After a short walk into the conifer woods at Dueodde, you will soon make out the contours of hard, grey concrete emerging from the wild undergrowth of the forest floor. Following a narrow overgrown wooded path, you approach the site, and the contours slowly come into view as the undergrowth gradually opens up on a tall algae-covered and graffiti-painted wall, revealing an enormous geometrical structure. A mysterious juggernaut is situated here, in the middle of the woods, among the tall tree trunks. There are actually two of these structures, roughly 300 metres apart. At first glance, it almost resembles a landing space for a UFO: a circular outer wall with a three-metre-tall concrete structure and a raised, circular platform in the middle.
This is one of the gun emplacements from World War II, more precisely denoted Batteries G3 and G4. Under the rush of the wind through the treetops above, surrounded by wildlife, they’ve been here for decades as tacit evidence of a tragic period in the history of both Denmark and Bornholm. G3 was built by the German military on Bornholm in 1940 and is the best preserved of the two. The structure is 30 metres long and 40 metres wide and was intended to be an enormous gun emplacement. A 17-metre-long gun, weighing more than 100 tonnes, was supposed to be placed on the round platform in the middle, with sufficient capacity to fire 800-kg grenades at 300 kilometres an hour at any enemy within range in the south Baltic. There are no guns, though – and there have actually never been any. The Germans had planned to build a total of four gun emplacements, but managed to build only two. They abandoned their plans already in 1941, as the building project suffered major setbacks from the outset. One was the failure to requisition the workforce needed, followed by the great frost of 1940–1941, setting a low-temperature record for Denmark of -30°C. But today, 80 years later, the gun emplacements G3 and G4 are still here, almost intact, and the structures are freely accessible. Architecturally, they are definitely worth visiting. G3 almost merges with its natural setting, seeming to rise up from the sandy woodland floor – monumental, yet transient all the same. Spatially, your view is drawn into the centre of the structure from where the sounds of the surrounding woods almost cease, and the round concrete pit with the thick outer walls creates an uneasy sense of security.
The gun emplacements are a reminder of Bornholm’s unique location during World War II. The south Baltic was the final route of evacuation to the west for the German troops encircled and trapped around the then city of Königsberg, and the island was a strategically important location for the German military. This meant that while the rest of Denmark was celebrating the end of the war and liberation on 5 May 1945, the German admiral on Bornholm still maintained control of the island until the ruinous Soviet bombardments of Rønne and Nexø occurred on 7–8 May 1945. The day after the second wave, 9 May 1945, five torpedo boats carrying Soviet troops landed on Bornholm. The troops remained until 5 April 1946 after negotiations with the Danish government. In other words, Bornholm was not free of foreign troops until almost one year after the rest of Denmark, undeniably harming the patriotic sentiments of Bornholm for the rest of Denmark.
There are abundant opportunities to explore the many spaces in the emplacement on your own. It’s a good idea to bring along a torch/flashlight and wear warm clothes, however. Because inside, it’s cool, clammy and pitch black, and you need to beware of random holes in the floor, exposed iron bars and pieces of wood. The depths of the emplacement are pervaded by an odd, almost anechoic, silence and smells of mildew, rusting iron and tar. You can walk from room to room, exploring the spatial details. G3’s dark rooms and remote location have prompted all sorts of activities at the site over time. Rumour has it that both secret rituals and partying youths have occupied the emplacement’s darkness, and all sorts of paraphernalia are frequently found here such as camping gear, books, mattresses and nylon stockings.
The area around the Battery G3, Dueodde, is filled with contrasts. Situated in the woods, near Dueodde Beach amid a large holiday home area, the gun emplacements manifest the latent danger to the carefree activities on the island today. Lush green woods versus grey, lifeless concrete. Light versus darkness. Freedom versus occupation. This is where history has truly left a sombre footprint in the Bornholm
countryside. It is disconcerting to imagine what could have happened if the great frost and a series of accidental occurrences hadn’t put an end to the construction of the large gun emplacements in 1941.