The KERFENT FORTRESS (in french: "petit ouvrage", code A.34) is an element of the chain of forts in France known as the "Maginot Line". The Kerfent fortress was built on a hill near Zimming, a village in Moselle (Lorraine) on a site defending the important main road (RN3) linking Metz (in France) and Saarbrucken (in Germany).
In 1940 Kerfent Fortress was one of the five fortresses of the "Fortified Zone of Faulquemont" (SFF), and at that time these five fortresses were only equipped with infantry weapons (machine-guns, anti-tank guns, mortars, and small arms) and they did not have powerful pieces of artillery of the kind that equipped the larger fortresses (gros ouvrages) situated further north. The guns of the Faulquemont Zone were those of gap regiments and those of local infantry divisions.
In May 1940, the German army launched the blitzkrieg in the Ardennes, via Belgium, thereby avoiding crossing the existing Maginot Line in Lorraine. The defeat of the allied forces in the north of France, and the evacuation of troops from Dunkerque, led to a breakthough for German forces. The Maginot Line had not been completed beyond Sedan (Ferte's work) leaving the frontier undefended in the north of France. The French generals therefore decided to redeploy their army to defend the regions to the south of the Loire.
The two divisions that were on the fortified field of Faulquemont have begun to withdraw in end of May, being left alone the fortress regiment.
June 13 1940 (Germans had already occupied Paris) the commando decided therefore to abandon the Maginot line. Gradually, the fortress regiments are withdrawn, leaving alone the crews of the casemate and the fortified works in order to hold the position some days and to cover the retreat.
On June 15, also the crews of the casemate withdrow after having sabotaged their emplacements. While against the area of the Saar starts a strong German offensive. The five fortifications of Faulquemont are fastened and without artillery protection. Also the crews of the works begin to prepare the sabotage and the abandonment of the fortifications, but they must resist still two days before escaping on foot in direction south towards the Vosgi.
On June 17, little time before the sabotage, the commanders of the fortifications received a countermand, that it imposed them to resist, cancelling therefore the evacuation! In fact, two German divisions (95° and the 167°.ID) are passaged in the Sarre and have begun the encirclement of the fortify field of Faulquemont and Boulay. The Germans of 167° division have estabilished that the casemate of Faulquemont had been abandoned.
On June 20 1940, German elements of 339° the infantry regiment, using a gun light type 88.FLAK and some guns tank destroyer type 37.PAK, succeed in to destroy to the block 2 (south) of fortification BAMBESCH; not having aid possibility, the crew surrenders the evening.
On June 21 1940, the first battalion of 339° German regiment (I/339.IR) begins the attack of fortified work KERFENT. Two guns of type 88.FLAK, some of type 37.PAK three batteries from 105mm and 150mm (33 guns in all) shoot on the block 3 (south), in which the crews come destroyed. Block 3, strongly damaged comes abandoned gives French, the men shelters into the gallery 30 meters under earth. In the forest, the German infantry move forward the work, but all at once the colonel of the regiment comes killed from the fire of the turret of machine-guns of the fortification of MOTTENBERG (in north). The attack is interrupted, but the commander of the battalion (major Golle) succeeds to throw again the troops to the attack; also the Kerfent turret makes fire, and many German soldiers come hurt before fields of barbed wire thread the fortification.
Into the Kerfent fortification, the French officials want to save the life of their crew, that has had to wear the gas masks because the enemy artillery has damaged the aeration system. Besides the radio transmits a lot to speak about the imminent armistice. In that situation, it is not possible to resist.
The captain Broché (of 156°RIF) commander of the KERFENT, thinks that the honour is but and decides therefore to surrender towards hours 10.
At the moment of armistice (June 25 1940) the Wehrmacht had captured only 5 of the 67 fortifications constructed from the Ardenne to the Rhin. KERFENT work was used in years 1960 by the Canadian Air Force realizing a place of communications radio NATO; later is been acquired by the municipality of ZIMMING. The fortification is somewhat damaged, and currently there is one meter of water inside its galleries. Perhaps never it will not be opened to the public. This website is created for the Memory and the memory of the men who have fought for the honour, little time before the armistice of June 25 1940.
Thanks for your interest!
TRADUCED by Francesco Fortina; thanks Francesco !!
CORRECTIONS by Kenneth Birbeck (Kenneth is British > easy ! thanks to you!)