From Our Correspondent in Luxemburg WE pay our bill and leave the inn where we have had such an excellent meal—less than fifteen yards away from the German frontier and right under the guns of the Siegfried Line. The held-glasses of the Nazi outposts follow our car while we drive up river and approach Echternach, the city of St. Willibrordus and of the Dancing Procession.
Here a few months ago the millenary of St. Willibrordus was celebrated. Pilgrims came from all over Europe and even from beyond the seas, and Archbishops and Bishops from four or five countries prayed at the tomb of that Anglo-Saxon monk who christianised large parts of Germany and Holland, of Belgium and Luxemburg, and whose daring enterprise in the service of Christ led him as far as Heligoland and Denmark.
Echternach is a charming little town, the oldest in the Grand Duchy. The Basilica is one of the most beautiful and interesting churches between Cologne and Paris, and the romantic old town hall, the famous Dingstuhl, has always attracted scores or painters.
The Dancing Procession at Whitsun is one of the most curious remainders of medieval piety which have survived tip to our days.
But there are now neither pilgrims nor tourists in Echternach. Unemployed men are standing on the river and looking over to the Siegfried Line, which is being completed on the other side, Gendarmes and soldiers are guarding the barricaded entrance to the old bridge on which once the Dancing Procession used to start on Whitsun Tuesday.
In Echternacherbriick, the opposite village, we see some civilians, including women and children, move among the numerous uniforms of the soldiers and labour service men.
One of the Luxemburgers who arc idling away their time on the riverside tells us that the whole population had been evacuated early in the war, and that people were put into cattle wagons and brought into the Liineburger ffeide, a barren heath between Hanover, Brunswick and Hamburg. They felt very lonely there and were particularly
indignant about the bad and insufficient food, which was far below the standard to which they were accustomed. Therefore many came back to the villages on the Luxemburg border at their own initiative and expense. But all of them, we are told, will have to leave again.
Evacuation will be carried through by force where it will prove to be necessary.
At Echternach begins the most interesting part of our trip. Most fortifications are still under construction. Obviously the backward defences have been completed first.
For miles and miles Nazi soldiers, workers and compulsory labour service men are working close to the river. We can see them. transporting material, b u i l d in g block-houses, camouflaging machine-gun nests, antitank obstacles and barbed wire fences. We can hoar them talk to each other, and we enjoy their astonishment at the American flag which our car is flying.
Trees are being felled on certain declivities so as to afford a field of fire for machine-guns and anti-tank guns. " Asparagus beds " and other anti-tank defences of concrete cones and iron rails are being put up, and trenches and pits are being dug — to be covered by camouflage work later. Blackberry bushes which have first been carefully removed are planted anew so as to cover the " asparagus beds " and barbed wire defences.
The immensity and frequency of these works are incredible. In a little side
valley near 1,,Va1amdurf, where the Gaybach flows into the Sure, the Nazis are building such a fantastic system of fortifications that one of my American colleagues called it—in a cable to the United States —a veritable riverside Gibraltar. "But a Gibraltar that for months yet can easily be spotted front aloft."
Certainly the Siegfried Line is impregnable at such points. But I have been wondering why the Nazis imagined that any point in the Sure or the Our valleys--where the mountainous nature of the land would make all major military operations almost impossible would be chosen for an attempt to break through the German frontier positions, quite apart from the fact that a violation of Luxemburg's neutrality on the side of the Allies is highly improbable.
At Reisdorf, where the Our flows into the Sure, we leave the main road and turn to the right-hand side where a little road, not ordinarily used by motor-cars, follows the Our valley and leads, via Hoesdorf and Bettel, to Vianden.
We drive high on the hill first, but get
a little lower later and have a wonderful bird's-eye view of some fortification systems which are under construction on the opposite side of the river. Thousands and ten thousands of men are busy there to complete hastily—and probably not always efficiently — the plans of Messrs. Hitler, Goering, Ley and Todt. There is a running and toiling in these human ant-hills, and one sometimes wonders whether the notorious mania of the Nazis for everything that is " colossal " did not lead them In many cases far beyond what can be justified by genuinely military considerations.
Siegfried Line Builder
One should not forget that the " builder of the Siegfried Line," Dr. Todt, is an amateur fortification builder with little or no military experience. There are excellent experts among his advisers and assistants, but the import. ant decisions are made by Herr Hitler and Herr Todt—who got his job mainly because he joined the Nazi party as early as 1922.
We reach Vianden, with its famous castle ruin. This is the only point where Luxemburg territory reaches a little bit beyond the Our. The German fortifica• tions arc therefore a few miles behind the valley, and there is not so much to see from the riverside road.
Two or three miles up river the Siege fried Line draws close to the river again. More " bunkers " are being built and enormous quantities of barbed wire are being placed in front of concrete and steel anti-tank defences.
Labour Service Barracks
Half-way between Vianden and Dasbourg we have the astonishing sight of a labour service camp close to the river. It was certainly built before the war broke out because the light red and blue barracks can easily be seen front far away, and particularly from the air. There may be room for about two thousand men in these barracks, which look so pretty and clean, so unwarlike and peaceful.
It is getting dark, and we see a company of men coming down a narrow path, marching behind a swastika banner and singing some martial song. Probably they return from work or military exercises. Once more our car is the object of many curious looks.
Luxemburgers feel sometimes rather uncomfortable when they hear by day and by night the roaring of the guns and see military planes flying over their peaceful country. But they believe in the future of their liberty and independence—in spite of the tremendous dangers which they have to face in this war.