Visiting St.Vith, Belgium: German-speaking town with Battle of the Bulge memories
Town in the 'Ostkantone' which suffered severe WW2 damage
The Belgian town of St Vith, in the east of the country, is in the German-speaking Ostkantone area of Liège Province. While two of Belgium's languages, French and Dutch, are well-known features of the countries complex, bilingual practices, the fact that there is also an area of the country which is officially German-speaking is less widely appreciated.
Battle of the Bulge
Given its strategic geographical location, the town was heavily caught up in the Battle of the Bulge toward the end of World War Two, when Nazi Germany's von Rundstedt Offensive caused a massive but desperate and ultimately unsuccessful, rearguard action against the hitherto advancing Allied Forces which had landed in Normandy in June 1944.
The fierceness of the fighting in and around St Vith between mainly American units and German SS Panzer troops lay partly in the fact that the town contained important road and railroad junctions. The possession or loss of access to this junction thus had considerable implications for control of the wider district. While the town was heavily bombed by the Royal Air Force — indeed, these raids destroyed over 90% of the town — these stark topographical facts laid emphasis to the notion that air power alone does not resolve conflicts, but rather troops on the ground need to take and retain metre by metre possession of strategically important localities.
This US Forces struggled to do in December, January and February of 1944 and 1945 and were ultimately successful, although a particularly severe winter made the task more difficult.
Today, a tank of the 7th Armored Division is on permanent display at St. Vith, by way of tribute to the costly defence of the town by US forces.
A noted architectural feature of this quiet town is the Vituskirche ; its distinctive, tall spire is a local landmark.
This building was completed in 1959.
A survivor of Medieval fortifications at St.Vith is the Buecheltoren , a circular, stone tower. These fortifications have otherwise disappeared.
Noted local people
Noted people associated with St.Vith include Silvio Gesell (1862-1930), monetary theorist and businessman born in the town.
The Jesuit phililogist and writer Paul Aler (1656-1727) was born in St.Vith.
Also worth seeing
Wiesenbach (distance: 2 kilometres); the Medieval Sankt-Bartholomaeus-Kapelle is a chapel with interesting, old wall paintings.
Burg-Reuland , Belgium (distance: 15 kilometres), has an imposing castle and some noteworthy buildings.
Ouren , (distance: 25 kilometres), is linked administratively to Burg-Reuland; in this picturesque village situated in the Our Valley, a small park marks the location where the meeting occurs of the borders of three countries: Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg.
Bastogne , (distance: 53 kilometres) was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the Battle of the Bulge toward the close of World War Two and attracts many American visitors. Bastogne is situated in Belgian Luxembourg province (Belgium also has a province called Luxembourg, and this province was formerly united with the Grand Duchy of the same name before their official split in 1839).
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (distance: 32 kilometres), with its castle, fine
ecclesiastical architecture, and scenic location, attracts many visitors.
Dasburg , Germany (distance: 38 kilometres), in a picturesque setting on the Our River, has some castle ruins.
Pruem , Germany: (distance: 35 kilometres) possesses some outstanding ecclesiastical architecture in a scenic location.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport (distance: 165 kilometres), where car hire is available. The nearest large international airport is Luxembourg (Aéroport de Luxembourg ), at Findel (distance: 94 kilometres), where car hire is available. For North American travellers making the London, England area their touring base, airlines flying to Luxembourg include Luxair (from London Heathrow Airport and London City Airport) and CityJet (from London City Airport). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may be of interest
- Visiting Burg-Reuland, Belgium: Monumentality in the German-speaking Ostkantone
German-speaking part of Belgium? Yes, eastern Belgium has a German-speaking area known as the Ostkantone (French: Cantons de l'Est, a phrase which will be familiar to Canadians, given the existence of an...
- Visiting Ouren, Belgium, in the German-speaking Ostkantone: where three countries' borders meet
In some ways Ouren, Belgium, is in a unique geographical location. More than three quarters surrounded by territory belonging to other countries, it is part of eastern Belgium's German-speaking community, at...
- Visiting Eupen: historic architecture in the capital of Belgium's German-speaking Ostkantone
German-speaking part of Belgium? Yes, indeed, and it should be more well-known than it is. Eupen is the chief town of the German-speaking Ostkatone of eastern Belgium. Some history Prior to 1918...
- Visiting Kettenis, eastern Belgium, in the German-speaking Ostkantone: castles and past, official eq
I visited Kettenis, eastern Belgium, with its moated Liberm castle (Schloss Liberm ). There did not seem to be any doubt as to where Kettenis was situated, geographically and culturally. Kettenis,...
- Visiting Clervaux in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: rich architectural heritage and Battle of the Bu
Clervaux, the name of a municipality and an administrative canton, is one of those places where history seems to tread everywhere you look. The medieval castle which stands in the centre of town was founded...
For your visit, these items may be of interest
More by this Author
- 0Visiting Laguna del Sauce: An Uruguayan 70 square km reflecting pool of multidimensional refractions
An inland lagoon in Uruguay reflects light, hills and history. Nearby Punta del Este - whose airport is named for Laguna del Sauce - served as an ideological crucible pitting JFK against Che Guevara.
- 0Visiting Mexico City, and its Venustiano Carranza suburb and airport: remembering figures of Mexican history
It is well known that Mexico City's international airport is named for Don Benito Juárez (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México Benito Juárez ). Texans and American travellers to Mexico will also...
25,000 people are said to have perished at this concentration camp on French soil, functioning between 1941 and 1944. 25,000 people. Albert Speer, later Hitler's production supremo, was linked with it
No comments yet.