German invasion of Luxembourg

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German invasion of Luxembourg
Part of the German invasion of France and the Low Countries in World War II
Germans invade Luxembourg.jpg
German troops crossing into Luxembourg
Date10 May 1940
Result German victory
Luxembourg occupied by Nazi Germany
Flag of Luxembourg.svg  Luxembourg
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg  France
Supported by:
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Luxembourg.svg Pierre Dupong
Flag of Luxembourg.svg Émile Speller
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Robert Petiet
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Arthur Barratt
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Heinz Guderian
425 soldiers
246 gendarmes
18,000 soldiers
United Kingdom:
No. 226 Sqdn. RAF
50,000 soldiers
600 tanks
Casualties and losses
7 wounded
76 captured
5 killed
United Kingdom:
1 killed
2 captured
1 aircraft destroyed

The German invasion of Luxembourg was part of Case Yellow (German : Fall Gelb), the German invasion of the Low CountriesBelgium, 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 language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Low Countries historical coastal landscape in north western Europe

The Low Countries, the Low Lands, or historically also the Netherlands, is a coastal lowland region in northwestern Europe, forming the lower basin of the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers, divided in the Middle Ages into numerous semi-independent principalities that consolidated in the countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, as well as today's French Flanders.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 square kilometres (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.



On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, initiating World War II. [1] This put Luxembourg's Grand Ducal government in a delicate situation. On the one hand, the population's sympathies laid with the UK and France; on the other hand, due to the country's policy of neutrality since the Treaty of London in 1867, the government adopted a careful non-belligerent stance towards its neighbours. In accordance with the treaty's restrictions, the only military force Luxembourg maintained was its small Volunteer Corps under Captain Aloyse Jacoby, reinforced by the Grand Ducal Gendarmerie under Captain Maurice Stein. Together they formed the Corps des Gendarmes et Volontaires under Major-Commandant Émile Speller. [Note 1]

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Invasion of Poland invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent

The Invasion of Poland, known in Poland as the September Campaign or the 1939 Defensive War, and in Germany as the Poland Campaign (Polenfeldzug), was an invasion of Poland by Germany that marked the beginning of World War II. The German invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviets invaded Poland on 17 September following the Molotov–Tōgō agreement that terminated the Soviet and Japanese Battles of Khalkhin Gol in the east on 16 September. The campaign ended on 6 October with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland under the terms of the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

At noon on 1 September Radio Luxembourg announced that in order for the country to remain unambiguously neutral it would cease broadcasting. Exceptions were a daily 20 minute-long message at midday and in the evening reserved for government announcements. For the rest of the month, the government supplied full transcripts of its broadcasts to the foreign legations in the country. Later that day several German stations posed as Radio Luxembourg by broadcasting in the Luxembourgian wavelength, making, in the opinion of United States Chargé d'Affaires George Platt Waller, "grossly unneutral announcements". On the evening of 21 September, the Grand Ducal government suspended all broadcasts pending the resolution of the war. [3]

Radio Luxembourg multilingual commercial broadcaster in Luxembourg

Radio Luxembourg was a multilingual commercial broadcaster in Luxembourg. It is known in most non-English languages as RTL.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

George Platt Waller

George Platt Waller Jr. was an American diplomat and the United States chargé d'affaires in Luxembourg during World War II.

On 14 September the volunteer corps was bolstered by the addition of a 125-strong auxiliary unit. [4] German military maneuvers and river traffic made the population increasingly nervous, so in the spring of 1940 fortifications were erected along the borders with Germany and France. [5] The so-called Schuster Line, named after its chief constructor, consisted of 41 sets of concrete blocks and iron gates; 18 bridgeblocks on the German border, 18 roadblocks on the German border, and five roadblocks on the French border. [6] Since the Corps des Gendarmes et Volontaires had no pioneer unit, construction fell to the responsibility of civilian engineers, while technical advice was sought from the French, who took great interest in the line's establishment. [7] A series of nine radio outposts were established along the German border, each manned by gendarmes, with a central radio receiver in Captain Stein's official office near the volunteers' Saint-Esprit Barracks in the capital. [8] [9] On 4 January 1940, the Cabinet convened under Grand Duchess Charlotte and outlined steps to be taken in the event of a German invasion. [10]

Schuster Line

The Schuster Line 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.

