The Blockhouse at Eperlecques, France

This vast (and I mean massive) concrete blockhouse hidden in the Eperlecques forest on the rolling

The massive German-built concrete blockhouse.

The massive German-built concrete blockhouse.

green countryside west of Watten, is a potent example of the grandiosity of Hitler’s plans and how he stopped at nothing to achieve them. It was the first site chosen by Hitler to serve as a factory for fuel production, assembling and launching of up to 36 V2 rockets per day.

It was the largest blockhouse in northern France. Constructed of 120,000 cubic meters of concrete, this great square concrete block towers 22 meters high, 75 meters long and 35 meters wide. The 17.5-meter-high, 2.5-meter-thick pivoting doors alone weigh 213 tons each.

A reader board near the entrance explains how forced labor camps were set up wherever important Nazi building projects were undertaken, under the supervision of the Organisation Todt. The living conditions in them were very hard with beatings, executions, cruelty, accidents, lack of medical care and inadequate food.

Entrance building to Le Blockhaus d’Eperlecques.

Entrance building to Le Blockhaus d’Eperlecques.

Hitler ordered the construction of this facility in December 1942, and it was started soon after in March 1943. Bombing by the allies began in June 1943.

Speakers and audio guides narrate the background and history about what you are seeing, at selected points. As you continue up the path to the blockhouse, various weapons and reader boards are displayed in the open air. You’ll see a howitzer, an unexploded (but defused) 1,000-pound bomb, a German mini-submarine, and concrete and metal tetrahedrons.

Around to the right of the blockhouse, is a scene of devastation where a Tallboy bomb totally pulverized a section of the bulkhead. It looks like a giant stomped on it, upturning huge pieces of concrete, rods of rebar reinforcing steel sticking out at all angles. On 3 July 1944, the order was given to cease all construction at the Blockhouse. Finally, on 4 September 1944, Canadian forces captured the site.

Passing around to the next wall the self-guided tour descends down into the blockhouse itself. The thickness of the walls and the wide, dimly lit 22.5-meter-high passages add to the dark gloomy atmosphere of this place.

A theater plays a slide show with pictures from Wermacht archives, showing the history of German

Remnants from the Allied bombing.

Remnants from the Allied bombing.

wartime rocket research.

Le Blockhaus d’Eperlecques (Rue du Sart, 62910 Eperlecques, France; phone 03 21 88 44 22, website www.leblockhaus.com). The museum hours vary by month: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (March, November); 10-6 (April, October), and 10-7 (May-September). Admission is €7, adults; €4.50, children. Allow at least two hours.