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European Memory of the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg – V Little Europe in Colpach

european institute of cultural routes

Michel Thomas-Penette

05 May 2007

This is a place that has profoundly affected European dialogue – we do not know enough outside Luxembourg.

Cities: Luxembourg-Ville, Koerich, Redange-sur-Attert, Colpach, Esch-sur-Sûre, Wiltz, Clervaux, Vianden, Diekirch, Mersch, Larochette, Bourglinster, Junglinster, Echternach, Rosport, Wasserbillig, Grevenmacher, Wormeldange, Remich, Schengen, Mondorf-les-Bains, Esch-sur-Alzette, Dudelange
Department: Luxembourg
Region: Luxembourg
Country: Grand-Duchy of luxembourg

  Emile Mayrisch Foundation

From Redange, go towards the Belgian border and Attert via Ell in order to reach Colpach-Bas and its château.

This is not a particularly grand château but it does house the Emile Mayrisch Foundation and is today linked to the Luxembourg Red Cross. Sosthène Weis, the state painter and architect redesigned the central part of the building in a modest and elegant neo-baroque style.

It is the park, restored in the 1920s (axonometric of Octave van Rysselberghe), 1926) that really gives interest to this visit thanks to its collection of bronze statues: The Dying Centaur of Bordello, the Young Man rising from the Despiau installed in the Mayrisch funerary enclosure (Perret, 1928/9), the Pomone of Maillol and the Young Somail of Kolbe situated in the kitchen garden. The art collection of the former owners is now visible in National Museum.

This is a place that has profoundly affected European dialogue – we do not know enough.

The exceptional couple of the industrialist Emile Mayrisch, one of the founders of the ARBED (1862-1928) and Aline de Saint Hubert set up a multicultural and bilingual dialogue in the 1920s in which Paul Claudel, André Gide, Karl Jaspers, Hermann Graf Keyserling, Ernst Robert Curtius, Jean Schlumberger, Jacques Rivière, Henri Ghéon, Jules Romains, Henri Michaux, Jean Paulhan, Alexis Curvers and Annette Kob confronted each other.

Théo Van Rysselberghe (1862-1926). Portrait of Emile Mayrisch, 1912

In 1995, the Centre National de Littérature mounted an exhibition entitled "Hôtes de Colpach - Colpacher Gäste" ("Guests of Colpach").

A commentary on this exhibition states: "In Dudelange, starting in the 1920s, the Mayrischs welcomed many figures from the world of humanities and arts, philosophers, economists, politicians and intellectuals to the Colpach Château on the Belgian border, in order to discuss with them in a convivial atmosphere, the peaceable and federal reorganisation of Europe after the horrors of the First World War. Although she was a regular customer of Pontigny, Aline Mayrisch never wanted to make her friendly gatherings seem like methodical working meetings with reports, discussions and publications. Colpach provided a country-style setting, where one could outline one’s texts, exchange beliefs and manuscripts, set dates, write, and create collective writing, translation and publishing projects."

This academic oasis also served as a refuge for exiled German intellectuals following the rise of the Nazi movement (Thomas Mann, Karl Jaspers and Robert Musil). Andre Gide was definitely one of the couple’s most regular visitors both to Dudelange, where he wrote the first chapters of the "Faux-Monnayeurs" ("Counterfeiters") in 1925, and to Colpach.

However after 1929, he only saw Aline Mayrisch at La Messugière, the house of Cabris (Alpes-Maritimes), where she sought refuge after the arrival of the German army.

Emile Mayrisch, a great industrial patron, demonstrated his spirit of independence during World War I, but he also negotiated with the occupiers. As is shown clearly in his biography, created by the Documentation Centre for Human Migrations in Dudelange: "On behalf of the Government of Luxembourg, which after a few protests at the invasion decided to keep its neutrality, Mayrisch put up posters informing his workers and employees of their duty to remain neutral. He refused to close his Arbed factories, as this would have created massive unemployment with disastrous results. Consequently, the Arbed provided Germany with materials for arms production, leading to the 1916/18 bombing of the Dudelange factory by the allies…"

At the same time, it shows that " the end of the war, Mayrisch profited from his wife’s literary relations in order to establish links with France: in 1917 he gave an important document on German wartime production to the writer and Information Services Officer Jean Schlumberger."

The result of this experience of industrial mediation between France, Belgium and Germany is that what we return to at Dudelange is inseparable from the role of the good-will ambassador, which moved the intellectuals from the Mayrisch circle towards French or German diplomacy.

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memory of migrations : dudelange

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