Fortress Franz

The Fortress Franz, named after Franz I. from Austria, was a Prussian fortress in Koblenz on the left bank of the river Rhine. It was built in the years from 1816-1822 as part of a system of fortresses around Koblenz and Ehrenbreitstein. The so called System Feste Franz consisted of the main part Fort Franz and several smaller fortifactions built around a small hill called Petersberg in the town Lützelkoblenz, that later became a suburb of Koblenz.

In 1890, the whole system was given up. Some fortifications like the Neuendorfer- or the Moselflesche were destroyed and overbuild though not removed completely, others were maintained and used e.g. as storage but were not supported any longer. After the Great War, the whole system had to be destroyed according to the Treaty of Versailles. This happened during the years 1920-22, leaving large fields of debris with some untouched buildings like the Reduit and the Kehlturm, a large tower at the foot of the hill.

Following the destruction of the fort was a time of stable political circumstances during the 1920s. The city of Koblenz was very interested in taking over all defortified sites in order to build sports grounds and parks. Unfortunately, most of the land was still required by French garrison. Only at the beginning of the 1930s the city was able to take over the ground as desired. Meanwhile political and financial situation had become worse, the city was nearly bankrupt and therefore was only able to install a new Volkspark on the remainings of the Bubenheimer Flesche, which still exists today (however it was completely rebuilt after Second World War). The remainings of the Fort Franz remained untouched.

During the time of the Nazi regime, Fort Franz was used as a camp mainly for foreign workers. Hints exist that from here Jewish people were sent via railroad to France for working, if they were also sent to concentration camps in the east is not clear. The buildings of the fort were inhabited by travellers (Sinti and Roma), first voluntarily, later they were detained here and deported to Auschwitz.

After the Second World War Fort Franz became one of many slum quarters around Koblenz with unworthy living circumstances. At the beginning of 1959 the inhabitants were relocated to a nearby newly constructed building and the Reduit was destroyed by blowing it up. The remains were left where they had fallen down and still are there. The whole slum quarter surrounding the fortification building was dissolved. A long period of non-interest in the fort followed.

Only in the middle of the 1980s there was a nameable effort to save the remainings of the fort, but the initiative soon came to nothing. It took over ten years before another initiative was started by a bunch of interested people that founded the association Feste Kaiser Franz e.V. in June 1997. Since then, this small group of enthousiastic people tried to save the buildings left like the Kehlturm and the main entrance. Apart from working on site e.g. trying to remove the debris, we are doing a great deal in public relations. In 2008, the association published a festschrift for their 10 years anniversary dealing with history of the whole fortification system. However, our association is very small, thus depending on public funds and private donnations to finance our work.

Since 2006 the association offers every month from April to October a free guided tour in German to the remainings of the fortification (please see starting page). Apart from that, we are always prepared to do guided tours beyond these official dates. If you are interested in an English guided tour, please do not hesitate to contact us.