Nazi occupation of Luxemburg: Testimony of Emil Reuter

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Nazi occupation of Luxemburg: Testimony of Emil Reuter

Post by David Thompson » 03 Nov 2004 22:34

This testimony is taken from the Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal (IMT), vol. 6, pp. 461-467. The proceedings are available on-line at the Avalon Project of the Yalue University Law School at:
[The witness, Emil Reuter, took the stand.]

What is your name?


1 Feb. 46

EMIL REUTER (Witness): Reuter, Emil.

THE PRESIDENT: Emil Reuter, do you swear to speak without hate or fear, to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth?

[The witness repeated the oath in French.]

THE PRESIDENT: Raise the right hand and say, "I swear."

REUTER: I swear.

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.

M. FAURE: M. Reuter, you are a lawyer of the Luxembourg Bar?


M. FAURE: You are President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg?


M. FAURE: You had been exercising these functions at the time of the invasion of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg by the German troops?


M. FAURE: Can you give us any indication on the fact that the Government of the Reich had, a few days before the invasion of Luxembourg, given to the Government of the Grand Duchy assurances of their peaceful intentions?

REUTER: In August 1939 the German Minister for Luxembourg gave to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country a statement according to which the German Reich, in the event of a European war, would respect the independence and neutrality of the country, provided that Luxembourg would not violate its own neutrality. A few days before the invasion, in May 1940, the Germans constructed pontoon bridges over half of the Moselle River which separates the two countries. An explanation from the German Minister in Luxembourg represented such construction of pontoon bridges as landing stages in the interest of navigation. In the general public opinion of the country, these installations were really of a military character.

M. FAURE: Can you tell us about the situation of public authorities in Luxembourg following the departure of Her Royal Highness, the Grand Duchess, and of her government?

REUTER: The continuity of administration in the country was assured by a government commission which possessed the necessary powers bestowed upon it by the competent constitutional authorities There was, therefore, no lack of authority in the administration.

M. FAURE: Is it not true, however, that the Germans claimed, upon their arrival in that country, that the government had failed


1 Feb. 46

to carry out its functions; and, following the departure of the government, that there was no regular authority in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg?

REUTER: Yes, such declaration was made by the Ministers of the Reich in Luxembourg before a Parliamentary Commission.

M. FAURE: Do I understand correctly that these statements on the part of the German authorities did not in fact correspond to the truth inasmuch as you have told us that there did exist a higher organism for the administration of the country?

REUTER: This statement did not correspond to the reality. It was obviously aimed at usurping authority.

M. FAURE: M. Reuter, the Germans never proclaimed by law the annexation of Luxembourg. Do you consider that the measures adopted by the Germans in that country were equivalent to annexation?

REUTER: The measures that were taken by the Germans in the Grand Duchy were obviously equivalent to a de facto annexation of that country. Shortly after the invasion the leaders of the Reich in Luxembourg stated in public and official speeches that the annexation by law would occur at a time which would be freely selected by the Fuehrer. The proof of this de facto annexation is shown in a clear manner by the whole series of ordinances which the Germans published in the Grand Duchy.

M. FAURE: The Germans organized an operation which was called a census in Luxembourg. In the form that was given the inhabitants of Luxembourg to effect the census, there was one question concerning the native or usual language and another question as to the racial background of the individual. Are you prepared to assert that in view of these two questions this census was considered as having the character of a plebiscite, a political character?

REUTER: From the menacing instructions published by the German authorities in connection with this census, the political purpose was obvious; therefore public opinion never envisaged this census except as a sort of attempt to achieve a plebiscite camouflaged as a census, a political operation destined to give a certain justification to the annexation which was to follow.

M. FAURE: The report of the Luxembourg Government does not give any indication of the statistical results of this census, specifically with regard to the political question of which I spoke a moment ago. Would you be kind enough to tell us why these statistical data are not to be found in any document?

REUTER: The complete statistical data have never been collected because after a partial examination of the first results the German


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authorities noted that only an infinitesimal fraction of the population had answered the two tricky questions in the German sense. The German authorities then preferred to stop the operation, and the forms distributed in the country for obtaining the answers were never collected.

M. FAURE: Do you remember the date of the census?

REUTER: This census must have taken place in 1942.

M. FAURE: After the census the Germans realized that there was no majority, and not even any considerable part of the population which was desirous of being incorporated into the German Reich. However, did they continue to apply their measures of annexation?

REUTER: Measures tending to Germanization and later to the annexation of the country were continued, and later on they were even reinforced by further new measures.

M. FAURE: Am I to understand, therefore, that during the application of these measures the Germans could not be ignorant of the fact that the Luxembourg population was opposed to them?

REUTER: There can be no doubt at all on this question.

M. FAURE: Can you tell us whether it is correct that the German authorities obliged members of the constabulary force and the police to take an oath of allegiance to the Chancellor of the Reich?

