Luxembourg was placed under occupation and was annexed into Germany in 1942. During the occupation, the German authorities orchestrated a programme of "Germanisation" of the country, suppressing non-German languages and customs and conscripting Luxembourgers into the Wehrmacht, which led to extensive resistance, culminating in a general strike in August 1942 against conscription. The Germanisation was facilitated by a collaborationist political group, the Volksdeutsche Bewegung, founded shortly after the occupation. Shortly before the surrender, the government had fled the country along with Grand Duchess Charlotte, eventually arriving in London, where a Government-in-exile was formed. Luxembourgish soldiers also fought in Allied units until liberation.
The Luxembourgish government had pursued a policy of neutrality since the "Luxembourg Crisis" of 1867 had highlighted the country's vulnerability. During the First World War, the 400 men of the Corps des Gendarmes et Volontaires had remained in barracks throughout the German occupation. In March 1939, in a speech to the Reichstag, Adolf Hitler promised that Luxembourgish sovereignty would not be breached.
The strength of the military was gradually increased as international tension rose during Appeasement and after Britain and France's declaration of war against Germany in September 1939. By 1940, the Luxembourgish army numbered some 13 officers, 255 armed gendarmes and 425 soldiers.
The popular English-language radio station Radio Luxembourg was taken off-air in September 1939, amid fears that it might antagonize the Germans. Apart from that, normal life continued in Luxembourg during the Phoney War; no blackout was enforced and regular trains to France and Germany continued.
In Spring 1940, work began on a series of roadblocks across Luxembourg's eastern border with Germany. The fortifications, known as the Schuster Line, were largely made of steel and concrete.
On 9 May 1940, after increased troop movements around the German border, the barricades of the Schuster Line were closed.
The German invasion of Luxembourg, part of Fall Gelb ("Case Yellow"), began at 04:35 on the same day as the attacks on Belgium and the Netherlands. An attack by German agents in civilian clothes against the Schuster Line and radio stations was however repulsed. The invading forces encountered little resistance from the Luxembourgish military who were confined in their barracks. By noon, the capital city had fallen.
The invasion was accompanied by an exodus of tens of thousands of civilians to France and the surrounding countries to escape the invasion.
At 08:00, several French divisions crossed the frontier from the Maginot Line and skirmished with the German forces before retreating. The invasion cost 7 Luxembourgish soldiers wounded, with 1 British pilot and 5 French Spahis killed in action.
The departure of the government left the state functions of Luxembourg in disorder. An administrative council under Albert Wehrer was formed in Luxembourg to attempt to reach an agreement with the occupiers whereby Luxembourg could continue to preserve some independence while remaining a Nazi protectorate, and called for the return of the Grand Duchess. All possibility of compromise was eventually lost when Luxembourg was effectively incorporated into the German Gau Koblenz-Trier (renamed Gau Moselland in 1942) and all its own government functions were abolished from July 1940, unlike occupied Belgium and the Netherlands which preserved their state functions under German control. From August 1942, Luxembourg was officially made part of Germany.
From August 1940, speaking French was forbidden by proclamation of Gustav Simon in order to encourage the integration of the territory into Germany, proclaimed by posters carrying the slogan "Your language is German and only German"[note 1] This led to a popular revival of the traditional Luxembourgish language, which had not been prohibited, as a form of passive resistance.
From August 1942, all male Luxembourgers of draft age were conscripted into the German armed forces. Altogether, 12,000 Luxembourgers served in the German military, of whom nearly 3,000 died during the war.
The most significant collaborationist group in the country was the Volksdeutsche Bewegung (VdB). Formed by Damian Kratzenberg shortly after the occupation, the VdB campaigned for the incorporation of Luxembourg into Germany with the slogan "Heim ins Reich" ("Home to the Reich"). The VdB had 84,000 members at its height, but coercion was widely exercised to encourage enlistment. All manual workers were forced into the German Labour Front (DAF) from 1941 and certain age groups of both genders were conscripted into the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD) to work on military projects.
Conscription was introduced in Luxembourg from August 1942 under the same terms as in Germany. 12,000 men were conscripted, of whom 3,000 were killed in action, died of wounds or were posted missing-presumed dead. A further 1,500 were wounded.
