World War II in Luxembourgish films
Very early in the morning of 10 May 1940, in spite of the strict observance of neutrality, the German war machine was set in motion against the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The state of Luxembourg quickly found itself under the boot of the Nazi occupier. The invasion had been prepared long in advance and struck with a lightning speed.
German parachuted units and motorised columns occupied the country in the morning and Luxembourg, lacking any means of defence because of its international status, could not put up any resistance to the abysmal German military machine that was - for the second time in less than three decades - violating Luxembourg's territorial sovereignty.
With his fanatical ambition to integrate Luxembourgers - deemed to be 'volksdeutsch' - to the German nation, Adolf Hitler brought Luxembourg under German control. In fact, on 29 July 1940, following three months of military occupation, the establishment of the regime paved the way to untold suffering. The German annexation was vicious and brutal. Acts of forced enlistment, imprisonments, deportations and executions were now on the agenda.
The era under Nazi domination is certainly the darkest hour in the Grand Duchy's history. And over 70 years after the end of this plight, the nightmare of the 1930's and the atrocities that ensued at the hands of the Third Reich still haunt the collective memory of Luxembourgers.
The crimes that were committed by Nazi Germany cannot be erased or forgotten. But to prevent such horror from happening ever again, the duty of remembrance is vital. That is why the traces of these crimes have been adopted in fiction and documentary Luxembourgish films as a moral injunction. In fact, alongside repeated efforts such as remembrance events or teaching this dark part of national history to schoolchildren, a wide range of films on Wold War II in connection with the Grand Duchy enable the memory to live on and to keep the atrocities perpetrated by the Germans alive in the national consciousness.
All Luxembourgish films or international co-productions on the topic are of great value for the cinematic, if not the historical heritage. As a result, drawing up a full list of the best productions is an impossible task. However, we have made a selection.
'Lëtzebuerg ass fräi'
The 10th September 1944 is seen as the day of liberation of Luxembourg and its capital city. These memorable moments of the Liberation have been kept in this 17-minute documentary, bringing this historic day to life through old photographs. German troops withdrew from Luxembourgish territory on 17 February 1945.
Year of release: 1944
Director: Pierre Bertogne
Duration: 17 min.
'Pour la liberté' (for freedom)
This film starts with pre-war footage of Luxembourg, a peaceful place where happiness abounds under the protection of the dynasty. Footage of the Germans invading the country follow, and of all the events that occurred in Luxembourg between 1940 and 1945-1946. The film contains both archive footage and reconstructed scenes.
Year of release: 1948
Director: Philippe Schneider
Duration: 27 min.
'Déi Zwéi vum Bierg'
Mill and Välten are two friends living in a small village in the North of Luxembourg. The 1940 Nazi occupation changed their lives forever. The film presents day-to-day life under German occupation: confiscations and humiliations, the threat of forced enlistment, deaths of relatives, deportations, collaboration and resistance.
Year of release: 1985
Actors: Fernand Mathes, Christian Kmiotek, Fernand Fox, Marie-Christine Faber, Vicky Weydert, Juliette François, Marie-Paule Von Roesgen, André Jung, Pol Greisch
Directors: Menn Bodson, Marc Olinger, Gast Rollinger
Duration: 176 min.
The film starts with the story of an 11-year old boy, Chrëscht Knapp, a carpenter's son, under German occupation in 1942. One fine day, Chrëscht's small village is turned upside down when the Gestapo searches houses to find members of the resistance, and the Knapps' home is one of them.
Year of release: 1990
Actors: Claude Wagner, André Jung, Michèle Clees, Pol Greisch, Josiane Peiffer, Ulrich Eichenberger, Alain Hoffmann, Myriam Muller, Steve Karier, Shirin Fabeck, Mike Lacour, Christian Kmiotek, Luc Feit, Marie-Paule Von Roesgen, Thierry Van Werveke
Director: Paul Kieffer, Fränk Hoffmann
Duration: 89 min.
'Heim ins Reich'
Featuring a multitude of testimonies and footage filmed at the time, Heim ins Reich is an account of the ordeal that Luxembourg and its population went through under German occupation from 10 May 1940 to 10 September 1944. Most of the witnesses in the film were active members of the resistance against the German occupation.
Year of release: 2004
Director: Claude Lahr
'Der neunte Tag'
Abbey Henry Kremer officially obtained nine days of leave from the Dachau concentration camp, where he was imprisoned along with approximately 3,000 European clergymen. His mission: convince the leaders of the Luxembourg Catholic Church to support the Nazi occupation. If he does not return, his colleagues will be executed.
Year of release: 2004
Actors: Ulrich Matthes, August Diehl, Bibiana Beglau, Germain Wagner, Jean-Paul Raths, Hilmar Thate
Director: Volker Schlöndorff
Duration: 97 min.
Léif Lëtzebuerger tells the story of the Grand Duchess Charlotte in exile during World War II. She was forced to leave Luxembourg and this documentary is about the departure and exile of the Grand Duchess and her government via France, Spain and Portugal, before reaching London, from where she supported the Luxembourgish people during her speeches at the BBC.
Year of release: 2008
Director: Ray Tostevin
Duration: 98 min.
Integrate into the Wehrmacht or join the resistance? This is the dilemma that 21 year-old François is faced with in May 1944 upon his return to Luxembourg after completing his studies in Germany. The young man must make a choice: with the aim of liberating the world from Nazi control and the hope of regaining his freedom, he opts for the second choice.
Year of release: 2009
Actors: Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Marianne Basler, Thierry Van Werveke
Director: Nicolas Steil
Duration: 100 min.
In the summer of 1943, under Nazi occupation in Luxembourg, the young member of the resistance, Emil Schwirtz kills two German police officers. His friend Félix Lux is killed by the Nazis, but Emil manages to hide. Over 500 German policemen and soldiers look for Emil and other members of the resistance in the villages of Eschdorf and Heiderscheid. The film is a mix of interviews and fictional scenes.
Year of release: 2010
Actors: Yves Reuland, Pol Greisch, Félix Eischen
Director: Thoma Tousch
Duration: 115 min.
'Heemwéi - eng Odyssee'
France, September 1944: The end of World War II seems imminent as allied troops get closer to Berlin. Jos and Frenz, two Luxembourgers, decide to lay down their arms and desert the German army. This is the story of their long and difficult return journey...
Year of release: 2014
Actors: Steve Hoegener, Janine Horsburgh, Luc Lamesch, Nilton Martins, Sascha Migge, Carole Nourry
Director: Jean-Louis Schuller
Duration: 99 min.
'Eng nei Zäit'
In February 1945, Jules returns home after fighting for the Maquis, a French resistance group. Back in his hometown, Jules hopes to regain peace and put the war behind him. When his fiancée is found murdered with a family of German farmers with whom she worked, the life that Jules was leading to rebuild himself crumbles.
Year of release: 2015
Actors: Luc Schiltz, Jules Werner, André Jung, Fabienne Elaine Hollwege, Elsa Rauchs, Luc Feit, Eugénie Anselin, Frédéric Frenay, Jean-Paul Raths, Jean-Paul Maes, Philippe Thelen, Max Gindorff
Director: Christophe Wagner
Duration: 100 min.