Pioneer (military) soldier tasked with engineering and construction

A pioneer is a soldier employed to perform engineering and construction tasks. The term is in principle similar to sapper.

Radio receiver radio device for receiving radio waves and converting them to a useful signal

In radio communications, a radio receiver, also known as a receiver, wireless or simply radio is an electronic device that receives radio waves and converts the information carried by them to a usable form. It is used with an antenna. The antenna intercepts radio waves and converts them to tiny alternating currents which are applied to the receiver, and the receiver extracts the desired information. The receiver uses electronic filters to separate the desired radio frequency signal from all the other signals picked up by the antenna, an electronic amplifier to increase the power of the signal for further processing, and finally recovers the desired information through demodulation.

After several false alarms in the spring of 1940, the probability of a military conflict between Germany and France grew. Germany stopped the export of coke for the Luxembourgish steel industry.[ citation needed ] Abwehr agents under Oskar Reile infiltrated the country, posing as tourists. [11] This was observed by Captain Fernand Archen, an undercover senior French intelligence officer in Luxembourg City, posing as a wine merchant. [Note 2] He reported his findings to his superiors at Longwy on 7 May, understanding that the agents were to be used to seize key bridges over the Sauer, Moselle and Our rivers. [13] Luxembourg authorities also took notice, and Captain Stein worked to stop the Germans' activities. [9] On 3 March, the French Third Army was ordered to occupy Luxembourg in the event of a German attack. [14]

Coke (fuel) fuel

Coke is a grey, hard, and porous fuel with a high carbon content and few impurities, made by heating coal or oil in the absence of air — a destructive distillation process. It is an important industrial product, used mainly in iron ore smelting, but also as a fuel in stoves and forges when air pollution is a concern.

<i>Abwehr</i> military intelligence of the Reichswehr and Wehrmacht

The Abwehr was the German military intelligence service for the Reichswehr and Wehrmacht from 1920 to 1945. Despite the fact that the Treaty of Versailles prohibited the Germans altogether from establishing an intelligence organization of their own, they formed an espionage group in 1920 within the Ministry of Defense, calling it the Abwehr. The initial purpose of the Abwehr was defense against foreign espionage—an organizational role which later evolved considerably. Under General Kurt von Schleicher the individual military services' intelligence units were combined and, in 1929, centralized under his Ministry of Defense, forming the foundation for the more commonly understood manifestation of the Abwehr.


On the evening of 8 May, the Grand Ducal Government ordered for the first time that all doors of the Schuster Line be closed at 11:00 and remain so regardless of circumstance until 06:00 the following morning. Throughout the day Luxembourgian authorities witnessed much less activity on the far side of the border and made no reports of tank or machine gun movements. [10] On the afternoon of 9 May, a French intelligence officer stationed in Clervaux witnessed German troops preparing pontoon bridges in the Sauer. He attempted in vain to contact Captain Archen, and resorted to making a direct phone call to his superiors at Longwy. [13] Late that evening, the Grand Ducal government came into possession of a document from a German divisional command. Dated 23 April 1940, it detailed the division's chief of staff's orders to various units to occupy strategic points within the country. [15] The Grand Ducal government put all border posts and Grand Ducal Gendarmerie stations on full alert. In Luxembourg City, gendarmes mobilised to defend public buildings and dispatched vehicle patrols to arrest fifth columnists. The economic councillor and the chancellor of the German legation were detained for questioning regarding allegations that they had used legation cars to organise subversive activities within the country. Since an invasion had not yet occurred they still enjoyed diplomatic privilege and the police were forced to release them. [8] One group of fifth columnists was arrested while attempting to reach the legation. [10] Meanwhile, Captain Archen had received his subordinate's report, but by that point, he had been told by informants in the Gendarmerie that shots had been exchanged with German operatives at a remote farm near the Moselle. At 11:45 on 9 May he radioed Longwy: "Reports of important German troop movements on the German-Luxembourg frontier." Throughout the night his messages became more and more frantic. Two Luxembourgish customs officials at Wormeldange heard horses and soldiers across the Moselle, but were unable to make out the Germans' activities due to heavy fog. [13]

Clervaux Commune in Luxembourg

Clervaux is a commune and town in northern Luxembourg, administrative capital of the canton of Clervaux.