Armed resistance to the German occupiers began in winter 1940–41 when a number of small groups were formed across the country. Each had differing political objectives and some were directly affiliated to pre-war political parties, social groups (like the Scouts) or groups of students or workers. Because of the small size of the pre-war Luxembourgish military, weapons were difficult to come by and so the resistance fighters were rarely armed until much later in the war. Nevertheless, the resistance was heavily involved in printing anti-German leaflets and, from 1942, hiding "Réfractaires" (those avoiding German military service) in safe houses, and in some cases providing networks to escort them out of the country safely. One Luxembourger, Victor Bodson (who was also a minister in the Government in Exile), was awarded the title Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel for helping about 100 Jews escape from Luxembourg during the occupation.
Information gathered by the Luxembourgish resistance was extremely important. One Luxembourgish resistant, Léon-Henri Roth, informed the allies of the existence of the secret Peenemünde Army Research Center on the Baltic coast, allowing the allies to bomb it from the air.
In November 1944, a group of 30 Luxembourgish resistance members commanded by Victor Abens was attacked by Waffen SS soldiers in the castle at Vianden. In the battle which followed, 23 Germans were killed by the resistance, who only lost one man killed during the operation although they were forced to withdraw to Allied lines.
Non-violent passive resistance was widespread in Luxembourg during the period. From August 1940, the "Spéngelskrich" (the "War of Pins") took place as Luxembourgers wore patriotic pin-badges (depicting the national colours or the Grand duchess), precipitating attacks from the VdB.
In October 1941, the German occupiers took a survey of Luxembourgish civilians who were asked to state their nationality, their mother tongue and their racial group, but contrary to German expectations, 95% answered "Luxembourgish" to each question. The refusal to declare themselves as German citizens led to mass arrests.
Conscription was particularly unpopular. On 31 August 1942, shortly after the announcement that conscription would be extended to all men born between 1920 and 1927, a strike began in the northern town of Wiltz. The strike spread rapidly, paralysing the factories and industries of Luxembourg. The strike was quickly repressed and its leaders arrested. 20 were summarily tried before a special tribunal (in German, a "Standgericht") and executed by firing squad at nearby Hinzert concentration camp. Nevertheless, protests against conscription continued and 3,500 Luxembourgers would desert the German army after being conscripted.
Before the war, Luxembourg had a population of about 3500 Jews, many of them newly arrived in the country to escape persecution in Germany. The Nuremberg Laws, which had applied in Germany since 1935, were enforced in Luxembourg from September 1940 and Jews were encouraged to leave the country for Vichy France. Emigration was forbidden in October 1941, but not before nearly 2500 had fled. In practice they were little better off in Vichy France, and many of those who left were later deported and killed. From September 1941, all Jews in Luxembourg were forced to wear the yellow Star of David badge to identify them.
From October 1941, Nazi authorities began to deport the around 800 remaining Jews from Luxembourg to Łódź Ghetto and the concentration camps at Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. Around 700 were deported from the Transit Camp at Fuenfbrunnen in Ulflingen in the north of Luxembourg.
Luxembourg was declared "Judenrein" ("cleansed of Jews") except for those in hiding on 19 October 1941. Of the original Jewish population of Luxembourg, only 36 are known to have survived the war.
The Government in Exile first fled to Paris, then after the Fall of France, to Lisbon and then the United Kingdom. While the Government established itself in Wilton Crescent in the Belgravia area of London, the Grand Duchess and her family moved to Francophone Montreal in Canada. The government in exile was vocal in stressing the Luxembourgish cause in newspapers in allied countries and succeeded in obtaining Luxembourgish language broadcasts to the occupied country on BBC radio. In 1944, the government in exile signed a treaty with the Belgian and Dutch governments, creating the Benelux Economic Union and also signed into the Bretton Woods system.
Luxembourgish military involvement could play only a "symbolic role" for the allied cause, and numerous Luxembourgers fought in allied armies. From March 1944, Luxembourgish soldiers operated four 25 pounder guns, christened Elisabeth, Marie Adelaide, Marie Gabriele and Alix after the Grand duchess' daughters, as part of C Troop, 1st Belgian Field Artillery Battery of the 1st Belgian Infantry Brigade, commonly known as the "Brigade Piron" after its commander Jean-Baptiste Piron. The Troop numbered some 80 men. The battery landed in Normandy with the Brigade Piron on 6 August 1944 and served in the Battle of Normandy and was involved in the Liberation of Brussels in September 1944.
Luxembourg was liberated by Allied forces in September 1944. Allied tanks entered the capital city on 10 September 1944, where the Germans retreated without fighting. The Allied advance triggered the resistance to rise up: at Vianden, members of the Luxembourgish resistance fought a much larger German force at the Battle of Vianden Castle. In mid December, the Germans launched the "Ardennes Offensive" in Luxembourg and the Belgian Ardennes. Though the city of Luxembourg remained in Allied hands throughout, much of the north of the country was lost to German forces and had to be liberated again.
