Hilary St George Saunders, The Left Handshake, 1948

Chapter IV


Scouting in Occupied Countries: Part Three — Luxembourg


Luxembourg is a country almost ideal for Scouting. It is small but possessed in careless abundance of woods, hills, rivers and streams, in or beside which are to be found the finest camping sites imaginable. Camping is a national pastime. The woods have beckoned to the Luxembourgers for centuries and for centuries they have responded.

With so many delights of Nature to aid them, that Scouting is in the blood of the Luxembourger is scarcely surprising, and it needed only the Movement created by Baden-Powell to give it concrete form. In May, 1940, the Germans overran and annexed Luxembourg. Her citizens were at once forcibly included in the Reich, the intention of Hitler being to abolish once and for all the historic Grand-Duchy. The occupation was immediate and thorough. At dawn on the 10th May, 1940, tanks and armoured cars in their thou sands, destined some for the attack on Belgium, others for that on France, rolled through the countryside, fresh and scintillating in its garment of spring. Across the Moselle and Sauer they poured and before the sun had set Luxembourg was in the toils. It was Whitsuntide and her Boy Scouts were putting the finishing touches to their preparations for the Whitsun camps. The invasion put an immediate end to them, as it did to many other peaceful happy occupations.

A few months of uncertainty went by, and then in August, 1940, the Gestapo with all its horrors established itself in the walled city set upon its hill. National organisations were immediately and ruthlessly suppressed, among the first to suffer being the Fèdèration Nationale des Eclaireurs de Luxembourg. The reaction of the Scouts was that of the rest of the population, fierce and immediate. Every fit man and woman in that small country became at once a hunter and a quarry. They pursued the Germans, who pursued them, and the peaceful camping sites became places where fugitives of their own or an Allied nation, escaped from German prison and concentration camps, might find refuge.

Resistance began in earnest in October, 1940, when the slogan "Vive Charlotte" was everywhere chalked up to commemorate the birthday of their beloved Grand-Duchess of Luxembourg, and by the spring Of 1941 a number of Resistance movements had begun and were well established. In all these, Scouters and former Scouts played a gallant and successful part. At the same time, the work of resistance, which engaged so much of their attention, did not cause them to neglect the training of Scouts. Several new Troops w ere founded, among them that of the Red Lion, whose birthday is the 3rd September, 1942.

Two boys of fourteen were the originators. Starting with seven companions, they presently reached twenty-eight, all of them eager to become proficient so that they might be of ever-increasing service to their country. The only Scout handbook they had was a number of notes written hastily by a brother of one of the Scoutmasters. All rapidly became 2nd and 1st Class Scouts, the aims of the two young leaders being to preserve the Scout ideals and to show the Germans that even the youth of Luxembourg was their deadly foe. As in Poland, Norway and the other occupied countries, meetings of Patrols and of the Troop were held almost under the noses of the Gestapo, in fact in a room beneath that occupied by a Gestapo inspector. All went reasonably well for a year and a half, but on Whit Sunday, 1944, the two young Chiefs, who had organised a long hike for that day, were seized by the Gestapo. Each was wearing the shorts and shirt of a former Scout uniform and both were at once, therefore, highly suspect. Being told to report to Gestapo headquarters on the following Monday, they returned to their homes, burned all compromising papers and made ready for their ordeal. Monday was a dark day with sky overcast. The moment the two boys entered the dreaded building, the Gestapo began their questions. Each was interrogated separately by a German well accustomed to hectoring and violence. The proceedings were suddenly and happily interrupted by the appearance of a Gestapo officer, who bade them brusquely to be gone to their homes . Hardly believing their ears, they departed and do not know why he let them go. If he thought by this clemency to soften their hearts he was sadly mistaken. Free once more, the leaders of the Red Lion Troop redoubled their efforts, and from then until the end of the war proved a thorn in the invader’s flesh. By the time V.E. Day had arrived they were a well-trained Troop worthy in every way to be inspected, as they were, by Major Georges Schommer, the Deputy Chief Scout of Luxembourg. The inspection over, they changed their name to Les Diables Mauves.

