Located in the centre of Europe, Luxembourg has always been of great strategic military importance. A series of different powers have laid claim to the territory since the Middle Ages. The foundations of Luxembourg City are fused with many military fortifications and defensive structures which remain an important part of the city’s character today. More recently, and poignantly, the two World Wars had tremendous impact in Luxembourg which was at the heart of the conflict as war swept across Europe. The Luxembourgish experience of these events is commemorated in a series of museums and memorial sites located all over the country.
National Museum of Military History
This museum is a must see for anyone with an interest in the history of World War Two. The displays include a vast selection of uniforms, personal belongings, weapons, objects, equipment and vehicles, from the tiniest component of a medical kit to the biggest tank or field gun. A series of dioramas recreate various scenes down to the finest detail, including significant military events such as the Battle of the Bulge as well as scenes of life off duty. The exhibitions offer a well balanced view of the experience of both Allied and German troops who fought in Europe during this period.
Upstairs the story of the Luxembourgish military continues to the present day. All of the displays are in French, German, Luxembourgish and English, with audio guides available in the same languages.
Where: Bamertal 10, L-9209 Diekirch, Phone: 808908, Email: email@example.com
When: Mon- Sun 10am – 6pm except closed 1 January, 25 December, Carnival Sunday. The museum will be closed on some Mondays during February 2016, so do double check before you go.
Cost: Adults 5€, Children and young people (10-18) 3€, Students (with ID card) 3€, Children under 10 Free, Military in uniform 3€, Veterans of WWII Free, Incapacitated persons Free, Group rate (10 or more visitors) 3€ per person, Guided tours on request (10 or more visitors) 5€ per person. Electronic audio guides available for extra fee of €3.
National Resistance Museum
Luxembourg was invaded by Germany in May 1940. This museum explores the history of Luxembourg between 1940 and 1945. Following the annexation of Luxembourg to Germany, German was declared the official language. Nazi propaganda campaigns encouraged citizens to proclaim their loyalty to Germany and to identify themselves as German, not Luxembourgish.
A moving display recounts the experiences of some of the thousands of Luxembourgish people who were transported to concentration camps, and the treatment of Jewish residents of Luxembourg following the invasion. There are the fascinating stories of members of the resistance who committed acts of sabotage and secretly distributed patriotic pamphlets. Passive resistance took place as Luxembourgers took part in strike action. Many wore small brooches and amulets with patriotic Luxembourgish flags or red lion symbols to display their national pride. Examples of these badges are on display here.
There is a changing programme of temporary exhibitions. The main exhibition languages are French and German, with audio guides available in French, German and English, and some sections of text in all three languages.
Where: Place de la Resistance, L-4041 Esch-sur-Alzette
When: Tuesday – Sunday, 2-6pm
Deportation Memorial and Museum
During German occupation from May 1940 until January 1944, Hollerich railway station served as the main departure point for many Jewish citizens of Luxembourg who were transported to ghettos or death camps. It was from here that the journey began for thousands of young Luxembourgish men and women forced to join German labour and military services. Political “undesirables”, many with their entire families in tow, were deported from this point to join work camps in Germany.
Today a museum and memorial commemorate the victims of the Nazi regime. The displays are in Luxembourgish but gallery guidebooks translated into German and English are available.
Where: 3A, rue de la Déportation, L-1415 Hollerich, Phone: 2478 8191
When: Monday – Thursday, 9-11.30am, 2-4.30pm. Ring the bell on the door facing the street to gain entry. Guided tours and group visits can be arranged by contacting the museum either by telephone or email on firstname.lastname@example.org
- Top tip: There is a further display of objects relating to the period when Luxembourg was under Nazi occupation in the City History Museum. These items are in the permanent display galleries.
