A welcoming country and birthplace of freedom of movement
Duration: 4 stage(s)
Excursion ½ day
The Luxembourgish Moselle remembers
A half-day trip to the Moselle region will reveal several unexpected aspects of the Grand Duchy’s history. National borders and migration are major contemporary themes, and Luxembourg has a proud history promoting openness. This has long been a country in which people have escaped political oppression. Luxembourg also played an important role in the creation of a borderless Europe. This just one example of how it contributed to the rebuilding of Europe after World War II. Another is the fact that the Nuremberg trials which brought Nazi war criminals to justice were prepared in Mondorf-les-Bains.
This itinerary takes you to the spa town of Mondorf-les-Bains, which has an extraordinary and largely unknown history. The trip also includes Schengen, a village in the wine region which has come to represent freedom of movement for 400 million people in 26 European countries. Then there is Remich and Grevenmacher, two charming towns surrounded by vineyards. Yet this charming modern reality is set against a dark history of Jewish residents deported and killed by the occupying Nazis.
Stage 1 - Mondorf-les-Bains
The first thermal baths opened in Mondorf-les-Bains in June 1847. This spa was acquired by the state in 1886, eventually becoming the “Domaine Thermal” (link) we know today.
The rising tide of anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria in the late 19th and early 20th centuries even affected entrance policy for health spas in these countries. In Mondorf-les-Bains Jewish clients were welcomed in line with Luxembourg’s long tradition of openness. In 1871, the poet and author, Victor Hugo, had also been one of the famous guests in Mondorf, even before he decided to live in Luxembourg as a political refugee. Luxembourg, as a neutral State welcomed also, in a humanist spirit, all those who fled religious persecution during the “Kulturkampf” in Germany, or all the people rejecting the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany in 1870.
A synagogue opened in Mondorf in 1907. Build in the Secessionist style the sanctuary survived destruction during the Nazi occupation, and was recently restored by the Schemel-Wirtz architectural practice. Now a cultural centre, it is part of the town’s rich Art Nouveau architectural heritage.
German Jews came more frequently to Mondorf in the 1930s after the Nazis made anti-Semitic persecution state policy. The Luxembourgish spa was near Germany, but part of a neutral State. This was also to the benefit of Mondorf, resulting in three hotels (Bristol, Hemmendinger and Gittler) being opened to cater principally for Jewish guests, including the serving of kosher food. By 1935, 53 Jews lived in the town.
This exodus helped to bolster Mondorf’s reputation as a town of culture, with several great Jewish artists paying visits. The performances of the celebrated Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein are still spoken about today.
Mondorf also played a role bringing war-criminals to justice after 1945. No fewer than 59 leading members of the Nazi regime were held here at the Palace Hotel while awaiting the start of the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Most famous were Hermann Göring, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Gerd von Rundstedt. Also at the Palace Hotel (which was briefly known as “Central Continental Prisoner of War Enclosure No. 32”) the celebrated early films detailing the horrors of the death camps were first shown to the convicts. Also, the first pre-trial interviews with Göring took place in Mondorf. They were conducted by Douglas Kelleyn, an American army intelligence officer and chief psychiatrist at Nuremberg prison.
There are several reminders of this spa town’s role in history. Illustrated panels in the Mondorf Domaine Thermal describe many of these events and personal stories.
There are also 11 “stolpersteine” (literally “stumbling stones”): brass plates set in the pavements marking the homes of murdered Jewish people and members of the anti-fascist resistance. The memorials were created by the German artist Gunter Demning, and feature the victims’ names and brief biographical details. They remember the names and life-dates of the 53 Jews living in Mondorf-les-Bains in 1935, as well as the tragedy these people lived.
Stage 2 - Schengen
Once mainly known for its vineyards, Schengen is now synonymous with people’s right to move freely between 26 European countries. It was here, next to the Moselle river, that the Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985. Sitting at the convergence of the Benelux economic union, Germany and France, the location of this village is highly symbolic.
At the “European Centre” visitors find the Schengen European Museum, a permanent exhibition about the Schengen Agreement and the European Union. There is also a “Europe Direct” office with information about EU policy.
