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.