A historic bridge across the Rhine that collapsed in the final weeks of the Second World War is to be rebuilt, German authorities have announced.
The bridge at Remagen, south of Bonn, will be reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as serving as a monument to victims of the war, town planners have said.
Known locally as the Ludendorff Brücke, it was constructed by Russian prisoners of war during the First World War to facilitate the delivery of supplies to German troops on the Western Front.
At 325 metres long and six metres wide, it became famous following an incident during the Second World War, when the US army crossed the bridge on 7 March 1945. Troops of the US 1st Army, commanded by General Courtney Hodge, captured the bridge and traversed the river, becoming the first invading force to cross the Rhine since the Napoleonic era.
The Wehrmacht, by then retreating rapidly from France, had attempted to destroy the bridge by placing explosives at strategic points along it – but these were removed by Allied engineers before they detonated.
The bridge was structurally unsound, however, and collapsed ten days later, killing 28 army engineers. Ten of the bodies were never found, having likely been swept away by the strong currents of one of the longest rivers in Europe.
But before its collapse, the bridge had allowed the US army to transport about 125,000 troops along with tanks, artillery, and other vehicles deeper into Nazi Germany – a significant step on the long march towards Berlin.
The heroism of the American troops was captured in The Bridge at Remagen, a 1969 film starring George Segal, Ben Gazzara, and Robert Vaughn. The film was a largely fictionalised account of the action and was filmed in what was then Czechoslovakia.
The reconstruction project, which has the support of local communities, is expected to cost around €22 million and will take approximately ten years. Although the bridge will not open to heavy vehicles, it is expected to ease congestion on local ferry boats.
The project will include the restoration of the remaining towers on either side of the river. These have been converted into a peace museum on the Remagen side and a performing-arts space for the village of Erpel on the eastern side.