Although tinges of resistance remain to acknowledge Luxembourgish collaboration, the Grand Duchy has made big strides in recent years to acknowledge and commemorate the loss of its Jewish citizens.
As a small country sharing a border with Germany, Luxembourg served as a transit
point for Jewish deportation. The Luxembourgish government long excused
collaboration with the Nazis due to their small size and inability to resist the Nazis. Within the last two decades, however, the government taken a more active role in commemorating the Jewish victims, acknowledging their responsibility, and educating their population.
For most of Luxembourg’s post-WWII history, those conscripted into the Wehrmacht were regarded as the war’s central victims. The first WWII monument erected in the city of Luxembourg in 1971 refrains from acknowledging Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis, and recognizes the Luxembourgish resistance as the heroes.
Over the past few decades, the country’s attitude has been transformed. The government has established committees to dig into the truth and expanded the memory of the Holocaust and WWII. Collaboration between civil society and the government has yielded improvements in how the Holocaust is taught in schools and memoralised.
The Government and Parliament of Luxembourg have issued an official apology. In 2016 a
special commemoration ceremony took place, with the Grand Duke attending the ceremony for the first time. The government has established a special committee for memory. In June, 2018, a memorial to Holocaust victims was inaugurated in Luxembourg city on the site of a former synagogue.
The Holocaust in Luxembourg
When the Germans invaded in May of 1940 and occupied Luxembourg, the government went into exile in London and Canada. The Nazis annexed the country, considering Luxembourgers as Germans, not a separate nation.
Some 1,000 Jews fled in a secret operation to France and Portugal. The use of French was banned. Nuremberg laws were introduced by the German civil government and the Nazis seized 355 Jewish-owned businesses.
The Germans introduced compulsory military service in 1942, and forced more than 10,000
Luxembourgers to join the Wehrmacht. When strikes broke out in opposition, the Germans
responded by executing 21 strikers. After a second strike in which more than a third of the
conscripted soldiers refused to wear the German uniform, the Germans deported men to
concentration camps and executed others.
The question of collaboration remains debated. The government tends to emphasize the extent of resistance; Joanna Sloame, writing for the AICE Jewish Virtual Library claims this is exaggerated.
Before World War II, 3,700 Jews lived in Luxembourg. About 2,500 Jews fled to France, where the French police later deported most to their death. Some 800 Jews were held at Fuenf Brunnen AG: Fuenfbrunnen (Cinqfontaines) transit camp in northern Luxembourg, 674 of whom would be sent to Lodz, Auschwitz, or Theresienstadt.
- 1953: Germany gives 1,000 Luxembourgish victims
- 1969 : Launch of l’Amicale des Rescapés d’Auschwitz
- 1969 : Inauguration of Cinqfontaines monument
- 1991 : Creation of the Comité Auschwitz
- 1971: World War II Memorial dedicated in Luxembourg city
- 1974: Amendments to Social Security Code translating victims’ persecution time
into social security pension
- 1985 Esch stood renames site of city’s first synagogue as Place de la Synagogue
- 2004, a monument was erected in memory of the Jews of Esch who were deported
and killed by the Nazis.
- 2008: Government commissions Artuso Report to study Holocaust in Luxembourg
- 2015: Artuso report is published
- 2015: Government issues an official apology to the Jewish population for
collaboration with the Nazis
- June 2016: Committee for the Remembrance of the Second World War is created.
- 2018 RIAL - „Recherche et Information sur l’Antisémitisme au Luxembourg“ is
- June 2018, Fondation luxembourgeoise pour la Mémoire de la Shoah was
- June 2018: Commemorative monument of Jewish victims deported from central
- November 2018 a memorial plaque is inaugurated at the site of the synagogue of
Luxembourg City demolished during the WWII.
- July 2018 Fondation du Judaïsme Luxembourgeois was established.
- December 2019: Luxembourg assumes presidency of IHR
After the publication of the Artuso report in 2015, the government officially recognized the
responsibility of the Luxembourg state in the persecution and deportation of Jews. A special session was held in parliament to make apologies to the Jewish community.
In 2016, on a parliamentary initiative was, the government created a committee dedicated to preserving the wartime memory. The committee advocates on behalf of three groups: resistance fighters, those who were forcibly conscripted into the Wehrmacht, and Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
In December, 2018, Xavier Bettel started his second term as Prime Minister, leading a coalition of his liberals along with Socialists and Greens. It will remain much the same as the outgoing government, with Socialist veteran Jean Asselborn holding on to his position as foreign minister and Pierre Gramegna as finance minister. No changes in Holocaust memory politics are expected. Bettel has been a vocal opponent of anti-semitism, participating in the UN campaign against anti-semitism in the fall of 2018.
Holocaust education is mandatory at the secondary school level. It is most often taught in
history courses along with WWII lessons, but is also taught under religious science or language.
The Ministry of Education offers annual teacher training sessions on human rights, including a brief section on Holocaust education. A program with Yad Vashem is also offered. Luxembourgish schools observe January 27th as the official day for Holocaust Remembrance.
Although Luxembourg has no national Holocaust museum, the Holocaust is incorporated into two other museums in the country. Le Mémorial de la Déportation à Luxembourg-Hollerich, which marks the site where deportations from Luxembourg took place during the war, and Le Musée National de la Résistance à Esch-sur-Alzette, which houses permanent exhibits about the Holocaust in Luxembourg.
