Fortress Josefov        

Jaromer, Czech Republic            
Fortress Josefov, named as one might imagine for Holy Roman Emperor Josef II (1741-1790), was built from 1780 to 1787. Josef's reign seemed dedicated towards offending his neighbors and expanding the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which naturally put him at odds with Prussia, with whom Austria-Hungary had been at war as recently as 1760. Fortress Josefov was designed by a French general, placed near the Elbe and Metuje rivers, and intended to be a check on the Prussian threat.

The fortress was built to accomodate as many as 12,000 soldiers, and had around 30 miles of underground corridors. This extensive defense network existed not only to shuttle the garrison around to the places they might be needed to defend the fort, but was also intended as a means of placing and detonating mines beneath attackers.

But attackers there never were. Fortress Josefov was put on alert several times during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), but the troops therein were never sent to do any fighting. The inevitable Austro-Prussian War (1866) saw a similar fate for Fortress Josefov: The Prussian army, having little interest in getting bogged down at Jaromer, looped around the fort on their march through what is today the north of the Czech Republic.

By 1888 belief in the heroic bastion, attracting enemies to come and be shattered upon its pointy walls, had pretty much died out. Fortress Josefov lost its official status as a military fort, but loads of troops remained stationed there for another century...where else are you gonna put 'em?

During the First World War (1914-1918) tens of thousands of prisoners of war were kept at a camp in Jeromer, watched over by the garrison at Fortress Josefov. POW from the armies of Russia, the Ukraine, Serbia, and Italy spent time incarcerated at Jaromer.

Fortress Josefov was occupied by Germany during the Second World War (1939-1945), and town and fort were duly liberated by the Red Army in 1945. Jaromer was captured again by the Red Army in August of 1968, when the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia in order to stop the ridiculous political liberalization that came about during the Prague Spring.

The town was named an Historic Preservation Site in 1971. Today Fortress Josefov is open for guided tours.

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Fortress Josefov?
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Thanks to Google Maps for the image!