The Boyen Fortress in Giżycko was built between 1843 and 1855 as a point of strategic importance as it blocked the pass between lakes Niegocin and Kisajno. In early April 1843, King Frederick Wilhelm IV gave the order to start construction of the fortress. A plan was developed according to which an earth-and-brick fort was to be erected on the plan of a hexagon. The fort was to be connected with the mainland by four access roads, and the entire structure was to be surrounded by a 2303m long wall. The ceremony of laying the foundation stone, which took place on 4 September 1844, was the beginning of the proper construction of the fortress.
In 1846, a decision was made to honour one of the supporters and initiators of the fortress, General von Boyen, by naming the fortress after him. Its bastions were named Hermann, Ludwig, Leopold (all of which were the General’s given names) as well as Schwert, Recht and Licht (which stood for the symbols that could be found in the General’s coat of arms, i.e. Sword, Law and Light).
The Fortress was designed for a garrison of approximately 3000 soldiers. The Giżycko Garrison was formed in 1859. From 1889 on, Giżycko served as the Commander’s Post, and in 1902, the Fortress Boyen came to house an artillery arsenal.
On the brink of World War I, the natural ground formations combined with the battlements erected near the fortress were to fend off the Russian Army, which was about to enter Eastern Prussia, until the situation was decided on the western front. At that point, the fort in Giżycko also played a key role in the military mobilisation in Mazuria, and once the mobilisation was complete and most of the forces marched out of Giżycko, the town was left with a party of about 4000 soldiers commanded by Colonel Busse. The party carried out numerous raids on the units of the approaching Russian Army, and later, in August 1914, effectively defended the Boyen Fortress against the Russian offensive.
After World War I, the function of the fortress was changed to include, for instance, a hospital within its walls. Just before World War 2, the Boyen Fortress was one of the gathering points of the German Army, which later invaded the territory of Poland from Eastern Prussia. The crew of the Lötzen Fortress was part of the Nord Army pushing towards Mława and Modlin and fought in numerous battles, including that on The Wizna River. During the war, the fort served as a training centre for soldiers from General Vlasov’s army, who had defected to the German side. When the town was attacked in January 1945, the Fortress was abandoned without resistance.
In 1945, the Boyen Fortress was taken over by the Polish Army, which used it to a limited extent. In the 1950s, a decision was made to use the fort as a location for a number of food companies, which resulted in much transformation and a lot of damage, and, most importantly, the construction of new buildings which differed greatly from the fort’s original architecture. This situation continued until the early 1990s, when most of the companies were closed down. It is since than that the Boyen Fortress has been a popular tourist destination.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.