Marion - Chroniques d'une ardennaise
Member for 1 year 9 months
100% Ardennes, between Belgium and France
THE TIME I VISITED THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MILITARY HISTORY IN DIEKIRCH
2 hours of remembrance
The Ardennes has a lively history, and has borne witness to no less than three world wars: the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871, the First World War and the Second World War. Many battles were fought on the Ardennes soil, some of them famous, such as the battle of Sedan or the Battle of the Ardennes, better known on the other side of the pond as the “Battle of the Bulge”
Keeping wartime memories alive
A battle tank a war tank is standing guard at the entrance of the National Museum of Military History in Diekirch; it immediately sets the tone. I am about to relive one of the darkest periods of our history: war.
The museum retraces the history of the Luxemburg army and the fate that befell its soldiers during the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War. Each corner of the 3,500 square meter museum is an ode to memory; it aims to be the keeper of the testimonies of the few survivors and war veterans who have lived to tell their story…Today, they are keen to pass down their stories to the younger generations so that “Never again!” we shall endure these horrors.
It is now time for me to enter the building, a veritable sentinel of memory, where I will dive into our history and meet the men and woman who have made our history so that when the time comes, I can help keep the memories alive. It’s a dark place, and I am immediately overwhelmed by atmosphere that reigns here, I am surrounded by historical objects, that fill me with emotion, and gradually I feel the weight of history descending upon my shoulders. An old bicycle, a watchtower wrapped in barbed wire…A camouflaged man stands at the top of the tower, holding a pair of binoculars, he is surveying his surroundings, but he also seems to be watching me closely, watching as I learn how the events unfolded….
I move forward, and discover a succession of life-sized dioramas, it feels as if I am plunged into the heart of the battle, one moment I’m entrenched in a makeshift shelter, the next I’m surrounded by a pile of rubble and diving into an abandoned house to shelter from the bombings, mere moments later I am side by side with my comrades in arms pushing a heavy load in several centimetres of thick snow, it really is quite an overwhelming experience!
Quick, take shelter !
An incredibly vast collection
On top of a series of truly lifelike and stunning dioramas, the museum possesses a comprehensive collection of historic objects, each and every one of them impressive and intriguing. It may seem like a paradox, but since the eve of time, war breeds invention. Quite often social and societal progress was brought on as a direct result of war, but many inventions also owe their existence to war. Progress in science and medicine for example, were quite frequently the result of wartime experimentations. Here, you can admire a wealth of objects that were afterwards put to use in civil society and that are nowadays considered familiar objects. The wristwatch or GPS are perfect examples of wartime inventions that are now part of our daily life. Another example that has left its mark on the medical world, are the prosthetics used for the physical reconstruction of the severely injured.
Other objects appear to have totally disappeared off the face of the earth and can now only be observed in museums. A striking example is the propaganda shells. These used to explode mid-air, scattering leaflets in the air. This is called airborne leaflet propaganda, but the shells were also an extremely efficient and swift way to convey messages to the general population. I am really impressed by the collection of medical and first aid objects; there are pills, remedies and tools in all shapes and sizes exhibited in huge display cases. It gives you an idea of what life behind the lines was like as well as insight into the ordeals faced by the wartime doctors and nurses. We feel deeply moved by the extensive collection of original photographs. They take me to the heart of history, in the dark heart of war, and I can feel the tears welling up my eyes as I look at the black and white pictures of concentration camps. ‘Never again!’ One thing is certain; the images will remain etched in my memory for the rest of my life!
An emotionally overwhelming visit!
The machine room
I do my best to calm myself down so I can go and visit the immense rooms where the American, English and German vehicles that were used during the war are exhibited. One of the objects makes me smile; between the vehicles, crates with shells and missiles are stored, one of them is flanked by a caricature and the slightly taunting “Greetings to Adolf from 457th B.G”.
In this area, all kinds of vehicles in all sizes - ranging from surprisingly small to unbelievably huge - are heaped together: motorbikes, army tanks, Jeeps, I have never seen so many military vehicles in one single location. Many of them are so shiny and new, they look as if they have come straight from the factory. Admiring these shiny objects soothes me, I start leaving the horrors of war behind me. But the things I have seen remain engraved in my memory…
From war to peace
After the dioramas, the objects and the vehicles, time for the history of the Luxemburg army and its soldiers. A succession of rooms shows the evolution of the army, of its uniforms and equipment. We also get to see in which ways Luxemburg is committed to international peacekeeping. Their soldiers serve with UN members and strive to maintain peace by taking part in many peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. The final tableau shows the road we have travelled… a journey I have also undertaken today, albeit in fast-forward mode. In just two hours, I have experienced several wars and battles, endured horror, famine, torture…but I have also taken part in building lasting world peace.