On January 27th, a remembrance ceremony is held at Le Mémorial de la Déportation à
Luxembourg-Hollerich, followed by a public discussion of Holocaust commemoration by
historians, survivors, and researchers. The 2013 photo exhibit Between Shade and Darkness
debuted at Le Musée National de la Résistance à Esch-sur-Alzette, which separated the history of Jewish persecution in two parts: 1940-41 the expulsion of Jews, October 1941-45 the deportation of Jews.
A full list of remembrance ceremonies can be found here.
In addition to International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, Luxembourg hosts a National Day of Remembrance on October 10 to commemorate those who resisted Nazi occupation and those who fell victim to the Holocaust. This date was set by the Council of Europe.
In 2017, the Grand Duke lit an eternal day began at Le Monument National de la Solidarité
when the Grand Duke lit the eternal flame. Wreaths were laid at the Gëlle Fra and Le Mémorial de la Déportation (National Resistance and Deportation Monument), before a remembrance ceremony.
On June 17, 2018, the Luxembourg State and City of Luxembourg unveiled a new monument designed by Holocaust survivor Franco-Israeli sculptor Shelomo Selinger. The monument commemorates 658 Jewish victims deported from Luxembourg central station between October 16, 1941 and June 17, 1943. It is located on the site of the city’s first synagogue on Boulevard Roosevelt.
Luxembourg has not passed its own law criminalizing Holocaust denial, but an EU Framework Decisions criminalizes genocide denial when that denial aims to incite hatred or violence. Luxembourg has had no notable incidents of Holocaust denial.
Luxembourg archives from the Holocaust period are available to the public. More than 30,000 pages of documents have been shared with Yad Vashem. Some archives are sponsored by the Consistoire Israelite, an administrative body representing the Luxembourg Jewish community.
MemoShoah has made their own effort to document the Jewish population in Luxembourg at the outset of WWII. The organization identified 3,997 Jews living in Luxembourg as of May 10th, 1940 and the locations to which these people fled after the Germans invaded. The Consistoire Israelite organizes their own collection of documents within the national archives, of which the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has copies.
Improvements could be made. Researchers say they experienced difficulty accessing the
archives from the Holocaust, noting that some archives disappeared after the war and the
government has neglected the archives they do keep Few historians are allowed access to the archives, but are restricted from studying the entire library and are not given reasons for such restrictions.
Though the archives are sparse, what has been released to the public has been influential. After a journalist uncovered a never before seen set of documents from the archives that implicated Luxembourgish collaboration with the Nazis, the government commissioned historian Vincent Artuso to undertake his groundbreaking in-depth study.
Financial settlements to Jewish victims of the Holocaust was written into an amendment of the Social Security Code in 1974. The amendment allows “victim of Nazi persecution to count their persecution time toward a social security pensions.
Foreign nationals are excluded from compensation for the theft or destruction of personal
property during the war. The only instance in which foreign nationals are eligible to receive
compensation is if they had done exceptional deeds in favor of the nation during the war, a feat virtually impossible to attain and subject to personal interpretation by the individual deciding whether a deed was “exceptional”.
Talks are ongoing n the question of the restitution. The primary motor behind this is Henri Juda and association MemoShoah (http://www.memoshoah.lu/wpmsl/).
When in power during the 1990s and early 2000s, the opposition Christian Democrats began the process of living up to its Holocaust remembrance responsibilities.
Further to the right, the ADR holds few seats in parliament. Rather than rewriting the Holocaust or minimizing Luxembourg responsibility, it focuses on the country’s pro-Palestinian policies. ADR MP Fernand Kartheiser recently accused the Jewish chairwoman of the Comité Pour une Paix Juste au Proche-Orient (CPJPO) of anti-Semitism, arguing that the committee too often criticises the Israeli government.
Civil society was largely uninterested in the legacy of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust until the 1990s. Since then, both historians and NGOs have made concerted efforts to raise awareness of Luxembourg’s role.
The independent organization MemoShoah works to expand access to, topics covered, and frequency of Holocaust education in Luxembourg. Recently, MemoShoah sponsored the rotation of photos from the Holocaust shown in the Between Shade and Darkness exhibit around Luxembourgish secondary schools.
The Consistoire Israelite works with the government in their official January and October
commemoration ceremonies. Both MemoShoah and the Luxembourg Auschwitz Committee work on commemorative ceremonies at the Abbey of Cinqfontaines.
Major media outlets accept articles from Jewish interest organizations like MemoShoah. The Jewish community releases its own monthly paper, the Trait d’Union, by mail to members of the community. It is not sold or available to those outside the community.
The media has been influential in changing public attitudes about Luxembourg in the Holocaust.
Dennis Scuto, a radio host, used his broadcast in the early 2000s to criticize Luxembourgish
memory of the Holocaust. His statements encouraged the government to commission the
Artuso report to look deeply into how Jews were treated in Luxembourg before and during the war.
Approximately 1,200 Jews live in Luxembourg. There are two official Jewish communities in
Luxembourg, in Esch and in Luxembourg city. The Luxembourg city community follows the
Orthodox Jewish tradition. In Esch, the community is progressive, a member of the European Union for Progressive Judaism. Women can read from the Torah and women and men sit together.
The state pays the salaries and pensions of rabbis for both communities, making Luxembourg one of the few countries in Europe to treat orthodox and non-orthodox Jews as equals.
-Author: Lauren Watrobsky