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Nazi Germany occupied Luxembourg in May 1940, with the Luxembourg government fleeing into exile in London for the duration of World War II (WWII).  Before the war, more than 3,500 Jews lived in the country.  In addition, more than 1,000 German-Jewish refugees had found shelter in Luxembourg.  From August 8, 1940, until the Germans forbade emigration on October 15, 1941, more than 2,500 Jews left Luxembourg, mostly for the unoccupied zone of France.  Between October 1941 and April 1943, Nazi Germany deported 674 Jews in eight transports to camps in Lodz, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Theresienstadt.  Only 36 Jews from Luxembourg reportedly survived the Nazi camps.  Estimates of the total number of Luxembourg Jews murdered during the Holocaust range from 1,000 to 2,500.  These figures include those killed in Nazi camps, in Luxembourg, or after deportation from France.  According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, those deported from France were later sent to killing centers in occupied Poland.

During WWII, Luxembourg’s government-in-exile passed decrees guaranteeing the restitution of private and communal property.  After the war, additional restitution laws came into effect; most applied to Luxembourg citizens only.

Since 2014, the government has demonstrated particularly serious and sustained efforts to meet the goals of the 2009 Terezin Declaration, especially in the fields of Holocaust remembrance and commemoration.  In 2015, the prime minister presented his government’s apologies to the Jewish community for the negative role certain Luxembourg officials played during the war.  In 2018, the government inaugurated an official monument that is now one of several focal points for Luxembourg’s annual WWII National Remembrance Day commemorations.  In terms of restitution, in February 2019, the government agreed to create a “Working Group on Outstanding Holocaust Asset Issues” with the Luxembourg Jewish community and the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO).

The Luxembourg government continues to enforce full archival access while respecting national and European Union legislation, and it supports research and education programs about the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes.  Luxembourg served as the rotating annual chair for 2019 of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Immovable Private, Communal/Religious, and Heirless Property

In 1941, the Luxembourg government-in-exile issued a decree that annulled all expropriation measures the Nazi occupiers had issued.  According to the decree, acts of confiscated property by the enemy starting on May 10, 1940, were declared null and void.  The decree set a limitation period of three years following the conclusion of peace for the original owners to claim their property.  Any persons who supported property confiscations or who benefited from them were subject to imprisonment and a fine.  In July 1944, just prior to Luxembourg’s liberation, the government issued an amendment to the 1941 law to require buyers of assets confiscated during WWII to declare purchases to the police.

On August 17, 1944, just before the liberation of Luxembourg City on September 10, 1944, the government-in-exile issued another decree establishing the Office of Receivers (Office des Séquestres).  This decree placed enemy property in Luxembourg (including property belonging to collaborators, presumed and verified) under the control of the Office.  The government charged the Office with inventorying, securing, and managing enemy property, until such time as the government decided on its final use.  Citizens who saw their property under wrongful receivership could appeal the decision.  This concerned Luxembourg, Allied, and neutral citizens who saw their confiscated assets equated to enemy property.

A law passed on February 25, 1950, regulates questions about compensation and destroyed property in Luxembourg.  It established three categories of people entitled to benefit from war compensation:  (1) Luxembourg citizens, (2) Luxembourg citizens living abroad, and (3) stateless people and foreigners who had been living in Luxembourg since 1930 and had “rendered verifiable services” to the country.

Between 1952 and 1961, Luxembourg signed and updated reciprocity agreements on war damages and compensation with Belgium (signed in 1952, updated in 1961), the UK (1954), France (1955), the United States (1955), Norway (1955), Switzerland (1956), and the Netherlands (1956).  These agreements allow Luxembourg citizens and companies that suffered war damages in one of the above countries to file for compensation in the same country and vice‑versa.  These laws do not apply to non-Luxembourg citizens and stateless persons, thereby excluding non-Luxembourg Jews.

In 1959, Luxembourg signed a treaty with the Federal Republic of Germany.  In the treaty, Germany agreed to compensate Luxembourg citizens and their dependents who had been forced into German war efforts (military and para-military service), as well as those forced to live in Germany or in a territory occupied by the Nazi forces and who suffered damage to their health as a direct result of war.  The treaty, however, did not address non-Luxembourg citizen Jews who were forced to flee or were killed in Luxembourg.

The government has laws and bilateral treaties in place to address the issue of wrongly seized or transferred property and the return of property to the rightful owner.  However, according to members of the Jewish community, there are still outstanding claims for different types of property in Luxembourg.  The Jewish community emphasizes that while the government has taken many positive steps in recent years, time is running short for survivors.  In addition, existing restitution and compensation laws only cover Luxembourg Jews or Jews from countries covered by reciprocity agreements.  Given that more than 70 percent of Luxembourg’s pre-WWII Jewish population was non-citizens of Luxembourg, with only a small fraction coming from countries covered by reciprocity agreements, Jewish community groups state that more than two‑thirds of Luxembourg’s Jewish population was not compensated, especially with regard to wrongfully seized or transferred assets.

The government acknowledges there are unaddressed restitution issues.  In February 2019, the prime minister agreed to the creation of a Working Group on Outstanding Holocaust Asset Issues encompassing representatives of the Luxembourg government, the WJRO, and the Luxembourg Jewish community.  As of November 2019, the activities of the Working Group were still in progress.

