name was given to the line after his death.

Most of the fortresses were undefeated. The French fortresses troops had to follow an assignment after the German army managed to invade France, and to surrender for political reasons after the Armistice of June 22nd 1940, with the honors of the war.