Garden bunkers unearthed

In my previous post I mentioned the WW II bunkers in the garden of Beeckestijn. I had not planned it this way, but this weekend I visited the garden of Toorenvliedt (Middelburg) and noticed several bunkers from the same era there. 1The bunkers formed part of a defense unit built by German soldiers as part of the Atlantik Wall, called Stützpunkt Brünhild. Like at Beeckestijn, the Toorenvliedt bunkers were covered with a layer of soil after the war, with plantations on them.

But where Beeckestijn seems to have buried the bunkers for good, another approach is taken in recent years at Toorenvliedt. A small foundation successfully urged the Middelburg council to revive this part of the cities’ history. 2The foundation is called Stichting Bunkerbehoud. It was decided to unearth one of the bunkers completely, and install an information center in it. In 2008 the bunker resurfaced, was connected to the electricity grid and the interior was adapted to its modern purpose. Now it is open at least once a year, but I’m sure the foundation wants it to be open more frequently.


[slideshow]

Photos HvdE 2011; map and RAF photo courtesy of watwaswaar.nl; aereal photo of new layout and photo of destruction courtesy of Zeeuws achief.
Mind: this slideshow may not work well on iPad.
Fact: clicking any separate picture in the slideshow opens the original image.

Toorenvliedt is an 18th century garden with 19th century alterations to house and garden. It was completely destroyed in 1944, when this part of Zeeland was inundated after the allied forces caused the sea dykes to break -in order to get the German forces to leave. The Germans left fairly quickly, the water stayed for over a year. Apart from all kinds of major damage to cities and human suffering, it also left an arid plain where once the almost 200 year old garden of Toorenvliedt had been. Only the ponds seem to have survived the flood.

That garden was redesigned and replanted shortly after the war, basically swiping its concequences under the rug. 3The garden was designed by C.P. Broerse in 1948. But the design and the trees were new and the park has now matured into a public park for the surrounding residential areas.

Knowing that, it makes sense to attempt to revive the memory of the devastation of those last war years by opening this bunker. Some of the other bunkers in the garden are also (partly) visible for the public. This way they present a more vivid reminder of the war period than the artifical hills at Beeckestijn now do. In January the Middelburg council decided to embed the work that needs to be done in and around the park in a participation in the European project “World War II Heritage”.

And then I thought: why not do the same at Beeckestijn? Beeckestijn yearns back to its 18th century splendour, but never seems to get it right, because there is no money or because there is no coherent plan (or both).
WW II was as instrumental for Beeckestijn as it was for Toorenvliedt: it meant a new beginning for both gardens. Maybe even more so for Beeckestijn, where the devastations of the war meant the end of a long period of neglect and the start of a new period of bloom. 4I make it sound more easy here than it actually was: the life of the garden was in danger for over a decade after the war before the decision to restore it was made.
I don’t see why this part of the estate’s past should remain buried.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. The bunkers formed part of a defense unit built by German soldiers as part of the Atlantik Wall, called Stützpunkt Brünhild.
2. The foundation is called Stichting Bunkerbehoud.
3. The garden was designed by C.P. Broerse in 1948.
4. I make it sound more easy here than it actually was: the life of the garden was in danger for over a decade after the war before the decision to restore it was made.
Summary

While the World War II bunkers at Beeckestijn are buried forever, the bunkers at Toorenvliedt are made visible. One of them is even turned into a WW II information center. An idea to introduce at other locations?

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