Contemporary history of Luxembourg

The “Long” Arm of Military Justice: The arrest and resettlement of the families of military deserters

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was de facto annexed and incorporated into the German Reich during the Second World War. The laws and ordinances of the Reich applied to the local population, and male residents were drafted into the Wehrmacht and thus subject to military jurisdiction. The main reason for Luxembourgers to be tried by the Wehrmacht courts was for disobeying orders, mostly desertion. Wehrmacht court records contain not only individual and personal information about the motives of the convicts and the findings of the court but also details about their families and backgrounds. As a result of deserting from the Wehrmacht, thousands of family members of deserters were resettled in East German territories such as Boberstein (Bobrów) in Poland, and their assets were confiscated.
Given these men’s forced recruitment and non-German identity and the fact that they were being asked to fight for a foreign country that had invaded their home territory, the reasons for their desertion and disobedience are self-explanatory. However, this contribution will examine the efforts of the courts and the military justice administration to capture and arrest them, seizures made in their homeland and threats and arrests of their families. These efforts reflect the cooperation between military courts and local police forces used by the occupying authorities to terrorise the inhabitants of occupied territories and to put pressure on the men in the Wehrmacht not to defect.
The contribution examines the consequences for individual soldiers and their families in occupied territories such as Luxembourg. It aims to use court records and trials, as well as the corresponding police files related to the interrogation and resettlement of families, to establish a link between persecuted soldiers and the consequences for their families, thereby showing the impact of the Nazi military machine on individuals during the Second World War.

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