REUTER: Yes. This was forced upon the constabulary corps and the police with very serious threats and punishments. Recalcitrants were usually deported, if I remember rightly, to Sachsenhausen; and on the approach of the Russian Army all or a part of the recalcitrants who were in the camp were shot. There were about 150 of them.

M. FAURE: Can you tell us anything concerning the transfer -- I believe the Germans call it "Umsiedlung" -- of a certain number of inhabitants and families living in your country?

REUTER: The transplanting was ordered by the German authority of Luxembourg for elements which appeared to be unfit for assimilation or unworthy of, or undesirable for, residence on the frontiers of the Reich.

M. FAURE: Can you indicate the approximate number of people who were victims of this transplanting?

REUTER: There must have been about 7,000 people who were transplanted in this manner, because we found in Luxembourg a list mentioning between 2,800 and 2,900 homes or families.

M. FAURE: These indications are based on knowledge you received as President of the Chamber of Deputies?


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REUTER: Not exactly, the list was found in Luxembourg; it is still deposited there and the Office of War Criminals took cognizance of it, like all the judicial authorities in Luxembourg.

M. FAURE: Can you state, M. Reuter, how the people who were transplanted were informed of this measure concerning them, and how much time they had to be ready?

REUTER: In general, the families to be transplanted were not given notice in advance, officially, at least. About 6 o'clock in the morning the Gestapo rang at the door, and they notified those who were selected to be ready for departure within I or 2 hours with a minimum of luggage. Then they were taken to the station and put on a train for the camp to which they were at first to be sent.

M. FAURE: Can you tell us whether these measures were applied to people whom you know personally?

REUTER: I know personally a very large number of people who were transplanted, among them members of my own family a great' number of colleagues of the Chamber of Deputies, many members of the Bar, many magistrates, and so forth.

M. FAURE: In addition to these transplantations, were there also deportations to concentration camps? This is another question.

REUTER: Yes, there were deportations to concentration camps which everyone knew about. The number of such deportations in the Grand Duchy may be approximately four thousand.

M. FAURE: M. Reuter, it has been established, through their ordinances, that the German authorities prescribed compulsory military service. I will not ask you, therefore, any question on this particular point. However, I would like to ask you whether you are able to state, approximately, the number of Luxembourg citizens who were enrolled in the German Army.

REUTER: The young people who were incorporated into the German Army by force belonged to 5 classes, beginning with the class of 1920. The number is about eleven thousand to twelve thousand, at least. A certain number of them, I think about one-third, succeeded in avoiding conscription and became refractory. Others later deserted the German Army and fled to other countries.

M. FAURE: Can you indicate the approximate number of Luxembourgers who died as a result of their forced enlistment?

REUTER: At the end of September 1944 we had 2,500 dead. Searches have continued and at present I think we have established the names of at least 3,000.

M. FAURE: The sanctions that had been provided to force the enlistment of the Luxembourgers, were they very severe?


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REUTER: These sanctions were extremely severe. First of all, the young people who were refractory were pursued and hunted by the police and by the Gestapo. Then they were brought before various types of Tribunals, in Luxembourg, France, Belgium, or Germany. Their families were deported; the family fortune was generally confiscated. The penalties pronounced by the Tribunals against these young people were very severe. The death penalty was general, or else imprisonment, forced labor, or deportation to concentration camps. Some of them were released later on, but there were some who were shot as hostages after having been released.

M. FAURE: I would like to ask one last question. Do you think it is possible that the measures which constituted a de facto annexation of Luxembourg could have been unknown to the persons who belonged to the Reich Government, or to the German High Command?

REUTER: I believe that it is hardly possible that such a situation could have been unknown to the members of the Reich and the supreme military authority. My opinion is based on the following facts: First of all, our young people, when mobilized by force; frequently protested at the time of their arrival in Germany by invoking the fact that they were all of Luxembourg nationality, and that they were the victims of force, so that the military authorities must have been informed of the situation in the Grand Duchy. In the second place, several Ministers of the Reich -- among them, Thierack, Rust, and Ley -- visited the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and could see for themselves the situation of the country and the reaction of the population; other high political personalities of the Reich, such as Bormann and Sauckel, also paid visits. Finally there were German decrees and ordinances concerning the denationalization of certain categories of Luxembourg citizens. These ordinances bore the signature of the Minister of the Reich. The executive measures implementing these ordinances were published in the Official Gazette of the Reich Ministry of the Interior under the signature of the Minister of Interior Frick with the indication that these instructions were to be communicated to all the superior Reich authorities.

M. FAURE: I thank you. Those are all the questions I have to put to you. [The American, British and Russian prosecutors had no questions.]

THE PRESIDENT: Is there any member of the defendants' counsel who wishes to ask the witness any questions? [No response.] Then M. Faure the witness can retire.


1 Feb. 46

M. FAURE: Mr. President, am I to understand that the witness will not have to remain any longer at the disposal of the Tribunal and he may return to his home?


[The witness left the stand.]

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