On 9 September 1944, forces from the US 5th Armored Division crossed the border from France and entered the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg near Pétange.
The next day, on 10 September, the division reached Luxembourg City and the rest of the country was liberated shortly afterwards. It had endured just over four years of occupation, during which time more than five thousand Luxembourgers were killed, around two thousand of whom were Jewish.
One of the better World War II museums in the region, providing a good historical survey of the Battle of the Bulge with an emphasis on the troops that liberated Diekirch. There’s plenty of miltary equipment, but the main draw are the photographs showing both sets of troops. A display entitled “Veiner Miliz” details the activities of the resistance movement based in Vianden, and there’s a room devoted to Tambow, a Soviet camp where many Luxembourgers who had worked as Nazi forced labour at the Eastern Front were incarcerated.
Located at Hamm, about 6km east of Luxembourg City and the same distance south from the airport, the US cemetery contains the graves of some five thousand American servicemen, including General Patton, who died on 21 December 1945 following a car accident 12 days earlier. Most of those buried here lost their lives in the Battle of the Bulge or in the advance to the River Rhine. It follows the usual pattern of America’s European cemeteries, with the pristine white gravestones laid out in curved lines on manicured lawns surrounded by woodland.
The German burial ground at Sandweiler is a 20-minute walk from the US cemetery. It too is set in woodland, but it’s smaller and less grandiose, with the crosses that mark the graves made from a sombre grey granite. Nearly 11,000 German servicemen are buried here, about half of them interred by the Americans. It’s a melancholy and moving place, with most gravestones carrying the names of two, or sometimes three, combatants.
Top image: Clervaux in Luxembourg, scene of the Battle of the Bulge © CIWO/Shutterstock