Encouraged by patches of blue sky, we started our Luxembourg City Walk following the Tourist Guide. The city reminds us of Vienna, with imposing high-ceilinged buildings. Luxembourg was subject to various European royal Luxembourg is on a high bluff houses over the centuries, and even produced a couple of Holy Roman Emperors. Right now it is an independent Grand Duchy.
Luxembourg is built on a high bluff between two rivers, and once was the most heavily defended city in Europe. Most of the defenses were dismantled under the Treaty of 1867. But a walk on the ramparts is still impressive, and in the old city the streets are narrow and winding and the buildings still beautiful. The wreaths honoring those who served in WW II were fresh; the monument has a permanent flame, like Kennedy's in Arlington.
After about an hour we discovered we had not bundled up enough against the cold wind, so we headed back towards our hotel, across the street from the railway station. Wandering down a side street near the hotel we saw people on Sunday morning with loaded shopping bags, and followed them back to their source - a Supermarche hidden deep in the basement of an arcade between the streets. Civic art in Luxembourg It's the first time this trip we've seen a supermarket open on Sunday morning.
To get into the Supermarche, you pass through automatic security doors; one door opens, you walk into the vestibule, that door closes, then the next door opens. CCTV cameras monitor the shoppers. This is explained because the supermarket is such a maze of corridors and passages. We followed a winding trail that led up and down stairs and ramps and turned corners right and left until we were quite lost. The store was full of shoppers, most of whom were from Southeastern Europe. We've read that more than a quarter of Luxembourg's 400,000 inhabitants are foreigners; there's plenty of work available.
In our search for crackers we wound up one aisle and down the next, through an immense and busy wine and liquor department, and exited through the cashier at the door opposite our entry point. At this point we had no idea how to get back to the street. Any street. We were surrounded by a tanning salon, National Resistance Museum a couple of shoe stores and an establishment selling miniscule sets of lingerie, all of which were closed. After trying several corridors and a set of stairs we found an exit to a street at least a block away from where we'd come in.
The National Resistance Museum is open only Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 3 to 6. We rode a two-car train for twenty minutes to Esch-Sur-Alzette to see it.
It's amazing how even the smallest towns in Europe manage to look like cities, with downtown shopping districts and public buildings and plazas and fountains. In Esch / Alzette we walked down J. F. Kennedy Boulevard to the museum. On our way back to the train, we joined the Sunday strollers on their pedestrian street.
The limited hours were probably due to the schedule of the one volunteer who staffed the museum. A tall man with a thick shock of white hair, he had been a leader of the Luxembourg resistance. He didn't speak much English, and we had even less Letzebuergesch, so what he told us was in French. He had helped allied pilots along the escape routes. He was the president of one of the resistance groups, and had escaped from captivity seven times. He was helped by the fact that he spoke German. At the end of the war he helped the Allied troops capture one of the worst of the German officers.
The museum contained a variety of materials documenting the work of the Esch-Sur-Alzette Luxembourg Resistance. Remember that this is a country of 400,000 today - probably about 250,000 at the time of the War. When the Germans invaded in 1940, almost 40,000 people fled; the Grand Duchess went to Canada aboard the U.S.S. Trenton. That was an interesting story, because the U.S. was not at war. But it happened that Roosevelt's ancestors came from Clervaux, in the Ardennes, so he helped the Grand Duchess, his distant relative, to safety.
The Germans set up a government and banned the use of French or English. They also banned the wearing of the beret. In 1942 the German Gauleiter ordered general conscription of everyone born between 1920 and 1926. There was a nationwide general strike. The Germans suppressed the strike and killed some of the strikers in reprisal. In the end 11,000 Luxembourg youths served in the German Army on the Eastern front; about 3,000 died. (This is similar to the Danish experience; these foreign troops were used as cannon fodder by the Germans.)
An additional 500 civilian fugitives became maquisards, and survived the war living in the mountainous areas of France. About 220 young men followed the Wine store in Esch entire escape route through safe houses to Spain and Portugal, where they were able to serve with some branch of the Allied forces. Finally, 4000 civilians from Luxembourg were sent to German concentration camps, and 1800 died. Only 50 of the 750 Jews survived the Holocaust.
This is a museum of, by, and for the Resistance; it is not a comprehensive museum of the Luxembourg experience in WW II. Tucked away in a small town, it conveys a vivid sense of Resistance life, it honors the memories of the Luxembourg people who fought the Nazis, and it allows the survivors the opportunity to share their history with visitors, families and friends.
Two days later, as we're editing this report, we have noticed that there's another Museum of the Resistance in Schifflange, less than five miles down the road from Esch-sur-Alzette. We won't have time to see it, but we're curious about these apparently competing museums.