Museum of the Battle of the Bulge, Clervaux
German forces launched an attack on Allied forces in the Ardennes region on 16 December 1944. Initially this offensive was successful and the Germans were able to force back the middle of the front line, giving the appearance of a “bulge” which gave the battle its name. As the assault began US Army forces headquartered in Clervaux were surrounded. The exhibitions in the museum display a variety of uniforms and weapons belonging to those on both sides of the conflict, with detailed maps and information on the battle as it unfolded. The Castle which houses the museum itself suffered major damage during these events.
Where: Chateau de Clerveaux, L-9712 Clervaux, Phone: 26910695
When: 1 May – 31 October Tuesday – Sunday 10am-6pm, 1 November – 30 April Saturday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Closed Monday except on holidays.
Cost: Adults 3.50€, under 18’s free, group rate 2.50€, students over the age of 18, or holders of Hostelling International card €2.50. Discount tickets available in combination with a visit to the Castle Replicas museum.
Museum of the Battle of the Bulge and Remembrance Walk 1944-5, Wiltz
The town of Wiltz was the centre of heavy fighting during the Battle of the Bulge as the German forces and the US Army pushed the front line back and forth in the course of hostilities. The museum here recounts the events of the Battle of the Bulge and has an impressive collection of associated documents and objects to display. You can keep in touch with their facebook page for regular posts on some of the wonderful objects which the museum cares for, and their stories.
The Remembrance Walk memorial trail leads you into the woods at “Schumanns Eck”, the scene of bitter fighting between German and American troops during the Battle of the Bulge. Foxholes and bomb craters are still visible. The trail begins at the battle-ruined home of a local family and there are information panels along the way featuring contemporary photography of the harsh winter conditions and details of the movements of the battle.
Where: Museum of the Battle of the Bulge, Chateau de Wiltz, L-9516 Wiltz Phone: 95 74 44.
When: Museum opening hours: Monday-Saturday 9am-12, 14.00-17.00. In July and August Monday-Saturday 9am-18.00. For groups of ten visitors or more the museum can open on request.
Cost: Adults €3.50, with audio guide €5.50. Children and students under 21 years of age: Free. Guided tour €35. The Remembrance Trail is free, and self guided.
- Top tip: A map of the 3km route of the Remembrance Walk can be found here. Information leaflets are also available from the National Military History Museum in Diekirch.
385th Bomb Group Memorial Museum
The museum commemorates the mid-air collision of two American B-12 bombers in the sky above Perlé in July 1944 as they returned from bombing raids over Germany. Only two airmen survived the crash. The museum looks at life as an airman in the US military in World War Two and is a treasure trove of objects, many donated by former servicemen and their families.
General Patton Museum
This museum is dedicated to General George S. Patton, commander of the United States 3rd Army during World War Two. At the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge, he had rapidly mobilised his troops and vehicles to relieve US military personnel under heavy bombardment at Bastogne in Belgium. Following the relief of Bastogne, the 3rd Army continued to advance through Luxembourg, pushing back the German front lines. He led the troops who finally liberated the town of Ettelbruck on December 25, 1944. After the Battle of the Bulge, Luxembourg was freed from German occupation.
Where: 5 Rue Dr. Klein, L-5409 Ettelbruck, Phone: 810322, Email: email@example.com
When: From 1 June – 15 September, daily from 10am-5pm. From September 16 – 31 May, Sundays only 1-5pm.
Cost: Adults 5€, Children 3€, Groups of more than 10 visitors, 3€. Guided tours available on request, 25€.
- Top tip: Whilst you’re in Ettelbruck, you can also pay a visit to the General Patton Monument. The memorial, statue and a Sherman tank can be found on Avenue JFK, overlooking the bridge over the River Sure.
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial
This is where over 5000 members of the United States military services are laid to rest. The majority of these people lost their lives during the Battle of the Bulge. The grave of General George S. Patton Jr is located here. A large memorial commemorates the fallen soldiers and names those missing in action. There is an information centre for visitors near the entrance.
