by Erik Ettrup

The status "Festung" represented the highest degree of importance within the German defence terminology. Today this term seems to be used for all kinds of places. A bunker doesn`t mean that the place is a fortress.

The smallest position in the German defense arrangement was the Widerstandsnest (Wn).
A Wn was occupied of one or more groups. A group consisted of 9 soldiers and a sub-officer. The armament consisted in the mostly of light weapons. Depending upon individual combat order the armament by heavy weapons e.g. antitank defense cannons was strengthened.

The next step formed the stützpunkt (Stp). A Stp was geographical larger and more strongly armed. Normally a stp consisted of several Wn. Normally Wn and Stp were occupied by Heer troops. Additional complexes, e.g. radar positions or battery positions were often located within a Stp. Here troops of different branches of service were used. The tasks within Stp were then divided depending upon the order of the troops of the different armed services, e.g.: Heer - defense, navy - naval coastal battery, Air Force - radar equipments/Flak.

Strategically important areas received a higher status. These areas A StpGrp consisted of several Stp located in a way which made it possible to give protective and flanking fire for eachother. These groups had food and watersupplies for a certain number of days, depending on the location, making them possible to fight even if they were isolated from the rest of the area. Normally, all StpGrp are protectec with both light and heavy flak batteries.

Panzerwerk / Kernwerk
A special organizational unit was called Kernwerk. A Kernwerk should be established within strategically important areas/fortresses. It was characterized by placing very high weapon concentrations under almost exclusive use of concrete and armor protection, usually at locations for possible bridgeheads of the enemy. Kernwerk was used by infantry, but if the Kernwerk were built for protection against tanks, Panzerwerk would be used.

An purely organizational unit is the Verteidigungsbereich (VertBer). This designation was usually used for larger important strategical points such as ports and railway junctions. A VertBer should be led by a responsible officer independently. The VertBer should be kept as long as possible, and destroyed if evacuated.

Between VertBer and Festung no qualitative difference exists. In the late process of the war particularly important VertBer were defined as Festung. Only the most important VertBer were proclaimed to fortresses. The fortress was to be held under all circumstances down to the last man. The surrender of a Festung could sometimes have war-affecting effects. For each individual fortress a combat instruction co-ordinated with special local conditions was written.