Seventy years ago, on 25 April 1945, the East Frisian island of Wangerooge was bombed by 482 bombers of the Royal Air Force. This was the last major allied air attack on German territory during World War Two. On this sunny April day not only many military and civilians were killed, but a large number of the present forced labourers as well.
The Wangerooge island lies on the debouchment of the Jade river that forms the connection between the North Sea and Wilhelmshaven and is part of the Wattenmeer, the German Wadden Sea.The island is the most eastern of the East Frisian island and belongs to the Land of Niedersachsen. It's a dune island and measures only 8,5 kms by one km. There is one village with the same name as the island. From the second half of the 19th century it became an important seaside resort for the well to do civilians from Bremen and Hamburg. To this day, tourism is an important source of income for the islanders. Wilhelmshaven has been an important naval base for one and a half century. In 1912, when the first signs of the impending war appeared on the horizon, Wangerooge, being the natural outpost in the debouchment of the Jade river that it is, received several fortifications and other defensive works. Bunkers and a coastal battery were constructed. These works, however, did not have to prove themselves during the Great War, as the anticipated British attack on Wilhelmshaven did not materialize.
During World War Two, history repeated itself. The East Frisian island had to cope with a true invasion of military and forced labourers. These were ,for the main part, soldiers of the Kriegsmarine and prisoners who worked for the Organisation Todt. The navy personnel manned the air defence posts and coastal batteries and ,later in the war, the various radar installations. The forced labourers were deployed for building even more military infrastructure. As the allied pressure on Germany increased, German High Command again feared an invasion of Northern Germany and the conquest of Wilhelmshaven. The Germans therefore took measures to deter this new front, which they expected to come about in the German Bight. To this end the defensive measures at Wangerooge were immensely stepped up. After the successful landing in Normandy in June,1944, reinforcing Wangerooge was declared a top priority. The number of military personnel on the East Frisian island increased drastically and large numbers of forced labourers and other prisoners were transported to the island by ship. The prisoners were deployed as forced labourers in the construction of air defence and coastal battery foundations, bunkers, air raid shelters and other military fortifications.