August 31 is an important date not just for Wiltz, but for all of Luxembourg: on that fateful date back in 1942, a group of Luxembourgers rebelled under Nazi occupation. And they paid dearly for it.
On Wednesday, the city of Wiltz gathered around the national strike monument, erected in 1956 to memorialise those brave individuals who stood up against the Nazi oppressors. The monument will be restored by next year in time for the occasion of the 75th commemoration of the event.
200 people rounded up
On August 31, 1942, a strike began at a Wiltz tannery which later won over the rest of the country.
The strike was a reaction to the decision announced the day prior by the so-called “Gauleiter” (an official who governed a district under Nazi rule), Gustav Simon: that military service would be mandatory for all Luxembourgers born between 1920-1924.
In otherwords, this meant that Luxembourg was indeed under German occupation, and that young Luxembourgers covered by this conscription would be forced to fight, kill and be killed under the German flag—or Nazi flag, in this case.
The Luxembourgers opposed this vehemently. The Grand Duchy found itself paralysed by the strike on that day back in 1942, some even taking to the streets in protest.
Noticing its authority was undermined, the Nazi occupiers responded with great brutality: special courts were set up that very evening.
Nearly 200 people were arrested. A total of 21 Luxembourgers were executed on September 3, including Hans Adam of German origin who had sounded the alarm to other workers that the strike was indeed taking place.
A total of 83 were tried by the tribunal, and the decision was made to hand them over to the Gestapo. More than 180 high school students—both boys and girls—as well as 40 Arbed trainees, seven young postal workers (all minors) were arrested and sent to work camps in Germany. Families were deported.