Gustav Simon, the Nazi Gauleiter responsible for Moselland and Luxembourg, fled but was captured and imprisoned by the British Army. He committed suicide in an Allied prison. In Luxembourg too, collaborators were imprisoned and tried. Damian Kratzenberg, founder and leader of VdB, was one of those executed for his role.
Most of Luxembourg was rapidly liberated in September 1944 when the front line stabilized behind the Our and Sauer Rivers along the Luxembourg-German frontier. Following the campaign in Brittany, the U.S. VIII Corps occupied the sector of the front line in Luxembourg. On December 16, 1944, elements of the U.S. 28th and 4th Infantry Divisions, as well as a combat command of the 9th Armored Division were defending the line of the Our and Sauer Rivers when the German offensive started.
The initial defensive efforts of the U.S. troops hinged upon holding towns near the international frontier. As a result, the towns of Clervaux, Marnach, Holzthum, Consthum, Weiler, and Wahlhausen were used as strongholds by the Americans and attacked by the Germans, who wanted to achieve control of the road networks in northern Luxembourg in order for their forces to move westward. After the Americans in northern Luxembourg were forced to retreat by the German attacks, the area experienced a second passage of the front line during January–February 1945, this time moving generally eastward as the U.S. Third Army attacked into the southern flank of the German penetration (the "Bulge"). Vianden was the final community in Luxembourg to be liberated on 12 February 1945.
Because of the determination of both sides to prevail on the battlefield, the combat in Luxembourg was bitter and correspondingly hard on the civilian population. Over 2,100 homes in Luxembourg were destroyed in the fighting and more than 1,400 others seriously damaged. It is also estimated that some 500 Luxembourgish non-combatants lost their lives during the Battle of the Bulge. Besides the dead, over 45,000 Luxembourgers became refugees during the battle.
The experience of invasion and occupation during the war led to a shift in Luxembourg's stance on neutrality. Luxembourg signed the Treaty of Brussels with other western European powers on 17 March 1948 as part of the initial European postwar security cooperation and in a move that foreshadowed Luxembourg's membership in NATO. Luxembourg also began greater military co-operation with Belgium after the war, training soldiers together and even sending a joint contingent to fight in the Korean War in 1950.
Following the war, Luxembourgish troops took part in the occupation of West Germany, contributing troops that were part of the force in the French Zone, beginning in late 1945. Luxembourgish forces functioned under overall French command within the zone and were responsible for the areas of Bitburg and Eifel and parts of Saarburg. They were withdrawn from Saarburg in 1948, and from Bitburg-Eifel in July 1955.
The Battle of Vianden (occasionally called the Battle for Vianden Castle) took place November 19, 1944 in the small town of Vianden in northern Luxembourg, and was one of the most important battles of the Luxembourg Resistance against Nazi Germany during World War II.Civil Administration Area of Luxembourg
The Civil Administration Area of Luxembourg was a German civil administration in German-occupied Luxembourg that existed from 29 July 1940 to 30 August 1942, when Luxembourg was annexed into Gau Moselland.Enrôlés de Force
Enrôlés de Force (Luxembourgish: Zwangsrekrutéierten, German: Zwangsrekruten) was a Luxembourgian single-issue political party and pressure group. It sought to represent the interests of the 12,000 people who had been conscripted into the Wehrmacht during the German occupation of Luxembourg during the Second World War.The party tried to claim compensation for those conscripted from the government of West Germany as victims of Nazi Germany. Enrôlés de Force won a single seat in the Chamber of Deputies at the 1979 legislative election, having won 4.4% of the vote. In office, they lobbied for official recognition from Luxembourg's government that conscripts were victims of Nazi Germany, which was achieved on 12 June 1981: ending a thirty-year national debate. The party dissolved after achieving this success, and its sole deputy joined the Christian Social People's Party.Enrôlés de Force was the second party to represent this interest, after the Popular Independent Movement, which had won two seats in the 1964 election.Gau Moselland
The Gau Moselland, or Gau Koblenz-Trier until January 1942, was an administrative division of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945 in the Prussian Rhine Province and, from 1940 onward, the occupied country of Luxembourg. Before that, from 1931 to 1933, it was the regional subdivision of the Nazi Party in that area.German invasion of Luxembourg
The German invasion of Luxembourg was part of Case Yellow (German: Fall Gelb), the German invasion of the Low Countries—Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands—and France during World War II. The battle began on 10 May 1940 and lasted just one day. Facing only light resistance, German troops quickly occupied Luxembourg. The Luxembourgish government, and Grand Duchess Charlotte, managed to escape the country and a government-in-exile was created in London.German occupation of Luxembourg during World War II
