Monday, July 7, 2014

Diekirch Military Museum

Luxembourg's National Museum of Military History has long been on our list of places to visit.  It's located in Diekirch, a small toward the north end of Luxembourg which we've driven through many times.  We finally paid a visit with Pete's parents when they were back in Lux on the very last leg of their trip.  

a great outing for a rainy day
To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive.  I hadn't researched the place thoroughly, but had heard it was worth seeing.  Awhile back I'd seen couple of photos online of the life-sized dioramas, which are the main features of this museum.

Something about the images of the dioramas creeped me out.  Maybe I have a subconscious aversion to the blank stare of a mannequin?  Who can say. I'm also not a history nor war buff by any stretch of the imagination.  Embarrassingly, if you ask all the countries that fought on each side of WWII, I have to really think for a minute.  My brain just doesn't store that kind of information well long-tem.  

At any rate, my expectations were that the museum would be interesting, but not really my sort of thing.  I almost stayed home, but when looking up how to get there I came across the Tripadvisor page and reviewers had raved.

You can probably tell by now that my initial expectations were wrong.  I found the museum completely fascinating and not creepy at all.  For one thing, I think images of dioramas are probably creepier than dioramas in person.  Secondly, they were very tastefully done, not cheesy or tacky at all.

except I don't remember what was happening in this one...
We rented one English audio guide on an iPod.  After the first couple of rooms, we realized that the word-for-word transcript was available on the screen.  From that point on we took turns reading it aloud, which allowed us to better pace ourselves and skim over bits, easily stopping to point things out to the kids without messing with buttons.  The museum was quiet and uncrowded, so I don't think we bothered anyone by playing tour guide.

The museum covers general Luxembourg military history, with a large section devoted to the Battle of the Bulge (which took place in this area of Luxembourg), and the liberation of Luxembourg with the help of US forces in the fall of 1944.

River crossing during Battle of the Bulge.  Lots of snow.
"Luxembourg is free!"  I immediately recognized the font at the top because this is the same newspaper I now read every day, in English and online.
We enjoyed reading all the names of the weapons, ammunition, and vehicles.
I don't know if you can see the white print, but this one's called "Hitler's Headache"
The one thing you have to be careful about at this museum is becoming overwhelmed.  There is SO. MUCH. STUFF.  Not only scenes and artifacts, but thousands of photographs.  It would take you hours upon hours, probably even days, to see it all.  We made it only about a 3rd of the way following the audio guide, and then just casually wandered for the next 3rd.  The last 3rd we barely peeked in on.  If you want to see it in one day, pack a lunch and take a break part way through!
Could they fit one more item into this case?  Seems doubtful.
easy to get lost in all the interesting details
In addition to the Luxembourg and US displays, many of the uniforms, artifacts, and first-hand accounts that were used to reconstruct scenes were given to this museum by Germans who fought in WWII.  Considering the focus of the museum on Luxembourg's relationship with the Allied Forces and the United States in particular, I found this interesting and quite moving.  I enjoyed seeing the German counterparts to many of the scenes and soldiers.

And as we walked passed some of the displays, Pete's parents could point out a type of soldier and tell us which relatives of theirs had fought in that capacity in WWII.

We Americans don't see images of Nazi flags on our home soil, places we recognize.  It was striking to see even just a painting of Nazi flags at our little Luxembourg train station.   
And just when you think you must be reaching the end, a hall opens to a giant room of military vehicles and scenes.  There was actually even MORE to see after this room, but we left it for another day.

Daphne's favorite was this German "Schwimmwagen"
looking quite patriotic
And speaking of patriotism - the US just celebrated Independence Day this past weekend.  I know I've said this before, but generally speaking, the number of moments I'm embarrassed to be an American greatly outnumber those I'm proud to be one (think obnoxious American celebrities and politicians and news headlines and TV shows and stereotypes and you get the idea).

I'll go head and tentatively count this museum visit in the "proud moment" category.  Proud to be an American and also proud to be living in the amazing little country of Luxembourg, home to a wonderful military museum - small but packed with cool stuff, just like the country itself.

Happy Belated 4th of July to the USA and Happy Belated National Day (23rd of June) to Luxembourg.

1 comment:

Ole Morten said...

Very nice post! Stumbled across it by googling this gem of a museum. I stumbled across the museum itself just today, and was so surprised at it's immense collection. Glad I visited it, and got to revisit through your pictures.