In 2009, the Special Commission for the Study of the Spoliation of the Property of Luxembourg’s Jews During the War Years (1940-1945), under the leadership of historian Paul Dostert, released its final report.  According to the Dostert Commission’s report, the Luxembourg government returned 97.5 percent (994 out of 1,019 transfers) of immovable property.  Out of the remaining 2.5 percent (25 transfers), 16 transfers concern cases in which a Jewish owner had sold his or her property to his or her non-Jewish spouse.  Two transfers concern cases in which Jewish owners had to sell their shares to their non-Jewish co-owner, and seven transfers concern cases where no pressure from German authorities was detected.  According to the report, these transactions were not contested after the liberation.

Regarding companies, the report states that the national Office of Receivers returned illegally appropriated companies to their legal owners after the war.  In cases where companies had been sold or destroyed, the State War Damage Office compensated owners as long as the cases fell within the framework of the 1950 law on war damages.  Most Jews, except for those returning from exile, were able to recover their assets after the war without difficulty.

Occupying forces during WWII desecrated, looted, and destroyed the synagogues in Luxembourg City and Esch-sur-Alzette.  Nazi forces also desecrated and looted the synagogues of Ettelbrück and Mondorf.  The synagogues of Ettelbrück and Mondorf are no longer in use and serve as cultural centers.  Following WWII, the State Office of War Damage financed the reconstruction of the Luxembourg City and Esch-sur-Alzette synagogues, which are still in use.

There are six Jewish cemeteries in Luxembourg.  Occupying forces desecrated but did not destroy them.  All but one cemetery is in use today.

Luxembourg has not passed legislation specifically to address Holocaust-era heirless property.  The Dostert Commission report indicated that while most real estate was returned between 1945 and 1946, there were a few isolated cases where property was rendered heirless.  In those instances, once the statute of limitations for the return of property had expired, it became a vacant estate and the property became part of the treasury.

Movable Property: Nazi-Confiscated and Looted Art

According to the Dostert Commission report, Nazi German authorities transferred confiscated assets, accounts, and investment shares to Germany several months before the liberation of Luxembourg.  In July 1947, Luxembourg’s Ministry of Finance required that banks re-establish seized accounts with the full amount at the time the asset was transferred to Germany.  If the bank account was owned by a Luxembourg citizen, the State Office of War Damage provided the requisite funds.  The report indicated that 200 re-established accounts were never claimed.

The WJRO and Jewish community have argued that additional research and access to bank archives is needed to shed light on the issue of dormant accounts.  On August 6, 2018, the Minister of Finance submitted a draft law to Parliament on dormant accounts, but to date no legislative action has been taken.  The draft law could allow the government to transfer assets from dormant accounts after a delay of five years for any potential heirs to come forth, under the condition that the original account owner had been the victim of severe international human rights violations.  The law could also be used to transfer assets that had belonged to Holocaust victims who have no heirs to the Luxembourg Foundation for the Memory of the Holocaust.  The foundation was started in 2018 by the Luxembourg government in conjunction with the country’s Jewish community to promote and preserve the memory of the Holocaust in Luxembourg.

The Dostert Commission report also found that occupying forces sold or gave away movable property to collaborating civil servants and German military forces.  While some movable property was returned to its legal owners after the war, much was never recovered, having been either destroyed or lost during its transfer to Germany.

There is no official catalogue of looted art in Luxembourg, but the National Museum of Art and History details the provenance of art acquired during WWII in an accessible online catalogue.  The museum conducts case-by-case in-depth provenance research when questions arise.

Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property

There is no national catalogue of Nazi-looted Judaica in Luxembourg.  However, the Dostert Commission report stated one object, labeled as previously belonging to a synagogue, was returned to the National Museum in 1941.  The National Museum informed the Jewish community, but the object has remained unclaimed.

Access to Archival Documents

In 2018, Luxembourg adopted an archival preservation law providing free and public access to the National Archives or official institutions for both claimants and scholars.  While some archives pertaining to legal and banking issues are still closed, the National Archives can grant limited access to closed archives in cases where research is in the public interest.  The National Archives informs the public of ongoing research and communicates the publication of new inventories according to the archival law.  The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum reports having had very good cooperation with the Luxembourg National Archives.

Education, Remembrance, Research, and Memorial Sites

Since 2007, Luxembourg has commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.  Additionally, the government commemorates National World War II Remembrance Day on the Sunday closest to October 10.

In June 2015, the prime minister presented his apologies to the Jewish community for the suffering and injustices inflicted upon it and acknowledged the responsibility of some representatives of public authority.  That same day, the Parliament adopted a resolution apologizing to the Jewish community, noting the importance of continuing historical research, and committing to defend human rights and address anti-Semitism.

On June 17, 2018, the Luxembourg government unveiled the monument “Kadish” in Luxembourg City honoring the country’s Holocaust victims.  The government integrates this monument into annual WWII National Remembrance Day commemorations.

In 2016, the government created the “Committee for the Remembrance of World War II” (Comité pour la mémoire de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale) to represent the interests and memory of freedom fighters (Résistance), forced conscripts (Enrôlés de force), Holocaust victims, and WWII victims.  Additionally, together with the local Jewish community, the government also created the Luxembourg Foundation for the Memory of the Holocaust to promote and preserve the memory of the Holocaust in Luxembourg.

Luxembourg has been a member of the IHRA since 2003.  In March 2019, Luxembourg assumed the chairmanship of the IHRA for one year.

Holocaust education is part of the official curriculum for high school students.  The Ministry of Education supports Holocaust-related education activities such as field trips to museums, historic sites, and concentration camps.

The Welfare of Holocaust (Shoah) Survivors and Other Victims of Nazi Persecution

Holocaust survivors, both nationals and foreigners, benefit from Luxembourg’s health care system, which covers special medical and health needs of Holocaust survivors, such as hunger relief, medicine, and homecare.

Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act Report: Luxembourg
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