The German occupation of Luxembourg in World War II began in May 1940 after the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg was invaded by Nazi Germany. Although Luxembourg was officially neutral, it was situated at a strategic point at the end of the French Maginot Line. On 10 May 1940, the German Wehrmacht invaded Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Luxembourg was initially placed under a Military administration, but later became a civilly administrated territory and finally was annexed directly into Germany. The Germans believed Luxembourg to be a Germanic state, and attempted to suppress what they perceived as alien French language and cultural influences. Although some Luxembourgers joined the resistance or collaborated with the Germans, both constituted a minority of the population. As German nationals, from 1942, many Luxembourgers were conscripted into the German military. Nearly 3,500 Luxembourgish Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. The liberation of the country by the Allies began in September 1944, but due to the Ardennes Offensive it was not completed until early 1945.Gustav Simon
Gustav Simon (2 August 1900, Saarbrücken – 18 December 1945, Paderborn) was, as the Nazi Gauleiter in the Moselland Gau from 1940 until 1944, the Chief of the Civil Administration in Luxembourg, which was occupied at that time by Nazi Germany.Hollerich railway station
Hollerich railway station (Luxembourgish: Gare Hollerech, French: Gare de Hollerich, German: Bahnhof Hollerich) is a railway station serving Hollerich, a quarter in the south-west of Luxembourg City, in southern Luxembourg. It is operated by Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois, the state-owned railway company.
The station is situated on Line 70, which connects Luxembourg City to the south-west of the country. It is the first stop south-west of the country's main terminus, Luxembourg railway station, which is located only 0.6 kilometres (0.37 mi) to the north-east.
Located at the station is the Luxembourg memorial to the deportations during the German occupation of Luxembourg in World War II. Just under 700 Jews were deported from Luxembourg.Lancaster Memorial (Luxembourg)
The Lancaster Memorial is a memorial in the northern Luxembourg locality of Weiswampach, which was erected 60 years after World War II in memory of 14 allied airmen, 13 of whom died on the spot and one who was made prisoner by the Germans. During the night from 12 to 13 August 1944 their aircraft, two Avro Lancasters, were shot down.Liberation Government (Luxembourg)
The Liberation Government was formed on 23 November 1944, when the government in exile came to Luxembourg from London and felt forced to include members of the Unio'n vun den Fraiheetsorgansatiounen, the umbrella group of the Luxembourgish Resistance which had been maintaining order since the liberation by American troops on 10 September 1944, in order to tame its critics.
On 23 February 1945 Robert Als and the aide-de-camp to the Grand-Duchess, Guillaume Konsbruck were added, as well as on 21 April 1945 Nicolas Margue, who was returning from resettlement.
One problem was that out of 55 pre-war Deputies, only 25 remained. The rest had been killed, resettled, or were suspected of collaboration with the Nazis. The government only wanted to organise new elections to the Chamber of Deputies when the war was over and people had returned from deportation. It therefore took decisions based on the laws of 1938 and 1939, which gave it increased powers in times of crisis. This provoked heavy criticism, so the government established a Consultative Assembly, which apart from the remaining Deputies also included members of the resistance.
21 October 1945 saw the first elections since the liberation, which provided the National Union Government on 14 November.London Customs Convention
Officially titled the Netherlands–Belgium–Luxembourg Customs Convention, the London Customs Convention was the treaty that established the Benelux Customs Union on 5 September 1944. The word "Benelux" comes from an acronym of the countries' names, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial is a Second World War American military war grave cemetery, located in Hamm, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. The cemetery, containing 5,073 American war dead, covers 50.5 acres (20.4 ha) and was dedicated in 1960. It is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.Luxembourg Resistance
When Luxembourg was invaded and annexed by Nazi Germany in 1940, a national consciousness started to come about. From 1941 onwards, the first resistance groups, such as the Letzeburger Ro'de Lé'w or the PI-Men, were founded. Operating underground, they secretly worked against the German occupation, helping to bring political refugees and those trying to avoid being conscripted into the German forces across the border, and put out patriotic leaflets (often depicting Grand Duchess Charlotte) encouraging the population of Luxembourg to pull through.
