|THE FORTRESS BECOMES A MUSEUM|
The Red-Cross took control of the barracks – but what should be done with the military installation? It should have been cleared of all its equipment and furniture and then demolished. But the destruction of a fortress is a cost intensive affair. Concrete foundations, several meters thick, had to be removed and therefore, possibly with a view to saving money, the Ministry of Defence left the door slightly ajar for a partial conservation of the installation.
That door was opened wide by the newly elected mayor of Sydlangelands kommune, Knut Gether, who had served at the fortress himself and who wished to preserve the installation as a museum. As in every good deal, this would offer advantages for both parties. The Ministry of Defence, which hoped to save money by preserving the fortress and Sydlangelands kommune, which would gain a tourist attraction.
The plan could only be realised if some of the millions of Danish Kroner, which would otherwise have had to be paid for the demolition of the fortress, could be invested in the restoration and furnishing of the museum instead. The Ministry of Defence, the Forestry Department of the Ministry for the Environment – which would take responsibility for the surrounding natural environment – and Sydlangeland kommune started negotiations, but it would take several years before the deal could be closed.
Early in 1994 the proposal to turn the fortress into a museum was submitted to the Langelands Museum. Initially, the idea was received with scepticism, because there were no other military collections and Langeland had not been involved in warfare in any form since the Napoleonic wars. For most people, Langelandsfort had been a forbidden and secretive place. But for the staff members of the museum, who in the meantime had visited the fortress, it had already become clear that this was a military installation of great historical value. Together with Sydlangelands kommune they prepared a plan how to turn a fortress into a military museum. Their main focus was on the following requirements:
1. The fortress should
be viewed as a military museum of the period around 1953, the last
Danish naval fortress;
It required several years of negotiations between the three parties until, in February 1997, the go ahead for the project and the financial commitment were given. Then followed a race against time until, on a beautiful Sunday, 16 June 1997, the museum could be officially opened with a gun salute, a speech by the Minister for Culture and music played by a Naval drum-band. Two representatives of the Central Naval Museum in St. Petersburg brought presents and greetings from the East. The fortress had finally been turned into a museum.
During the Cold-War, the duty of Langelandsfort had been to guard the Western Approaches of the Baltic Sea and its commanding officers were the military commanders for the whole area. The fort was commissioned in 1953 and decommissioned in 1993. Presently, the fortress is a part of Langelands Museum. In one of the many bunkers an exhibition has been installed which shows a 20 minutes long film, giving information about the Cold-War and the Cuba-Crisis. This film also tells that Soviet freighters were observed from Langelandsfort, while on their way to Cuba, carrying launching ramps for missiles. This information was passed on to the American president, John F. Kennedy.
It is quite exiting for visitors, both young and old, to stand next to one of the large 150 mm guns and to descend into the bunker and see the small crew room, the ammunition stores and other stuff. Aircraft from both sides of the Cold-War are exhibited at the museum: a soviet-built MiG 23 from the Polish Air Force and a Swedish-built SAAB “Draken”, which served in Denmark and is on loan from the Air Force’s historical collection. In 2006 the last Danish submarine “Springeren” and the minesweeper “ASKØ” opened their doors to the public. Thanks to the museum’s close co-operation with the Navy and the Naval Home-guard and some large donations, the museum succeeded in bringing these fascinating warships into its collection. Springeren” was built in Germany in 1965 for service in the Norwegian Navy and was later sold to Demark. ASKØ was built in Holbæk in 1941. Towards the end of her active life, she saw service with the Naval Home-guard.
You may read more about the museum’s exhibitions in the brochure “"Fortet og den kolde krig" by Ole Mortensøn (available at the reception, only in the Danish language). The Langelandsfort museum is situated in a unique natural environment. For more information please read the chapter “nature around the fortress”.
Visitors may bring their own beverages and pick-nick at tables in the area or at the reception building, where drinks and ice cream-are sold. The museum offers good parking facilities for bicycles, cars and busses. Wheelchairs, buggies and umbrellas are available for loan at the reception. The museum offers toilet facilities for the impaired as well as for babies.