The city of Esch-sur-Alzette (or simply "Esch") sits at the far southwest corner of Luxembourg, surrounded almost entirely by France. It was fairly typical of cities that I've seen in the region -- heavily industrialized, partially rebuilt and modernized after the war. The town didn't strike me as anything particularly out-of-the-ordinary, but the story behind my visit there wasn't so much in what I saw, but in what I did. After all, I went there for a particularly reason -- to seek out the Luxembourgeois National Museum of the Resistance, a place that told the story of Luxembourg's underground resistance movement during the Nazi occupation.
The Monument to the Resistance is in two parts, one being the sculpture you see in the first photo, and the museum behind it, shown in the second photo. The sculpture shows a local grenadier and a riflemen facing the German offensive. The sculpture is a copy of a sculpture in the rear foyer of the museum.
The museum was an educational experience, detailing the Nazi's taking of Luxembourg in 1940 and the imposition of the "Nuremburg Laws" that included the subhuman treatment of the Jewish people, the establishment of German as the only permitted language, and the forced enlistment of young boys. The story of the resistance was brilliantly detailed, telling about how Luxembourg's men and women established undergoing media, recruited militiamen, and used sabotage and other means to disrupt Nazi operations. It also told of various Luxembourgeois who escaped and joined the Allies, who would recapture Luxembourg in late 1944, only to face the final German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge.
It was also a deeply moving experience because of the curator, himself an old Luxembourgeois Jew who was among the last to be sent to the concentration camps in Auschwitz. He showed me his numeric tattoo, and tried very hard to use English (and his hands) to explain what had happened. Between his little English and my little French and German, I managed to get enough of the story to understand just how vividly the experience was still in his mind -- almost sixty years afterward. I was touched.
The remainder of the city was nice, and fairly busy despite the rainy Saturday afternoon. The third photo shows the main street, the Rue de l'Alzette, that has the bulk of the stores, restaurants, and activities. The street was rebuilt and few of the buildings were original. A modern, and interesting, touch in the decor related to the purple structures mounted at even intervals down the entire length of the street. They were purely decoration. I frankly thought they looked out of place, myself.
Another landmark was the city's main church, the St. Joseph church shown in the fourth photo. This church had recently completed a total renovation and looked in superb condition. The brightness of the gilded frescoes inside were quite a sight, too. I also noted the adjacent cemetary, Esch's dominant terrain feature with some massive memorials. An interesting and unique bit on the cemetary was the motif of some of the gravestones -- crosses made of concrete but sculpted to appear as intersecting logs. That was something I hadn't seen elsewhere.
Still, my time at Esch was special because of the time I spent at the Monument. One thing I took away from the experience was something that the curator told me, that the Luxemburgers love and appreciate Americans. That is consistent with my various experiences in Luxembourg -- they really do appreciate us, and are very friendly towards us, because of what we have done for them. That thought made this American pretty darn proud.
Trip taken 16 November 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin