The construction of the bunker plant in Kreuzstrasse is closely connected with the mining of molding sand by the former Würmell molding sand works.
The beginning of industrialization in the 19th century led to the fact that iron and steel were not only forged by new technologies, but also directly formed into the desired geometry by casting.
For this purpose, the more and more emerging foundries needed a special sand that was dimensionally stable and thermally resilient.
The red sand found in our area was suitable for this purpose. It was formed here about 250 million years ago as a deposit of water and wind movements from the west.
Since this sand was burned out after a single casting and foundry technology became more and more widespread, there was a rapidly growing demand for this sand, which has been replaced since about the middle of the last century by reprocessable “synthetic” sand and is practically no longer needed today.
Wilhelm Würmell, former authorized signatory of the iron trading company Gebrüder Röchling in Ludwigshafen, founded the Würmell molding sand works on July 29, 1919, bought up the Wingertshübel to the right of Kreuzstraße and marketed the molding sand lying here by excavating the mountain in a southerly direction. The sand was transported by cable car across the village to the train station, where it was dumped into wagons and shipped.
The building area in the lower area to the right of Kreuzstrasse thus stands – as do the bunker entrances – in a former sand pit; the Wingertshübel originally extended as far as Kaiserstraße.
After Hitler came to power in the 1930s, the expansion of the West Wall was accelerated. Based on the experiences of the First World War, it was assumed that the planned campaign against France would take a long time. For this reason, the German Wehrmacht was looking for a suitable, conveniently located and secure site for a command post in the possible rear battle area against France.
The Saarpfalz Fortress Command, which was responsible for this, finally decided on Kindsbach and the Wingertshübel. Conveniently located near the railroad line, the mountain with its “tough” molding sand, which had already been cut by the molding sand pit, offered ideal conditions for an underground command post.
Planning of the facility took place from 1936 to 1938, and the Berger Company (Berlin) built the facility from 1938 to March 1940. Construction costs: 1.2 million Reichsmarks.
Since the molding sand pit could no longer be operated at Wingertshübel, but at the same time molding sand was urgently needed due to the rearmament for the upcoming world war, the Würmell molding sand works were allowed to continue mining sand “one mountain further”, namely at Kindsberg, with a corresponding lease agreement. When the demand for natural molding sand in the foundry industry dropped to practically zero in the middle of the last century, the operations of the Würmell molding sand works were completely discontinued in 1976 and the sand pit was declared a natural monument. It will probably be visible with its red wall for many decades to come.
Back to the bunker in Wingertshübel.
The available secret construction plan of the „Korps-Gefechtsstand Kindsbach“ of 1941 shows the plant with the 3 tunnels, main entrance (with entrance defense area and guard room) was the today’s entrance 1, there were 4 large lavatories, in the first tunnel on the left a coke cellar and a battery room, where today an emergency generator stands.
Since Hitler’s French campaign was not decided at the West Wall and the German Wehrmacht was already in Paris a few weeks after the start of the war with France, the bunker was less needed as a command center at the beginning of World War II; it was therefore used, among other things, as a storage facility for anti-aircraft ammunition.
This changed after the Allies landed in France and came closer and closer.
In 1944, parts of the Western High Command moved into the bunker, including two generals, one of whom lived in the Pfarrheim, the other in the Schlösschen (Hörnchenstraße, last house on the left).
At the same time, a part of the bunker (in the area of exit 4) was released as a civil defense bunker for the population, since at that time regular bombing raids on Kindsbach (also in connection with the Einsiedlerhof signal box) were already taking place.
As the Allies then came closer and closer at the beginning of 1945, the bunker was abandoned by the Wehrmacht. With German thoroughness, all documents on site were destroyed so that they would not fall into the hands of the enemy.
Then, in March 1945, General Patton’s tank units advanced from the northwest through Landstuhl to Kindsbach. On March 19, Landstuhl was occupied, on the evening of March 19 Kindsbach. A contemporary witness, the hairdresser Robert Fitz, described this to the author while cutting his hair in such a way that the people of Kindsbach had hoisted white flags, but as a precaution the first tank nevertheless fired once into the village and the bullet went through the living room of the hairdresser.
What the Americans did with the bunker is not known, certainly it was inspected. However, since this American unit had the mission to advance as quickly as possible to the Rhine, they did not deal with it for long.