The Schengen agreement underpins the rules regarding the opening of national boundaries between the signatory countries. It shows that closed nationalist feeling was one of the causes of World War II. Schengen, in counterpart, represents action towards a more open, cooperative world.
European citizens, their family members, and holders of a single European visa have the Schengen agreement to thank for free movement across the continent’s borders. The first agreement was signed by five countries on 14th June 1985. They chose this symbolic location as the meeting point on the Moselle river of Luxembourg (and thus its Benelux partners Belgium and the Netherlands), France and Germany.
This was the first step that eventually led to the institutionalisation of the Schengen Area by the EU’s Amsterdam Treaty signed on 2nd October 1997. These rules were strengthened in the Lisbon Treaty of 13th December 2007, creating “an area of freedom, security and justice”, with an impact on policing and legal activity, as well as creating joint policies on visas, asylum and immigration. There are currently 26 member states of the Schengen Area. Thus foreign citizens with a long term visa or resident permit from one member state can move freely within that zone.
Guided tours for groups on request.
Opening hours: November-March: Mon-Sun 10.00 to 17.00 | April-October: Mon-Sun 10.00 to 18.00
Closed: 1st Nov | 24 Dec – 1st Jan
Stage 3 - Remich
German troops crossed the Moselle river on 10th May 1940 by the Remich-Nenning bridge. The Nazi occupation soon brought terror to the country.
Regina Hilb-Bonem, Leopold Hilb, Erna Hilb, Fanny Meyer-Kahn, Arthur Meyer, Renée Hayum-Meyer, Leo Hayum, Emma Marx-Nathan, Felix Marx, Klara Herrmann-Kahn, Heinrich Herrmann, Myrtil Herrmann, and Alice-Deichmann-Aron are the names of the Jewish victims of Nazi-regime in Remich.
The pavements of Remich feature brass plaques commemorating the lives of these 13 Jewish people sent to their deaths by the Nazi regime. These “stolpersteine” (literally “stumbling stones”) by the German artist Gunter Demning remind us of the suffering inflicted on these families.
Remich was also the first town in the Grand Duchy to dedicate a town square to the victims of the Holocaust.
Stage 4 - Grevenmacher
Out of its pre-war population of 2,811 Grevenmacher saw 38 of its residents forcibly conscripted into Hitler’s army, 28 who died seeking to liberate their country, and seven Jewish people put to death in the camps. Grevenmacher is a participant in a pan-European act of Holocaust remembrance. This features the placing of brass name-plaques near the homes of people murdered by fascism.
This Moselle valley town had a vibrant Jewish community of about 100 in 1895. There were nine shops owned by Jews in the town, of which four were confectioners. Other Jewish residents worked in business serving the German market, aided by Luxembourg’s membership of the German customs union. However, when this link was ended in 1919 many were obliged to leave, cutting the size of the Jewish community by more than half by the time of the German invasion in 1940. Most of the 43 men and women managed to flee, but the seven who remained were killed. Brass plates by their homes preserve their memories for the future. These places are located at 33, rue de Trèves, 38 rue Sainte-Cathérine, 25, rue de Luxembourg, and 19, Grand’Rue.
A synagogue and a Jewish school that opened in 1884 no longer exist. In 1893 the local authorities approved the creation of a small Jewish cemetary on private land, making it one of four in the Grand Duchy. The others are located in the capital, Esch-sur-Alzette and Ettelbruck. The first people to be burried there were a 17 year old girl and a 7 day old baby, and today there are 43 tombs, who died both in 1897. The graves are aranged in four rows, with the oldest located on the right of the main passageway. This cemetary was not desicrated during the occupation, and it continues to bare witness to the community destroyed by the Nazis, and reflect a precious cultural heritage.
Visits on request:
Grevenmacher local authority
6, Place du Marché
T +352 75 03 11- 1
Chapel of the Cross
When climbing the valley out of Grevenmacher, between the vineyards and overlooking the Moselle river, you will find the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It was built in 1737. Since 15th July 1956 it has become a site of commemoration to residents of Grevenmacher forced to fight in the German army. Every second Sunday in July, the “Ons Jongen” (Our Young Men) league organise a remembrance service for them in this chapel. This location has become emblematic for this small, historic town, and it was made a national heritage monument in 2015.