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The Jews of Luxembourg and the Holocaust

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The Destruction of the Jews of Luxembourg




The "Great Synagogue" in Luxembourg

From the Middle Ages to the 19th Century, the Duchy of Luxembourg was variously part of Germany or the Low Countries, and later was joined to the Netherlands (1815-1830).


In 1868 it gained recognition as an independent neutral entity, a status that did not, however, prevent Germany from occupying it during the Great War of 1914-18.


Jews are mentioned in Luxembourg as early as the 13th Century, but settled there in significant numbers only in the 19th Century, on the eve of the Second World War the duchy had a Jewish population of three thousand five hundred. Three quarters of this number had settled in the duchy from Eastern Europe, and one thousand five hundred were refugees who arrived after 1933.


Heading the Jewish establishment was a Consistoire, which financed religious functionaries and community institutions. Jewish welfare organisations helped the refugees obtain residence visas and provided them with economic support; as a result the refugee’s integration proceeded fairly smoothly, despite their relative large numbers and the differences in religious customs and way of life.


On the 10 May 1940 the Germans invaded Luxembourg as part of their campaign in the West, and they met with little resistance, they were aided by a “fifth column” made up of ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) who wanted to see the duchy incorporated into the Third Reich. An ongoing effort was launched to gain the support of the population for this goal.


After the German occupation in May 1940, the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and her government fled to Great Britain. Following a period of military administration, the country was placed under a German civil administration headed by Gustav Simon, district head of the adjoining German province of Koblenz-Trier. In August 1942, Germany formally annexed Luxembourg.

Before the war, over 3,500 Jews lived in Luxembourg. A majority of them had emigrated from eastern Europe. In addition, over 1,000 German Jewish refugees found shelter in the tiny duchy. The Nuremberg Laws were introduced in Luxembourg on September 5, 1940, followed by several other anti-Jewish ordinances. In practice, however, Jews were encouraged to leave the country.


Jewish restrictions followed, including the requirement in September 1941, that all Jews wear a badge with a yellow star with the word "Jude" on it. On October 13, the Aeltesternrat der Juden stated that 750 Jews remained in the country, 80 percent of whom were over the age of 50.


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. Many of these Jews were later deported from France to extermination camps in occupied Poland.

From early May to early August 1940 Luxembourg was placed under a German military administration, some Jewish property was confiscated but no restrictive anti-Jewish legislation was enacted. Many Jews fled to Belgium and France during the initial phases of the occupation, and some Jews returned when repressive measures were not introduced.


On the 2 August 1940 a civilian administration was installed headed by Gauleiter Gustav Simon, a former shoemaker who had joined the Nazi Party in 1925 and rose to become Gauleiter of Koblenz-Trier in 1931.


Nazi Gauleiter Gustav Simon

Gustav Simon made great efforts to have Luxembourg “return to the Reich,” the emphasis being on return rather than annexation. On the 10 August 1940 festivities were held to mark this “return,” but the event met with a hostile reaction on the part of the local population.


Attempts were made to incite the local population to riot against the Jews from 16 August – 18 August – Jewish shops were marked with a yellow label for this purpose – but no excesses against Jews were reported and the population remained apathetic to the Germans actions.


In September 1940 a campaign was launched to induce the population to join the NSDAP (Nazi Party) many refused and were sent to the Reich as forced labourers and numerous arrests were made among the intellectual classes.


An additional campaign was conducted for Luxembourgers to join the Reich by becoming German citizens on an individual basis, the Germans preferred such individual “annexations” of Luxembourg nationals to the duchy’s formal annexation, since the latter would have contradicted their claim that Luxembourg was simply coming back of its own will into the German fold.


The effort continued until the 19 October 1941, when a census was held and the inhabitants were called upon to declare themselves German nationals, the results must have disappointed the Germans ninety-five percent registered as Luxembourgers. This amounted to an all-out demonstration against the regime and this resulted in mass arrests.


Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/luxembourg.html


The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team



Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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