National Archives to feature exhibition on Luxembourg-German Customs 1842-1918

Luxemourg’s National Archives on the Plateau du Saint-Esprit will host an exhibition from 14 December 2017 to 25 May 2018 featuring documents, photographs, etc., during the period 1842-1918 addressing Luxembourg’s Customs Administration.

In 1842, 175 years ago, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg joined the German Zollverein; in 1918, almost 100 years ago, the economic union between the two neighbouring countries ended in the aftermath of the First World War.

These two anniversaries are an opportunity for the National Archives of Luxembourg to revisit this period of three quarters of a century that made the fortune of a poor and backward agrarian state transformed into a prosperous, state-of-the-art industrial nation.

The exhibition “Halt! Customs – Lëtzebuerg am Däitschen Zollveräin, 1842-1918” presents more than two hundred documents, illustrations and period objects from the National Archives and from other archives, public and private, Luxembourgish and foreign museums that have largely participated in the project. A new exhibition design of the National Archives unveils in a unique way this heritage essential for understanding the contemporary history – both economic, political and socio-cultural – of the country.

In the collective imagination of Luxembourgers, the German Zollverein is synonymous with the meteoric material rise that their homeland experienced from the second half of the nineteenth century. On the one hand, the exhibition effectively traces the success story of a small, self-contained country that is gradually opening up to cross-border exchanges, thereby laying the foundations for its current commercial internationalism, Nevertheless, it is also trying to evoke the shadows and the risks of a gamble that nearly failed in the aftermath of the Great War.

The exhibition also shows that if, in the early 1840s, the people of Luxembourg had been allowed to speak, their rallying at Zollverein would probably not have taken place. However, years later, the inhabitants no longer want, for anything in the world, to give up this alliance, which has clearly marked the path to their economic and social prosperity that has become particularly apparent during the industrial golden age at the turn of the century. The duality between the desire of Luxembourgers to maintain their national autonomy within a profitable economic-customs system and the latent danger of losing their identity by exposing themselves to domination by the omnipotent German neighbour is another central topic of the exhibition.

The National Archives wishes to draw the attention of researchers to the very rich and varied documentation covering a subject little studied until now. At the same time, it is also a question of raising the awareness of the general public to questions that are very current – particularly in the context of a European community today shaken up not only by the followers of Brexit – namely: a customs union? What are its strengths, or even its disadvantages?

An international symposium, which will take place on 19 and 20 April 2018 at the Dräi Eechelen Museum, will focus on deepening the many facets of the issues outlined by the exhibition.

Exhibition hours: Monday to Friday from 08:30 to 17:30, and Saturdays from 08:30 to 11:30. Languages: French and German. Free guided tours: booking via email: [email protected]