Fifth column group of people who undermine a larger group

A fifth column is any group of people who undermine a larger group from within, usually in favour of an enemy group or nation. The activities of a fifth column can be overt or clandestine. Forces gathered in secret can mobilize openly to assist an external attack. This term is also extended to organised actions by military personnel. Clandestine fifth column activities can involve acts of sabotage, disinformation, or espionage executed within defense lines by secret sympathizers with an external force.

Wormeldange Commune in Grevenmacher, Luxembourg

Wormeldange is a commune and small town in eastern Luxembourg. It is part of the canton of Grevenmacher.

At around midnight, Captain Stein, Minister of Justice Victor Bodson, and Police Commissioner Joseph Michel Weis held an emergency meeting. Bodson requested that the capital be reinforced by gendarmes from the south, and told Weis to forward this information to the capital's district commissioner to give the necessary orders. Weis later tried to contact the district commissioner by phone, but failed to reach him; reinforcements never came. [16] A short time later the gendarmes at Diekirch were ordered to patrol the local railway bridge and be wary of unfamiliar persons. [17] Luxembourgian authorities received the first reports of exchanged fire at around 02:00 on 10 May when two gendarmes were ambushed near the German border by plainclothes agents. [Note 3] The Germans retreated to the Fels mill near Grevenmacher and around 20 soldiers who volunteered were dispatched to arrest them. The government then ordered all steel doors along the border locked. At 02:15 soldiers stationed in Bous were attacked by Germans in civilian clothes. One soldier was badly injured, as was one German who was detained. Shortly thereafter a gendarmerie lieutenant and his chauffeur were ambushed and exchanged fire with German-speaking cyclists; no one was hurt. Fifth columnists successfully severed the telephone wires between the capital and the border posts, forcing the gendarmes to communicate via shortwave radio. German agents gradually seized the radio stations; the last post to fall, in Wasserbillig, transmitted until the Germans breached the operating room. [10]

The steel doors of the Schuster Line were ordered closed on 10 May 1940 at 03:15, following reports of movement of German troops on the east side of the border rivers Our, Sauer, and Moselle. [11] At 03:30 Luxembourgian authorities released interned French pilots and German deserters. [10] The Royal Family was evacuated from its residence in Colmar-Berg to the Grand Ducal palace in Luxembourg City. [19] Around 30 minutes later, at dawn, German planes were spotted flying over Luxembourg City towards Belgium. [10]


Map showing the German invasion routes Progress wehrmacht lux May 1940.jpg
Map showing the German invasion routes

The German invasion began at 04:35 when the 1st, 2nd, and 10th Panzer Divisions crossed the border at Wallendorf-Pont, Vianden, and Echternach respectively. [20] Wooden ramps were used to cross over the Schuster Line's tank traps. [11] Fire was exchanged, but the Germans did not encounter any significant resistance save for some bridges destroyed and some land mines since the majority of the Luxembourgish Volunteer Corps stayed in their barracks. The border was defended only by soldiers who had volunteered for guard duty and gendarmes. [2] A handful of Germans secured the bridge at Wormeldange and captured the two customs officers there, who had demanded that they halt but refrained from opening fire. [13] The partly demolished bridge over the Sauer at Echternach was quickly repaired by engineers of the Großdeutschland regiment, allowing the passage of the 10th Panzer Division. Planes flew overhead, heading for Belgium and France, though some stopped and landed troops within the country.[ citation needed ]

Captain Archen repeatedly alerted his superiors at Longwy of the invasion, but his reports never reached the 3rd Army at Metz. General Charles Condé, the army's commander, was unclear about the situation and at 05:30 dispatched aerial reconnaissance units to investigate. At 06:00 the French 3rd Light Cavalry Division was ordered to intervene. [14]

