Luxembourg says sorry to Jews for World War II government collaboration with Nazi occupiers

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Luxembourg says sorry to Jews for World War II government collaboration with Nazi occupiers

Luxembourg's Parliament on Tuesday adopted a resolution in which it apologized for the collaboration government officials in the deportation of Jews during the German occupation in 1940.

The Chamber of Deputies unanimously adopted a resolution in which the Grand Duchy recognizes the suffering of Jews during the war and apologizes for their persecution. Additionally, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel also issued an apology on behalf of the government. "We must accept responsibility together for this. The fact is that 1,300 Jews were deported from here, Belgium or France and they were all killed. It is a reality for which I apologize directly to today's Jewish community but also to the families,” Bettel told the lawmakers.

The resolution also said that the memory of the horrors of World War II must be kept alive and that all efforts should be made to prevent anti-Semitism in Luxembourg.

Chamber of Deputies Speaker Mars Di Bartolomeo said he was satisfied with the dignified way in which Luxembourg had led the debate, which followed the publication of a recent report that showed that the administration of the Grand Duchy was complicit in the persecution of Jews during the Nazi occupation. 

The 190-page report was published in February, was compiled by the historian Vincent Artuso with the help of a special committee of experts. It had been commissioned by then-Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker's government. It was prompted by the discovery of a list containing the names of 280 Jewish children, thought to have been compiled by school authorities to submit to the Nazi occupiers, and it confirmed that during Luxembourg's occupation, the then administration and other institutions “collaborated once they were invited to by the occupier and often fulfilled their task with diligence, zeal even – certain heads of the administration did not hesitate to take the initiative.”

SS leader Heinrich Himmler on a visit to Luxembourg in 1940The small Luxembourg was attacked by neighboring Germany on 10 May 1940 and surrendered a day later. It was placed under occupation and was formally annexed to Germany in 1942. An administrative commission functioning as replacement government during the occupation had collaborated in the deportation of Jews to the death camps, the Artuso report found.

In May, Prime Minister Bettel said a monument in memory of the victims of the Shoah would be installed close to the government buildings in Luxembourg City.

Before the war, Luxembourg had a population of about 3500 Jews, many of them newly arrived in the country to escape persecution in Germany. The Nuremberg Laws, which had applied in Germany since 1935, were enforced in Luxembourg from September 1940 and Jews were encouraged to leave the country for Vichy France.

Emigration was forbidden from October 1941, but nearly 2,500 Jews had already managed to escape. In practice, they were little better off in Vichy France, and many of those who had left were later deported and killed. From September 1941, all Jews in Luxembourg were forced to wear the yellow Star of David badge to identify themselves.

From October 1941, authorities began to deport the around 800 remaining Jews from Luxembourg to ghettos and camps such as Lodz, Auschwitz and Theresienstadt (Terezin). The Artuso report cites an order issued by the Administrative Commission, which temporarily took charge of the country after the government fled when the Germans invaded, that prevented Jews who fled the country from returning to their homes. It was issued before the country had been fully placed under the control of occupiers.

Luxembourg was declared "judenrein" ("cleansed of Jews") in October 1941. Of the original Jewish population of Luxembourg, only 36 are known to have survived the Holocaust.

Read the Artuso Report (in French) by clicking on this link

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