The actual occupation troops following the first combat units were French.
They later took official possession of the bunker complex and planned to blow it up.
This would probably have blown up the entire Wingertshübel, which would not have ended without damage to the adjacent houses (Steigstraße). Furthermore, part of Kindsbach’s water supply came from a deep well inside the bunker (which still works today). Reason enough for the community of Kindsbach to vehemently oppose the blasting.
It is reported that the mayor at the time, Karl Mathieu, had good relations with the French; he spoke fluent French and often had a glass of red wine with the commander responsible for Kindsbach. He was obviously able to at least delay the demolition until the Americans showed interest in the bunker again with the beginning of the Cold War.
Immediately after the war, the French and later the Americans used the section of the Reichsautobahn in the direction of Saarbrücken, which ended near Ramstein and was not built further in 1941, as a runway.
Note: The highway was then built around the airport to Saarbrücken in the early 1960s. For the necessary fillings, the Galgenhübel was eroded to such an extent that the Silver Lake was created.
The Americans were looking for a protected, bomb-proof command post for Ramstein Airport, which was growing in importance during the Cold War, and the bunker was the perfect place for this.
In 1951, they took over the bunker from the French, who fortunately had not yet blown it up, and expanded it intensively, among other things with
- splinter protection superstructures at the entrances 1-3
- an additional 3-storey command center (Z-area)
- new heating and air conditioning system
- two large generator stations
- various remodeling of office spaces
and officially put it into operation on May 15, 1954 as a surveillance and control center (Combat Operation Center/ COC) with a crew of about 125 soldiers.
At the beginning of the 1960s, a further enlargement took place with two bomb-proof reinforced concrete superstructures, which were covered with earth and camouflaged (D-Area, construction costs: 3.8 million DM).
At the same time, a computerized air surveillance system (AWCS 412L) was introduced, which, using digital data technology with 1500Bits/sec (and that in the sixties!), was able to project all flight movements live on a large screen far (1600km) into the East. This made it possible to detect enemy aircraft very early and to target the own air defenses.
In 1965, a leasehold contract was concluded with the owner (the Würmell family) for the bunker site, which until then had only been requisitioned for military purposes.
In the 1970s, the facility was operated by NATO with about 200 people, including many German soldiers and also some who had married here and still live in Kindsbach today.
As SOC 3 (Sector Operation Center), central Air Space Coordination Center (ACC) and Headquarters US Airforce Europe (USAFE), the facility was one of the most important NATO air defense facilities in Europe during this time.
In the 1980s, parts of the facility were increasingly relocated to the Ruppertsweiler bunker; only during major maneuvers (WINTEX, REFORGER) was the facility fully used.
In 1984, decommissioning began – the facility had become too small, the expansion and renovation costs had been too high for continued use.
After the end of the Cold War, the facility was largely staffed only by two janitors and a few cleaners, and in 1993 the ground lease was terminated, returning the site and the bunker it contained to the original owner.
To date (2022), apart from the traces of time and some destruction caused by senseless break-ins in the bunker complex, everything is still more or less as it was handed over in 1993.
In the outer area in front of the bunker, a new street („Am Wingertshübel“) was built in the late 1990s with terraced houses, most of which are currently rented to NATO military personnel.
The plant has about 3500sqm floor space, it consists mainly of 3 galleries (A, B, C) with about 5m width, 4m height and 140m length. Between galleries B and C there is a 3-story area (Z1-Z3), heating and air conditioning (right outside between A and B) are 2-story. In the D area (bombproof porch), the left area is 3-story, the rest is single-story.
Adits A and C consist largely of a passageway with offices to the side; Adit C consists of larger offices accessible only through the transverse adits.
The main entrances, which are about 3m below ground level due to the buildings in front of the bunker, have been bricked up in the meantime because of climatic problems and for reasons of burglary protection; the former emergency exit 4 is still accessible.
Texts and images kindly provided by Wolfgang Würmell.
The tour of the former NATO bunker is only possible as part of a guided tour. The tour is not suitable for small children, people allergic to mold and people with claustrophobia. If you are interested, please contact the organizer or the owner:
Minimum number of participants:
- 10 persons
- Price: 10€ / person
There are also self-explorations of the plant with flashlight from 3 people possible by arrangement.
For even more historical background and pictures, visit www.geschichtsspuren.de.