A great adventure
The Association of the Fortified Sector of Faulquemont (ASFF) was born in 2007 from the will of some enthusiasts of the Maginot Line and on the initiative of Michaël FRANCOIS.
Indeed, his grandfather fought in 1940 near the combat block of Téting. Michaël and his group of friends decided to set up a project to take charge of and enhance this structure, one of the 53 in the North-East of France. It was a way to pay tribute to his grandfather and to all his companions at the time. It is under the name of Association du Petit Ouvrage de Téting (APOT) that this adventure begins.
Immediately joined by other enthusiasts, the association took off and made itself known. It presented its project to the municipality of Téting-sur-Nied and to the Ministry of Defense, owner of the land. The steps are going well, but the enthusiasts are gnawing at their brakes; it is decided that the association will undertake restoration work not far from Téting, at Block 3 of the block of Laudrefang. Property of the municipality of Laudrefang, Block 3 has a relatively easy access, presents interesting technical characteristics (not connected by underground gallery to the rest of the work which is still today property of the Ministry of the Armies) and a very rich history.
In June 2008, the Association started the work. One year later, in 2009, the statutes of the Association were modified: the APOT became the Association for the Safeguarding of the Small Works of Laudrefang and Téting (ASPOLT) and signed a 99-year lease with the municipality of Laudrefang to develop Block 3 and its 2 hectares of land.
Little by little, the site came out of the shadows and regained its 1940 appearance. Outside and inside, the band of enthusiasts is busy clearing brush, removing rust, repainting walls and equipment, reinstalling lighting and period furniture, in short, bringing the historic site back to life.
Years passed and in January 2019, the association, which never lost sight of its original idea, finally signed an emphyteutic lease with the municipality of Téting-sur-Nied to develop the 26 hectares on which the combat block of Téting is located.
Driven by its passion and caught up in its momentum, ASPOLT launched in 2020, at the initiative of its president Julien KALINOWSKI, a tourism development project to highlight the history of the fortified sector of Faulquemont as a whole and became, in 2023, the Association of the Fortified Sector of Faulquemont (ASFF).
The combat block of Laudrefang seen from the sky during the Heritage Days in 2017
The purpose of the ASFF is to promote the historical and touristic value of the fortified sector of Faulquemont and its 5 works, 4 of which are under its responsibility: the combat blocks of Kerfent, Einseling, Laudrefang and Téting.
The multiple battles that took place in the fortified sector of Faulquemont between June 16 and 25, 1940 form a single battle. As the Armistice was about to be signed and the French army was in disarray, the challenge for the French crews of the fortifications was to hold on at all costs in the face of intimidation and then German assaults, first for their honor, and then to hold on until the Armistice, preserving their lives and avoiding captivity.
On the German side, the stakes were symbolic: their army was triumphant, but the Maginot Line, reputed to be impregnable, still held. For the German officers, who watched the French concrete positions through binoculars, the hope was born of bringing down these isolated forts and reinforcing both the ego of the combatants and the idea of the omnipotence of the German army.
This strange war decidedly marked the territory and the French fighters forever.
Surrounded from June 16, 1940, the crews of Laudrefang and Téting resisted the violent enemy assaults and bombardments. Undefeated when the Armistice came into effect on June 25, these 400 men were nevertheless taken prisoner of war and sent to captivity in Germany. Five years later, they returned to France, morally and physically weakened. Some of them never came back. Accused of being responsible for the defeat of 1940 and of having been useless, they carried this burden until the end of their lives.
The volunteers of the ASFF, through their restoration and historical research, aim to make this area a place of memory and national influence of the history of these hundreds of men who fought for their lives and their freedom in June 1940, while everything around them was taken away.
The absurdity of this battle, the violence of the fighting and the wounded honor of the French soldiers are worth the many efforts made and to be made today to pay tribute to them and to make known to as many people as possible all the local, national and international consequences of the war and the debacle of 1940, of which the fortified sector of Faulquemont was the combative but powerless witness.
The aim is to pass on to future generations the memory and emotion of this little-known but key period in our recent national and European history.
In 2008, Block 3 of the fort of Laudrefang was abandoned, overgrown with vegetation and used as a wild waste disposal site. The interior was looted and scraped from the 1980s onwards. It’s an empty shell.
The first efforts are focused on external revaluation. Long brushing sessions are carried out, brambles are torn off, the immediate surroundings are secured. The field, deformed by the spillage of surplus land from the neighbouring football field created in the 1970s, is levelled in 2010 and 2019.
Inside, volunteers work to scrape away rust and faded paint. Block 3 is connected to the power grid in 2010. A temporary ventilation system and dehumidifiers are installed. Gradually, the pieces regain their authentic appearance. The walls are repainted according to the original colours. Period lighting is reinstalled and wired to current standards. Then, Block 3 gradually finds period equipment recovered according to various and complementary methods: exchanges with other associations, purchases on the Internet, flea markets, donations from private individuals, loans from the Ministry of Defence, collection in abandoned structures with the agreement of the municipalities concerned. From 2010, the 96-ton turret of major machine gun equipment and technological jewel is back in operation after 15 months of work.
In 2011, an 81mm mortar of more than 2 tonnes is on loan, for a renewable period of 3 years, from the Draguignan Artillery Museum in agreement with the Ministry of Defence. In 2017, a second identical mortar is made available under the same conditions in the mortar room.
In 2015, the Association benefited from the Lorraine Pact scheme and was awarded funds to restore the Block 3 electrical plant, located in the 2nd basement. 2 vintage Renault engines are reinstalled. In 2018, the Association celebrates the 10th anniversary of the start of the work during a specially dedicated weekend.
In 2019, a 99-year lease is signed with the municipality of Téting-sur-Nied, dedicated to the development by the association of the combat block of Téting and the 24 ha of forests that surround it. The ASFF carries out several days of clearing around the structure, which will not be restored inside but valorized outside with a path of memory.
In 2022, an emphyteutic lease is also signed with the commune of Longeville-lès-Saint-Avold in order to allow the development of blocks 1, 3 and 4 of the Kerfent combat block.
In 2023, the ASFF took over the Einseling combat block, in agreement with the municipality of Longeville-lès-Saint-Avold, a work that had been developed for over 20 years by the Friends of the Fortified Sector of Faulquemont.
In parallel with the restoration work, ASFF carries out historical research in order to know and make known the history of the sector to as many people as possible.
In 2010, contact was made with Jean VINDEVOGEL’s son, a soldier mobilized in Block 3 in 1939-1940 and who, during his captivity in Germany, wrote the story of his daily life among the crew at that time. He published the book after the war.
This contact led to the reissue of the book, “Un Observateur raconte – 1939-1940 on the Maginot line”. Sold by the Association, the book provides a precious testimony to the daily life of these French soldiers who lived through the war until their departure for captivity in Germany on July 2, 1940.
The Association also carries out extensive historical research. Conducted by one of its founding members, the research focuses mainly on the fort of Laudrefang in 1939-1940. Based on military archival documents held by the Service Historique de la Défense, it was possible to identify and contact, throughout France, more than twenty families of former soldiers of the structure. Several of them had an ancestor assigned to Block 3, and this research provides period photographs and testimonies, while establishing an important link between the Association and families.
The adventure continues!