Luxemburg / Verhaal

Luxembourg government in exile


Having drawn lessons from the First World War the Government had decided to leave Luxembourg in the likely event of a German attack. Through France and Portugal, they went to Great Britain and Canada. The major goal of its activities was to have Luxembourg recognised as an allied nation.

In a secret meeting in January 1940 the Government had decided to leave Luxembourg should the country be occupied completely by the German army. Through France and Portugal four ministers and the Grand Ducal family went eventually to Great Britain and Canada. The government-in-exile was composed of the following politicians: Pierre Dupong, Prime minister, Minister of Finance; Joseph Bech, Minister of Foreign Affairs, (Party of the Right), Pierre Krier, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Victor Bodson, Minister of Justice (Socialist Workers’ Party).

The official siege of the government-in-exile was to be London. From the end of 1942 the Grand Duchess resided near London as her husband, Prince Felix, and the heir to the throne, Prince Jean, served as volunteers in British units. This was the Northern Command and Irish Guards respectively. From 1940 to 1942 Dupong and Bodson stayed in Montréal, Bech and Krier in London. From 1943 to 1944 the government was reunited in London.

As an allied country Luxembourg signed the agreements which brought together the Allied war effort and prefigured the post-war period. The Declaration of St. James’s Palace; Declaration by United Nations. It adhered to the Atlantic Charter and participated in the Bretton Woods Conference.

It gave up the country’s neutrality and furnished a small military contribution by creating the ‘Luxembourg Battery’integrated in the 1st Belgian Infantry Brigade.

The economic ties with Belgium and the Netherlands were increased by restoring the UEBL (Union Economique Belgo-Luxembourgeoise) and by signing a customs convention with Belgium and the Netherlands, the Benelux Treaty.

The numerous meetings with the American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in Washington benefited greatly Luxembourg’s cause.

Nevertheless, the government was heavily criticised by some refugees who had fled to Great Britain. They blamed the government’s lack of help to young people who had deserted the German army and wanted to come to Great Britain but were held in Spanish prisons and camps. A trial after the war showed that many of these reproaches were not founded.

A week after the liberation of Luxembourg the government returned to Luxembourg but was confronted with heavy criticism from Resistance fighters. By enlarging the government with some personalities from the Resistance and by creating a consultative assembly where half of the members were issued from the Resistance movements, the most aggressive criticism could be silenced.

The return of the Grand Duchess on 14 April 1945 and general elections held in October 1945 paved the way to normality.