As with other countries, the origins, ideological and otherwise, of the different Resistance groups were varied: it ranged from those who found Nazi ideology itself worth fighting against, to those who valued first and foremost their country's freedom. The political spectrum ranged from the communists to clerical-conservative elements (including even some anti-Semitic undertones).Luxembourgish collaboration with Nazi Germany
During the German occupation of Luxembourg in World War II, some Luxembourgers collaborated with the country's Nazi occupiers. The term Gielemännchen ("yellow men") was adopted by many Luxembourgers, first to describe German Nazis in general, and later for Luxembourgish collaborators. The term came from the yellow uniforms of the Nazi Party. Their number, however, was limited.Military Administration of Luxembourg
The Military Administration of Luxembourg was a German military administration in German-occupied Luxembourg that existed from 11 May 1940 to 29 July 1940, when the military administration was replaced with the Civil Administration Area of Luxembourg.Popular Independent Movement
The Popular Independent Movement (French: Mouvement indépendant populaire), abbreviated to MIP, was a Luxembourgian single-issue political party in the 1960s. It sought to represent the interests of the 12,000 people who had been conscripted into the Wehrmacht during the German occupation of Luxembourg during the Second World War.The party tried to claim compensation for those conscripted from the government of West Germany as victims of Nazi Germany. A 1959 treaty between West Germany and Luxembourg, compensating Luxembourg for the German occupation and recognising the legitimacy of the actions of the resistance, was thought by the former conscripts to discriminate against them, who dubbed it the 'Treaty of Shame' (French: traité de la honte). The treaty took two years to ratify, after a protracted debate in the Chamber of Deputies and a protest of 10,000 people in Place Guillaume II, in Luxembourg City.The Popular Independent Movement was formed following these popular protests. A generally anti-establishment party without a clear programme on wider issues, it won 5.9% of the vote and two seats in the 1964 election, becoming the first new party since the 1945 election to win a seat in the Chamber of Deputies. The MIP merged with the Democratic Party before the 1968 legislative election. However, one of its deputies, rejecting this merger, created the Party of National Solidarity, which ran and won only 0.4% of the vote and no seats, leading to it dissolving.A later party, Enrôlés de Force, was established in the 1970s with similar aims, and achieved parliamentary representation in the 1979 election. After the Luxembourg government's official recognition in 1981 that the Wehrmacht conscripts were victims, it disbanded.Schuster Line
The Schuster Line (Luxembourgish: Schuster-Linn) was a line of barriers and barricades erected by the Luxembourg government along its borders with Germany and France shortly before World War II. The line was named after Joseph Schuster, Luxembourg's chief engineer of bridges and highways, who was responsible for its construction.The Schuster Line consisted of 41 sets of concrete blocks and iron gates; 18 bridgeblocks on the German border, and five roadblocks on the French border. The roadblocks were set up a mile inland in a zigzag pattern, covered by barbed wire entanglements on either side. Nine radio outposts were erected along the German border, with a central receiving station in the St Espirit barracks in the capital.The line failed significantly to slow the German advance during the invasion of Luxembourg on 10 May 1940. The iron gates were knocked down and ramps were built over the concrete blockades to drive over them; some were blown up.The Holocaust in Luxembourg
The Holocaust in Luxembourg refers to the persecution and near-annihilation of the 3,500-strong Jewish population of Luxembourg begun shortly after the start of the German occupation during World War II, when the country was officially incorporated into Nazi Germany. The persecution lasted until October 1941, when the Germans declared the territory to be free of Jews who had been deported to extermination camps and ghettos in Eastern Europe.Volksdeutsche Bewegung
Volksdeutsche Bewegung (German; literally "Ethnic German Movement") was a Nazi movement in Luxembourg that flourished under the German-occupied Luxembourg during World War II.
Formed by Damian Kratzenberg, a university professor with a German background, the movement only emerged after the invasion and was declared the only legal political movement in Luxembourg by the Nazis. Using the slogan Heim ins Reich (Home to the Reich), their declared aim was the full incorporation of Luxembourg into Nazi Germany. The policy was supported by Nazis who used the Bewegung as means towards this end. The aim was accomplished in August 1942, although the VDB continued to operate and peaked at 84,000 members. Many of these joined when it became clear that membership was necessary to retain employment. A number of leading members also held dual membership of the National Socialist German Workers Party after incorporation. The movement disappeared after the war, and Kratzenberg was executed in 1946.
Administrative divisions in Nazi Germany and German occupations