The History of the Bridge

 

Beschreibung: The original bridge 

The bridge at Remagen was built during the First World War at the urging of the German generals, so that more troops and war materials could be brought to the Western Front.

The railway bridge was designed by Karl Wiener, an architect from Mannheim.  It was 325 meters long, had a clearance of 14.80 m above the normal water level of the Rhine, and its highest point measured 29.25 m.  The bridge carried two rail lines and a pedestrian walkway.

It was considered one of the finest steel bridges over the Rhine.

The former "Ludendorff bridge", in the background Remagen

 

The Capture of the Bridge
On 7 March 1945 an advance unit of the 9th US Armored Division, led by LT Karl H. Timmermann, an American of German descent, reached the last intact bridge, just after the German defenders twice failed in their demolition attempts.

The capture of the bridge is known in the annals of the war as the "Miracle of Remagen".  General Eisenhower stated that "the bridge is worth its weight in gold".  In the days immediately following, the German High Command made desperate attempts to destroy the bridge by bombing and even employing frogmen.

Hitler irately convened a court-martial which condemned five officers to death, four of whom were actually executed in the Westerwald Forest.

On 17 March 1945 the bridge collapsed.  At least 30 American soldiers lost their lives.

The Bridge in the Media
The best known work about the episode was written in 1957 by the American author Ken Hechler, and is entitled "The Bridge at Remagen" (7th Revised Printing 2004 ISBN 0-929521-79-X).

In 1968 David L. Wolper produced an American motion picture, "The Bridge at Remagen".  The film depicted the actual historical background, but was fictional in all other aspects.

In addition, a large number of books and articles in newspapers and magazines on the subject of the bridge have appeared.

The Idea of the Memorial
Hans Peter Kürten, at that time Mayor of Remagen, had long busied himself with the idea of constructing a memorial.  The negotiations with the German Federal Railway alone lasted seven years before the city could finally aquire the title to the former railroad land.  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 realized more than 100.000 DM in sales profits.

The Memorial
Just two years later, on 7 March 1980 the Memorial was opened to the public.  In the meantime Kürten had obtained additional help from the Employment Office in the form of a project for the unemployed.  The towers of the bridge were cleaned out, windows and doors installed, the walls white-washed and electricity installed.

The towers contain an exhibition which recounts the history of the bridge.  In a small video room a documentary done by the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst is shown.  One is reminded of the bridge's construction, its capture and the battles for the bridge involving German, American, Belgian and British soldiers.

A documentation of more than 200 wars since 1945 have been added.

More than 760,000 people have visited the Peace Museum since 1980.

The main theme in the Peace Hall, however, applies to everyone:

Every day let us work for peace with our mind and heart.

Each person should begin with himself.