The official launch of “WARLUX”

Soldiers and their communities in WWII: The impact and legacy of war experiences in Luxembourg

More than 10,000 Luxembourgish soldiers and recruits and an unknown number of Luxembourgish men and women wore German uniforms during WWII in armed forces and civil organizations, such as the Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS, armed police forces and the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD). Who were these people? What was the reason for their commitment to the occupation forces? How did their families cope with the situation?

WARLUX aims to review the categories, that have tended to be used and integrated in the master narrative of the country as a “nation résistante et martyre” to describe this phase of history. Questions of particular relevance to the project are: Are the terms “forced recruit”, “volunteer”, “réfractaire” and “déserteur” appropriate to describe the experiences of these individuals or do they need to be elucidated and challenged? What do reveal individual experiences, stories, reactions, choices, contradictions and survival strategies during and after WWII, studied within greater political, military and administrative frameworks?

WARLUX will investigate individual profiles and the person behind the crowd of these men and women. The individuals will be analysed from an actor-centred perspective based on their biographies. The individual person will be studied from the perspective of his or her social environments, his or her social background, his or her trajectories during the war and his or her life in the post-war period. The biographical and spatial concept contains a completely new approach to the topic. 

By means of this actor-centred method, focusing on locally and regionally defined samples of personal records of soldiers and women in RAD and their families, the established concepts of “resistance”, “collaboration” and “forced recruitment” will be called into question. Luxembourg society needs to develop a self-awareness of the country’s complex role in WWII, and this can only be accomplished by complexifying existing narratives and breaking away from conventional analytical concepts. Zooming into the biographies at the level of seven different luxembourgish towns/villages from different regions of the country (rural, industrial, urban, north, south, east, west) offers a micro-historical perspective on those affected. At the same time, research will combine the spatial sphere with the biographical approach, focusing on the towns/villages, on the social groups, then on the level of families and finally on the level of individual persons.

WARLUX intends furthermore to engage the public in contributing letters, photographs and memories of the recruits to emphasize the biographical approach and to allow new insights on the war experiences of WWII in Luxembourg. Finally, the project sets out to ensure sustainable access to the material consulted for future research purposes and for the general public by building a database and, through a website, systematically disclosing relevant new sources that were previously inaccessible. 

The project is funded by the Fond National de la Recherche Luxembourg for the period of March 2020 – February 2023.

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr Denis Scuto, Vice Director of Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C2DH), University of Luxembourg

Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr Nina Janz

Doctoral Researcher: Michel R. Pauly 

Doctoral Researcher: Sarah Maya Vercruysse 

Project and Research Consultant: Dr Juliane Tatarinov (C2DH)

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