This building sits in the middle of today's harbor, but was built in 1940 as the dry dock for the formidable German pocket battleship "Tirpitz". The English drove an old ship into the harbor and exploded it to prevent the Tirpitz from coming in and out, and the stranded Tirpitz was finally sunk near Norway shortly thereafter. The dock was unusable until 1947.
The wily Germans, however, continued building pens and dry docks for their u-boats, and the mark left on St Nzaire from this activity is unmistakeable. There were 14 pens built over a 3 year period, but were rendered unuseable In September, 1944. Tthe Germans were defeated and surrendered in May of 1945.
Some of the area under and inside this colossal mausoleum is now used by temporary structures which house the tourist office, a newspaper kiosk, coffee bar and small art gallery. Interestingly, information regarding the concrete structures is limited to two short paragraphs in the multi lingual visitor guide.
Surely, St. Nazaire must have some attraction other than decaying cement reminders of a horrible war? A walk about a half mile along the quai revealed the answer! One of about 20 beaches, most connected by wide walkways, heavily populated by walkers, runners, cyclists, and skate boarders.