Should Luxembourgish volunteers, who fought in the Spanish Civil War, be honoured at the "Gëlle Fra", the Golden Lady?
These young men fought with the Republicans against the nationalist troops of General Francisco Franco. The Committee for the Commemoration of World War II was recently asked to give its opinion on whether or not these volunteers should be honoured at Luxembourg City's "Gëlle Fra" monument. In the end, drawing up this assessment proved to be rather difficult.
The discussion arose following an enquiry by the association "Amis des Brigades Internationales-Luxembourg" (Friends of the International Brigades-Luxembourg). The latter had contacted the Prime Minister in late 2018 to ask whether it would be possible to add a plaque for the Luxembourgish volunteers in Spain to the Monument of Remembrance, more commonly known by the nickname "Gëlle Fra", or Golden Lady.
Due to the enquiry remaining unanswered, MPs Mars di Bartolomeo and Dan Biancalana from the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party (LSAP) decided to bring it up again in a recent parliamentary question. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel then forwarded the question to the Committee for the Commemoration of World War II.
The Committee's president, Claude Wolf, stated that they asked their members whether the International Brigades should be honoured with a plaque or not. While a majority of members stated that they were in favour of the idea, albeit with a few caveats, a still substantial minority rejected the idea altogether.
The Committee for the Commemoration of World War II was only recently founded and represents the victims of the Shoa, the members of the resistance, and those recruited by force into the Nazi army. The latter represent those that were against this new plaque at the "Gëlle Fra" from the beginning.
Members of the Committee's executive then tried to find a compromise and in the end the association's official opinion stated that while it was against a new plaque at the "Gëlle Fra", the members of the International Brigades should still be honoured, but in a different way.
Wolf stressed that the Committee's respect for the merits and courage of the 102 young men was immense, especially considering that some of them were very young. As such, they should definitely be honoured, but maybe in a more modern way than simply putting up a plaque on a monument commemorating World War II.
In its official opinion, the Committee makes a number of suggestions, for instance to organise the next National Commemoration Day specifically around the International Brigades. One thing that Wolf regrets, however, is that there was not enough time to inform all of the association's members about the final version of its official opinion on the matter.
Wolf admitted that the executive was under a lot of pressure, including from itself. According to her, three people drew up the entire document within a week.
She also regrets that the matter is now being discussed in public, criticising the fact that internal data was leaked.
However, Wolf stressed, the Committee's major goal still remained to organise commemoration alongside one another and not against each other. One of the most important missions being to raise awareness of the topics among young people.