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The involvement of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in World War II began with its invasion by German forces on 10 May 1940 and lasted beyond its liberation by Allied forces in late 1944 and early 1945.

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.

Background

The Luxembourg government had pursued a policy of neutrality since the Luxembourg Crisis of 1867 had highlighted the country's vulnerability.[1] During the First World War, the 400 men of the Corps des Gendarmes et Volontaires had remained in barracks throughout the German occupation.[2] In March 1939, in a speech to the Reichstag, Adolf Hitler promised that Luxembourg sovereignty would not be breached.[3]

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 Luxembourg army numbered some 13 officers, 255 armed gendarmes and 425 soldiers.[4]

The popular English-language radio station Radio Luxembourg was taken off-air in September 1939, amid fears that it might antagonize the Germans.[5] Apart from that, normal life continued in Luxembourg during the Phoney War; no blackout was enforced and regular trains to France and Germany continued.[6]

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.[citation needed]

German invasion

A Appeasement and after Britain and France's declaration of war against Germany in September 1939. By 1940, the Luxembourg army numbered some 13 officers, 255 armed gendarmes and 425 soldiers.[4]

The popular English-language radio station Radio Luxembourg was taken off-air in September 1939, amid fears that it might antagonize the Germans.[5] Apart from that, normal life continued in Luxembourg during the Phoney War; no blackout was enforced and regular trains to France and Germany continued.[6]

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.[citation needed]

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.[7] The invading forces encountered little resistance from the Luxembourg 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.[citation needed]

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 Luxembourg soldiers wounded, with 1 British pilot and 5 French Spahis killed in action.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.[7] The invading forces encountered little resistance from the Luxembourg 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.[citation needed]

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 Luxembourg soldiers wounded, with 1 British pilot and 5 French Spahis killed in action.[8]

The departure of the government left the state functions of Luxembourg in disorder.[9] 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.[9] 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.[9] From August 1942, Luxembourg was officially made part of Germany.[10]

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][11] This led to a popular revival of the traditional Luxembourgish language, which had not been prohibited, as a form of passive resistance.[12]

From August 1942, all male Luxembourgers of draft age were conscripted into the German armed forces.[13] Altogether, 12,000 Luxembourgers served in the German military, of whom nearly 3,000 died during the war.[12]

Collaboration