Another Troop under the two leaders, Josy Wengler and Josy Wirol, were arrested en masse by the Gestapo in September, 1940. They were freed after a few days in the hope, a vain one, that by gentle methods they could be won over to the German cause. It might have been thought that young boys, as most of them were, would have been too frightened after this experience to continue. When all is said and done, a boy of thirteen or fourteen does not expect to spend several days in prison and be threatened by something far worse if he persists in defying those who have usurped authority over him. But this Troop, like so many others in so many other occupied countries, refused stoutly to learn from experience. Far from abandoning Scouting, they entered into it the more fervently. The two Josys presently left them for the still young Resistance Movement, and both suffered long periods of imprisonment in concentration camps. They were less fortunate than Adij Reich, who escaped from prison in Germany, bringing with him thirty French prisoners. Adij was always in and out of prison, being captured and recaptured four times. He ended up by fighting with a band of the French Maquis. Franz Stielens was not so lucky. He, too, escaped and was recaptured a number of times but eventually disappeared and no one knows his fate. Jacques Tillman was tortured to death in prison. Roland Victor, aged nineteen, fought hard for his life outside a gas chamber but lost it to a bullet from an SS guard, though not until he had killed another o f that evil breed.

These, and others like them, were wont to frequent a cafè in the City of Luxembourg, which became the secret, very unofficial rendezvous for Scouts and Scouters who had joined the Resistance. It was managed by a young woman, Madame Noel, and she continued to manage it alone after her husband, a Scouter, had been caught and shot with two fellow Scouters. Nothing shows more clearly the spirit of the Luxembourg Scouts than the following brief curriculum vitae of one Aimè Stoll, aged seventeen when his country was overrun. Here it is in full:

3rd January, 1941.-Admission to Luxembourg Underground Movement.

1941-42.-Propagandist and -other activities in the Underground.

April, 1942.-Germans smash Luxembourg Underground Movement.

May 26th.-Thrown out of High School for anti-Nazi demonstration.

June to August.-Three months’ forced labour at German T.N.T. factory, Brahnau, near Bromberg (Poland-West Prussia) with British P.O.W. Spy activity started.

September.-Luxembourg workers called up for service in Wehrmacht. General Strike, in which Stoll took part.

October.-Put into custody at Bad Veueushr with British and French P.O.W.s.

November.-First call-up for German paratroopers, avoided by simulating being sick.

December.-Second call-up, for Luftwaffe. Avoided by previous appendix operation.

January, 1943.-Third call-up, German Navy. joined to avoid troubles to family. Stayed with Navy until May 2nd same year.

May 2nd.-Escape from German training ship Monte Olivia at Gdynia (Polish harbour) with false papers to Luxembourg.

May 7th.-Departure from house en route for England. Hiding in Luxembourg Ardennes until August 22nd.

August 23rd.-Pass Belgian border. Stay with White Army for one month. Contact British Intelligence officer. Arrange departure to France.

September 20th.-Passed French border at Erquelines. Paris.

September 30th.-Left for Southern France.

October, 1943, to March, 1944.-Southern France (Bordeaux, etc.).

March 4th.-By arrangement with Allied Intelligence, left secretly by motor torpedo boat for England (with Commandos from St. Froc).

March 13th.-Arrival at Tilbury. Sent to Special Intelligence (nom de guerre-J. J. Manet). Volunteered for special Paratroop Training.

July, 1944.-Back to Continent with Allied Expeditionary Forces.

September 13th.-Back to Luxembourg three days after its liberation (on leave).

October 31st.-First operation behind enemy lines across the Luxembourg-German border near Mertert.

November 2nd.-Second operation behind enemy lines (Echternach).

February, 1945.-Third operation behind lines in Holland.

April 1st(Easter Sunday).-Dropped in civilian clothes with false papers and wireless operator, by parachute at Leutkirch near Lake of Constanze (Bavaria).

April 27th.-Liberated by Third American Army.

If the Scouts and Scouters showed such grit and determination, so also did the parents. One day a Scout was shot. He had been convicted of working for the Resistance. The Germans displayed his body on the steps of the church in his village and compelled the population to file past the bier so that he might be identified and they could thus learn more about him. Among those who passed by was the boy’s father, but he gazed upon his dead son without moving a muscle of his face though he did not know that the boy had been shot.

Small Luxembourg may be in size, but her inhabitants are great of heart, and of these none are greater than the Scouts.

  Hilary St George Saunders, The Left Handshake, 1948
Chapter IV: Resolution. Scouting in Occupied Countries
Part One: Czechoslovakia and Poland
Part Two: Denmark and Norway
Part Three: Luxembourg
Part Four: Holland
Part Five: Belgium
Part Six: France
Part Seven: Greece, Yugoslavia and Hungary
Part Eight: Channel Islands and Countries Occupied by Japan
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