In May of 1945, as news reports then had it, all of the top Nazi leaders vanished from the face of the earth. Hermann Göring, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Julius Streicher, all of them gone. No one knew that they had been whisked away to the hidden resort that is today our favorite spa in all of Europe, l’Hôtel du Palais at Mondorf-les-Bains in lower Luxembourg.

Central Continental Prisoner of War Enclosure No. 32, or Camp Ashcan, as the Americans designated it, was the interrogation center where the legal cases were built that sent so many of the top Nazis to the gallows. Security was so tight that not even the exterior guards knew the identities of their charges. One of the key interrogators, Lt. John Dolibois, only found out why he was there when he was checking into his room and was interrupted by Reichsmarschall Göring turning in an extra uniform.

Unusual for any camp in the war years, the security at Ashcan—guard towers, an electrified fence, and khaki netting over all—was designed not to prevent escape, but to protect the inmates from the revenge of an infuriated world. Yet the Nazis themselves refused to believe that they were going to be put on trial at all. To a man, they saw nothing particularly wrong with what they had done.

Today, in the same place where the Class of ’45, as the Americans called them, were finally stripped of their false dignity and grotesque illusions, we start off mornings with a swim in the outdoor hot baths, followed by a three course lunch, then saunas from 70 to 85 degrees Celsius, and finally, after another swim, a three-course dinner in our local favorite, le Café de Paris. The Bordeaux on the wine list are fabulous.

But it doesn’t feel particularly spooky. Facilities that withstood the depredations of two World Wars still fell in 1985 to that most implacable of demolition derbies, the modern European urban renewal plan. Today, the shuttered restaurant in the photo is all that remains of the original spa. Not that we’re complaining–Trotsky didn’t call it the Dustbin of History for nothing. Some people and their remnants  just seem to belong there.


Categories: Europe, Luxembourg