Cemeteries and Communities: Identifying Local Perspectives during the Construction of an Overseas Military Cemetery

Guiding Question:

How did local communities in Luxembourg react to the creation of American overseas military cemeteries and how did the war shape their experiences?


By using primary and secondary sources students will think critically about the local community and their perspectives about the development of American overseas military cemeteries and discover how their experiences during World War II shaped their perspectives.


Historical Context

On May 10, 1940, the German Army invaded Luxembourg. For the next four years, the German government occupied the country and forced the nation and its people under the rule of the German Reich. American troops liberated the nation on September 10, 1944. During the Battle of the Bulge, the U.S. Army established a temporary burial ground in Luxembourg. After the war, the Grand Ducal Government of Luxembourg granted the free use of the land as a permanent burial ground for American World War II fallen soldiers. Luxembourg American Cemetery became one of the 14 permanent World War II American military cemeteries erected on foreign soil by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Describe different aspects of daily life in Luxembourg during the German occupation (1940-1945); and
  • Analyze various perspectives both supporting and opposing the construction of a permanent American military cemetery in Luxembourg.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Connections to C3 Framework

D2.His.5.9-12 Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

D2.His.16.9-12 Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past.


Lesson Preparation


Introduction (10 minutes)

  • Show the Luxembourg American Cemetery video as an introduction for students. Ask students the following questions:
    • Where is this cemetery located?
      • Teacher Tip: Use the Cemeteries & Memorials Map to familiarize students with the location of the cemetery.
    • Who is buried in this cemetery?
    • How many men and women are buried there?
    • When did these men and women die? In what battles or campaigns did these servicemembers die?
    • Who do you think maintains these sites?

Activity One: Construction of Luxembourg American Cemetery (45 minutes)

  • Go to the World War II: A Visual History interactive timeline. Click “enter,” “1945,” and then “Ardennes-Alsace Campaign.”
    • Explain to the students that the Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Offensive, started on December 16, 1944 in the Ardennes, an area on the border between Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg. It lasted until January 25, 1945, and was the last major German offensive during World War II. German losses are estimated at 125,000 with the Allied casualties just slightly lower.
  • Introduce Technical Sergeant Leo D. Ballegeer by playing his eulogy video.
    • Reinforce that Ballegeer died on December 21, 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg. He was first listed as Missing in Action. When his body was found, he was buried at the temporary cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg. Later this site became the permanent Luxembourg American Cemetery. The cemetery has been in operation since December 29, 1944.
  • Divide class into groups of three to four students each.
  • Distribute one copy of the Cemetery Sources Packet to each student group and provide each student with a Cemetery Sources Graphic Organizer.
  • Direct students to divide up the documents from the Cemetery Sources Packet to analyze.
  • Ask each student to analyze his or her documents and then fill in the corresponding row in the Cemetery Sources Analyzer. Circulate and answer questions as needed.
  • Direct students to share their sources with other members of their group to complete the graphic organizer.
  • Distribute a copy of the Group Discussion Organizer to each student. Ask students to discuss and complete this chart.

Activity Two: Life in Luxembourg under Nazi-occupation 1940-1945 (45 minutes)

  • Take a step back in time with the students. Explain to the students that you have looked upon the creation of the U.S. military cemetery but in order to fully understand the emotions of the local population, the students need to be aware of the circumstances during the German occupation from 1940 to 1945 in Luxembourg.
  • Distribute one copy of the Occupation Sources Packet to each group.
  • Direct students to divide up the documents from the Occupation Sources Packet.
  • Ask each student to analyze his or her document and then fill in the corresponding row in the Occupation Sources Graphic Organizer. Circulate and answer questions as needed.
  • Direct students to share their sources with other members of their group to complete the graphic organizer.
  • Return to the Group Discussion Organizer. Ask students to add new insights gleaned from the second set of primary sources.

Assessment Materials

  • Distribute the City Meeting Assignment and Rubric.
  • Assign a character to each student and instruct them to write a letter to the Mayor of Luxembourg City as that person.
  • The City Meeting Assignment Rubric can be used to evaluate this task.

Methods for Extension


  • Teachers can add more or less information to the photographs and other documents.
  • Teachers can add guiding questions for the analysis of photographs and documents.


Return to Activity

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Other Sources