Tucked away in the Southwest corner of France at the mouth of the Bay of Biscay, sits the little town of Capbreton which my mom’s side of the family has been connected with since the 1800’s.
The town, once known as the City of 100 Captains, has a lively history; a Viking invasion, King Henry IV riding his horse through the doors of its ancient church and bumping his head on the portal, Napoleon III building a wooden jetty to protect the port that still stands today and a German occupation during World War II by that left defense bunkers on the little town’s beautiful beaches.
It’s these bunkers that fascinate me the most. Built for Hitler’s infamous Atlantic Wall defense against an impending Allied attack; they were part of a massive complex of over 10,000 fortified structures stretching 2,000 miles, from Northern Norway down through France’s Atlantic coast right up to its border with Spain.
At the time, these fortresses were considered an impressive engineering feat, which many thought impregnable. Even after the Normandy landing proved this sentiment spectacularly wrong, the Nazis were still a fierce and terrifying force in occupied France, frequently executing or deporting to concentration camps anyone suspected of working against them and impoverishing the local communities they commandeered, leading to starvation and desperation.
Now, more than 70 years later, these once powerful symbols of German resilience and terror lay covered in graffiti amongst French surfers and beach goers living happy and free lives.
As these relics of a past darkness fade in to irrelevancy, we are again reminded by the events of the world that evil never fully goes away. Times and circumstances may change, but men’s hearts do not and we must always stand guard against tyranny and injustice and for freedom.