Telephone and radio messages from the border posts to the Gendarmerie and Volunteer Corps headquarters informed the Luxembourgish government and Grand Ducal court of the invasion. [3] Foreign Minister Joseph Bech, in the presence of Prime Minister Pierre Dupong, attempted to contact the German ambassador at the legation and at his private residence, but they were informed that he was present at neither. [19] At 06:30 the majority of the government, including Dupong and Bech, evacuated the capital by motorcade to the border town of Esch. There a group of 125 German special operations troops had landed by Fieseler Storch, with orders to hold the area until the main invasion force arrived. A gendarme confronted the soldiers and asked that they leave, but he was taken prisoner. [11] The government motorcade encountered a roadblock at a crossroads manned by German units, and was forced to detour through the countryside to avoid capture. [19] French Ambassador Jean Tripier followed the government party but was stopped by the Germans and forced to return to the capital. Belgian Ambassador Kervyn de Meerendré was also stopped by German soldiers at the border and ordered to turn back. [21]

Following consultation with her ministers, Grand Duchess Charlotte decided to abandon the palace. Accompanied by her husband, Prince Felix, her mother, Dowager Grand Duchess Marie Anne, and members of the Grand-Ducal suite, she departed for the border village of Redange. [19] After a brief stop, her party crossed the border at 07:45. [22] Meanwhile, Hereditary Grand Duke Jean and two of his sisters, accompanied by an aide-de-camp , were to wait at the border for confirmation of occupation. [19] Around 08:00 the prime minister and his entourage passed over the border before making contact with French troops at Longlaville. Last minute telephone calls with Luxembourg City revealed the capital to be completely surrounded.[ citation needed ]

Charlotte's party was able to link up with the government motorcade at Longwy. They were joined by the Hereditary Grand Duke at Sainte-Menehould. His party had been held up by the German troops near Esch, and they only escaped when their chauffeur drove straight through the soldiers. [23]

At 08:00, elements of the French 3rd Light Cavalry Division under General Petiet, supported by the 1st Spahi Brigade under Colonel Jouffault and the 2nd company of the 5th Armoured Battalion, crossed the southern border to conduct a probe of German forces; these units later retreated behind the Maginot Line. Five Spahis were killed. [24] British Air Marshal Arthur Barratt, impatient with the reluctance of the French Air Force to conduct air strikes, ordered a flight of Fairey Battle bombers from the 226 Squadron to attack German tank columns. [11] They went unescorted and encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire. Most were damaged by flak but managed to escape. One received a direct hit and crashed near Bettendorf. German soldiers pulled the three injured crew from the burning wreckage, one of whom later died in a local hospital. [25]

The Grand Ducal Gendarmerie resisted the German troops, but to little avail; the capital city was occupied before noon. The Gendarmerie chain of command in the south was thrown into disarray by the influx of refugees and the arrival of German and French troops. Most gendarmes escorted refugees over the border, while some abandoned their posts and fled to France. [16] Total Luxembourgish casualties amounted to six gendarmes and one soldier wounded, while 22 soldiers (six officers and 16 non-commissioned officers) and 54 gendarmes were captured. [18]

By the evening of 10 May 1940, most of the country, with the exception of the south, was occupied by German forces. More than 90,000 civilians fled from the canton of Esch-sur-Alzette as a consequence of the advance. 47,000 evacuated to France, 45,000 poured into the central and northern part of Luxembourg.


Grand Duchess Charlotte and the government of Premier Pierre Dupong fled to France, Portugal and the United Kingdom, before finally settling in Canada for the duration of the war. Charlotte, exiled in London, became an important symbol of national unity. Her eldest son and heir, Jean, volunteered for the British Army in 1942. The only official representative left behind was Albert Wehrer  [ de ], head of the Ministry of State Affairs, as well as the 41 deputies.