Where: 50 Val du Scheid, L-5230 Hamm
When: Open daily from 9am-5pm
German War Cemetery and Memorial
The cemetery houses the graves of over 10000 German servicemen. Many of those interred were also casualties of the Battle of the Bulge. After World War Two around 5000 servicemen were moved to this cemetery from locations all over Luxembourg. As recently as 2007 the remains of an unknown soldier discovered near Wiltz were laid to rest.
Where: Rue d’Itzig, L-5974 Sandweiler
When: Open daily
- Top tip: The American and German War Cemeteries are located within a short car journey of one another. A visit to both sites is a poignant reminder of the cost of armed conflict.
Museé Dräi Eechelen
This is the place to come to find out all about the development of the fortifications and how they relate to the history and expansion of the city from the Middle Ages onward. The story is beautifully illustrated by the rich selection of objects on display. The museum is located in the picturesque Fort Thüngen, the only remaining free standing fort in the city. It is nicknamed Dräi Eechelen, or Three Acorns, after the acorns which decorate each of the three towers.
There is a changing exhibitions programme. Exhibition text is delivered in several languages. Audio guides are available in French, English, German and Luxembourgish. The museum also run a series of guided tours (in French, German and Luxembourgish) around the fort and into the city, some of which include special access to tunnels not usually open to members of the public.
Where: 5 Park Dräi Eechelen, L-1499 Luxembourg, Phone: 264335
When: Daily 10am-6pm. Wednesdays 10am-8pm. Closed on Tuesdays. Closed 1 November, 24 and 25 December, 1 January.
Cost: 5 € (with free entry for Friends of the Museum, students under the age of 26, and ICOM members)
- Top tip: For a comprehensive walking tour of the city centre fortifications, why not take a look at this free leaflet published by the Luxembourg City Tourist Office? It’s available from their office, or you can download the Vauban Circular Walk here. The route is named after Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban, the French military engineer who oversaw massive reconstruction of the city defences during the second half of the seventeenth century. Their apparent impregnability led to the city being dubbed the “Gibraltar of the North”.
The rocky cliff, named the Bock, high above the River Alzette, forms a natural fortification which was exploited by the founders of Luxembourg City. In 963 Siegfried, Count of the Ardennes and first ruler of Luxembourg, built his castle here. The castle and cliff were the starting point for the man made defences constructed and expanded over the next nine hundred years and which formed the basis for the development of the surrounding city.
The excavation of the caves, or casemates, was begun in the mid seventeenth century when Luxembourg was under Spanish rule. The caves was made up of a system of chambers and tunnels which ran to a length of over 23 kilometres! During the following century further excavations were made, to include barracks, workshops, kitchens and even stables. Despite the fact that parts of the tunnels were dismantled in the nineteenth century, there are still plenty for visitors to explore. You can still see where cannon slots were constructed and barracks where hundreds of soldiers at a time could be accommodated, as well as much more.
Where: 10 Montée de Clausen, L-1343 Luxembourg, Phone: 222809
When: Open daily from 1 March – 8 November, 10am-5pm.
Cost: Adults 4€, students and group rate €3, children €2.
- Top tip: This is a fun place to explore with children, with lots of tunnels and caves to hide in. However, do make sure that your little ones are happy to do lots of walking and can manage stairs easily.
The Gëlle Fra, or Golden Lady, was erected as a memorial to the Luxembourgish soldiers who had volunteered to serve in the French military during World War One. Germany occupied Luxembourg despite the state having declared itself neutral. Luxembourgish casualties in World War One eventually amounted to around one per cent of the total population.
During Nazi occupation in World War Two this important symbol of resistance and freedom was dismantled by the Germans. It was reinstated in 1985.
Where: Place de la Constitution, Luxembourg City
When: Anytime. Unless she is on tour; in 2010 she decorated the Luxembourg pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai.
Final Top tip
Luxembourg City Tourist Office has also devised a self guided walking tour of the city centre which takes in significant sites relating to the events of World War Two, including the Golden Lady. It is available from the tourist office or can be downloaded here.
Featured photo: Archangel12/flickr (file)