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Interpreting the Evidence

Fort Douaumont, Verdun, France

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Fort Douaumont, Verdun, France, January 1, 1919 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Photograph of Fort Douaumont in Verdun, France taken on January 29, 1919.  The Germans held Fort Douaumont for 8 months in 1916.
Historical Context
Forts have been used for centuries to protect key strategic points.  Fort Douaumont, seen here, was one of several forts constructed to protect Verdun, France.  When the Germans attacked the fort in 1916, it was severely undermanned, and did not have all of its larger artillery in place.  The Fort was captured by the Germans and held for eight months until it was retaken by the French in October of 1916.
Situated on the Meuse River, the city of Verdun and its surrounding areas have been strategically important locations throughout the history of modern France.  Realizing the value of the region, the German army launched a massive attack on the Verdun region early in 1916.  Although it was one of the dominant defensive features in the network of fortifications and defenses near Verdun, Fort Douaumont was defended by a miniscule force, and was eventually overwhelmed by the German assailants.
During the initial German attack on the fort and subsequent French efforts to reclaim it, Fort Douaumont was hit by thousands of artillery shells and suffered tremendous physical damage.  This photograph shows some of the damaged defensive obstacles around the fort, as well as a section of the fortress itself.  The photo was taken on January 29, 1919, nearly three years after the Battle of Verdun began and only months before World War I came to an end.
Essential Question
How does war impact the geography of an area?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the effects of war on a landscape.
Historical Challenges
Research another fort around Verdun at the time of the battle (examples might include Fort Vaux or Fort Souville). In what ways was it similar to and different from Fort Douaumont?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: If a wall of solid concrete at Fort Douaumont is 3 feet thick, 45 feet long, and 15 feet high, how many cubic yards of concrete were needed to construct this section of the fort?
English: Write a short poem commemorating the defense and recapture of Fort Douaumont.