By the end of May Wehrer and several high ranking functionaries established a provisional "Administrative Commission" to govern Luxembourg in lieu of the Grand Ducal family and the other ministers. Wehrer retained the Ministry of State Affairs and assumed responsibility for Foreign Relations and Justice; Jean Metzdorf held the portfolios for Interior, Transportation, and Public Works; Joseph Carmes managed Finance, Labour, and Public Health; Louis Simmer oversaw Education, and Mathias Pütz directed Agriculture, Viticulture, Commerce, and Industry. [26]

In the days after the invasion Luxembourgian officers walked about the capital freely, though the regular soldiers were mostly confined to their barracks. [27] Colonel Speller was briefly incarcerated by the Gestapo, though he was later released under close supervision. [28]


  1. The Corps des Gendarmes et Volontaires was under the ceremonial command of Prince Felix, but actual control of the unit rested with Major Speller. [2]
  2. Archen had been operating in Luxembourg since May 1936. [12]
  3. The Belgian Press Association reported in 1941 that one of these gendarmes was killed and the other severely wounded, [10] through a 1948 war memorial commemoration printed in the Grand Duché de Luxembourg Ministére D'État Bulletin D'Information stated that no gendarmes or soldiers were killed during the invasion. [18]


  1. Waller 2012, p. 11.
  2. 1 2 Thomas 2014, pp. 15–16.
  3. 1 2 Waller 2012, p. 23.
  4. "Luxembourg Army History". National Museum of Military History Diekirch. Musée national d'histoire militaire. Archived from the original on 22 August 2006. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  5. Melchers 1979, p. 258.
  6. Thomas 2014, p. 15.
  7. Melchers 1979, pp. 258–259.
  8. 1 2 Government of Luxembourg 1942, p. 36.
  9. 1 2 Biographie nationale du pays de Luxembourg : Fascicule 11 (in French). Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg. p.  24.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Belgium 1941, p. 100.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Horne, Alistair, To Lose a Battle, p.258-264
  12. Melchers 1979, p. 259.
  13. 1 2 3 4 May 2015, pp. 3–4.
  14. 1 2 Kaufmann & Kaufmann 2007, p. 176.
  15. Government of Luxembourg 1942, p. 34.
  16. 1 2 Artuso 2015, pp. 138–139.
  17. Rothbrust 1990, p. 47.
  18. 1 2 "Inauguration du Monument érigé à la Mémoire des Morts de la Force Armée de la guerre de 1940-1945" (PDF). Grand Duché de Luxembourg Ministére D'État Bulletin D'Information (in French). 4 (10). Luxembourg: Service information et presse. 31 October 1948. p. 147.
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 Government of Luxembourg 1942, p. 37.
  20. Spiller 1992, p. 234.
  21. Waller 2012, p. 29.
  22. Grand Duché de Luxembourg Ministére D'État Bulletin D'Information (PDF) (in French). Service information et presse. 1996. p. 74. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-09-13. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  23. Government of Luxembourg 1942, p. 38.
  24. Raths 2008, p. 7.
  25. "75 Jahre danach!". National Museum of Military History Diekirch (in German). Musée National d'Histoire Militaire. 2 July 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  26. Waller 2012, p. 58.
  27. Waller 2012, p. 42.
  28. "Décès du Colonel E. Speller, Aide de Camp de S. A. R. Madame la Grande-Duchesse de Luxembourg:" (PDF). Grand Duché de Luxembourg Ministére D'État Bulletin D'Information (in French). 8 (12). Luxembourg: Service information et presse. 29 February 1952. p. 30.

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The Revolution of 1848 in Luxembourg was part of the revolutionary wave which occurred across Europe in 1848, in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg which at the time was in personal union with the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Dissatisfaction with inequality, an authoritarian government, a lack of civil liberties and a political system that excluded most people from government, caused widespread upheaval. This in turn forced the government to concede various reforms, particularly the granting of a new constitution, which introduced new civil liberties, parliamentary government, wider participation in the political system, and the separation of powers.

Émile Speller

Émile Speller was a Luxembourgish military officer and the commander of the Corps des Gendarmes et Volontaires during the German invasion of Luxembourg in World War II. He also served as aide-de-camp to several members of the Grand Ducal Family throughout his career and chamberlain of the Grand Ducal court.


Further reading