Histoire

​​Wiltz - The 'Cité Martyre' of Luxemburg​

Luxembourg

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​​On 31 August 1942, Wiltz was the starting point for a nationwide general strike against the introduction of compulsory military service by the Nazi regime. ​During the Battle of the Bulge, the town was heavily destroyed. Wiltz therefore obtained the title of ‘Cité Martyre’ after the war.

​​With a decree issued by the Gauleiter Gustav Simon, general conscription was introduced in Luxembourg on 30 August 1942.  This was initially for those born between 1920 and 1924. The country was placed in a state of emergency and repressive measures were announced for deserters and their dependents.

In Wiltz, and subsequently throughout the country, several death sentences were immediately carried out by special courts to deter strikers.   Numerous strikers were handed over to the arbitrariness of the dreaded Gestapo for 'protective custody'.

Out of 12,000 Luxembourgish conscripts, 2,500 were killed or missing at the front. However, out of 3,500 conscientious objectors, 1,100 were able to fight their way to the Allied armies or join the underground resistance.

Of the 164 young conscripts from Wiltz alone, 42 died at the front, 15 were reported missing in action and 21 returned home wounded in the war.

43 young women from Wiltz also had to suffer the treatment of the Reich Labour Service far from home.

During the Nazi occupation, 91 people from 27 families in Wiltz were resettled and 15 patriots died in concentration camps (KZ).

It was not only the Nazi occupation that left deep wounds, for with the Battle of the Bulge, disaster once again struck the long-suffering town of Wiltz with all its force.

Twice, the town of Wiltz became a frontline area. After fierce retreat battles, the US 28th  Infantry Division succeeded in preventing the German advance south of the town towards Bastogne for two decisive days on 18 December 1944, thus gaining valuable time for the defence of Bastogne.

By 20 December 1944, Wiltz was surrounded. After the last US defenders had destroyed their equipment and bridges, only a few managed to escape through the enemy lines to Bastogne.

After 27 December 1944, General Patton's counter-offensive drew Wiltz and its hilltop villages into the murderous warfare at SchumannsEck for three weeks.

It was not until 21 January 1945 that the town was finally liberated, but the suffering and destruction were immeasurable. More than 80% of the houses were destroyed and over 50 civilians lost their lives.

As always, the people of Wiltz did not let themselves be defeated and rebuilt their ‘Cité Martyre’ with unbroken willpower. May this recognition help to keep our memory alive of the exemplary attitude of this courageous wartime generation.