Histoire contemporaine du Luxembourg

PROJECT WARLUX Ambiguities in biographies of Luxembourgish conscripts during and after WWII

More than 10,000 Luxembourgish soldiers and recruits and an unknown number of Luxembourgish men and women wore German uniforms during WWII in armed forces and civil organisations, such as the Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS, armed police forces and the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD). The "WARLUX" project, based at the University of Luxembourg in the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C2DH), intends to collect the biographical data of Luxembourgers who were drafted into the German Army and the Labour Service. Around 3,000 young men and women are used in a case study to research their biographies and individual stories during the war, highlight different approaches to researching World War II, and show different résumés and personal experiences during this period.
WARLUX aims to review the categories that have tended to be used in the national history discourse. For these women and men were called different like "forced recruit", "volunteer", "réfractaire" and "déserteur" were used, next to mentions of "Mort la patrie" for whom who died in German uniform. Are these terms appropriate to describe the experiences of these individuals, or do they need to be elucidated and challenged? Who were the people behind these abstract terms? What were their individual experiences, stories, reactions, choices, contradictions and survival strategies during and after World War II (Tames 2016)? The term "forced recruit" has come to suggest the general victim status of all conscripted Luxembourgish soldiers. In this content between the dualism of the official narrative and the historiography of the last decades, the project WARLUX wants to apply another concept: "situative opportunism", to question the cumulative heroism and the power of collective forms of decision-making in "forced environments", like the enrolment of young women and men (Fickers/Brüll, 2019). Following the biographical approach by analysing documents and personal views (letters, diaries), Andreas Fickers and Christoph Brüll (2019) use the term "situative opportunism" to emphasise the link between biographical research and sociological decision theory. Based on Schimank (2005), the authors state that every historical actor has multiple options in a complex decision-making process; these decisions are not necessarily egoist, neither the result of external constraints, but grounded in a situational logic of doing what seems most suitable in this very moment.
The project is still in the initial phase but will soon deepen the analysis of the biographies of the individuals using the term "situational opportunism". With the application for the conference, the project team would like to discuss other approaches and start an exchange about other/opposite concepts.

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