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Visiting Place des Martyrs, Luxembourg City: created to commemorate victims of invasion, but many more victims followed
Successive waves of poignancy recalled
Place des Martyrs is a prominent public square in the Grand Duchy's capital, which was laid out after World War One in order to commemorate the many victims of the Imperial German invasion during that war.
Interestingly, after the creation of this square, thus dedicated, many more victims of invasion — this time by Nazi Germany — ensued.
Before World War One, Luxembourg already had a highly developed railroad network and thus in order to prevent this falling into the hands of the French army, Imperial German invasion was supposedly 'excused' as matter of military necessity. This did not prevent the continuance of the Grand Duchy's institutions of state, however; its government continued to function throughout World War One, however uneasily (1). Many Luxembourg citizens chose to leave the country and fight the invader in the ranks of the French army; the majority of these did not survive.
But in World War Two, the invasion of Nazi Germany had even more severe consequences. The country was annexed outright; the Grand Duchess and her government went into exile; and many Luxembourg citizens were deported to Germany to work, or to serve in the Wehrmacht, a significant proportion of these did not survive; and Luxembourg was also grimly compelled to lose much of its Jewish population through deportation to concentration camps; and parts of the country suffered devastation during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944/45.
A distasteful sense of irony was seen in World War Two, in relation to the square, in that for a period the brutal Nazi Gauleiter Gustav Simon was based at the former ARBED (2) building which overlooks the square.
Thus, to the name of the square — Place des Martyrs — already deeply resonant in the interwar period, was added further poignancy following the events of World War Two.
The square is also known by another name: the Rose Garden (Létzebuergesch: Rousegäertchen), given the presence of many rose plants in this memorial area. Luxembourg can sometimes suffer quite severe winters, and the rose garden can appear to be almost obliterated at times.
A statue by Henry Moore, Mother and Child, stands in the centre of the square; this work dates from 1983/84.
Place des Martyrs is situated at the aptly named Avenue de la Liberté, in Luxemburg City's Station district.
December 17, 2013
(1) The head of state of the day, Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaïde (1894-1924), was forced to abdicate in 1919, succeeded by her sister who became Grand Duchess Charlotte (1896-1985) and reigned until 1964; without question after World War Two, there existed a significantly greater sense of national unity in Luxembourg around the person of the monarch.
(2) Now the ArcelorMittal building.
Also worth seeing
In Luxembourg City itself, its numerous visitor attractions include: the nearby, former ARBED building; the towered, former State Savings Bank building at place de Metz where General Omar Bradley had his headquarters at the end of World War Two; the Pont Adolphe over the picturesque Pétrusse Valley; the Cathedral; the Grand Ducal Palace; the Chamber of Deputies building; Place Guillaume II ; the Gelle Fra monument; the Saint-Quirin chapel; the monumental railroad station; and many others.
How to get there: From Luxembourg Airport (Aéroport de Luxembourg), at Findel, car rental is available. For North American travellers who make 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. You are advised that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. 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.