Luxembourg agrees to pay Holocaust reparations
Luxembourg marked Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday by signing an “historic” agreement to provide financial compensation for the confiscation of property from Jews during World War II.
The accord with Jewish groups will see the government pay one million euros ($1.2 million) to survivors and descendants of those deported from the Grand Duchy during the Holocaust, and commit millions more to a memorial and research.
“This agreement puts an end to a terrible injustice,” Francois Moyse, head of the Luxembourg’s Holocaust remembrance foundation, said at the signing ceremony.
“It is a message of hope and brotherhood.”
Luxembourg, wedged between Germany, France and Belgium, has faced criticism for being one of the slowest countries in Western Europe in resolving the issue of compensation for Jews.
The signing was the latest move by the liberal government of Prime Minister Xavier Bettel to come to terms with the events of over 75 years ago after it apologised in 2015 to the Jewish community for its “suffering” during Nazi occupation.
“It is never too late, but it was high time,” Bettel said.
“This agreement will not erase any of the suffering, but it does restore dignity.”
An official statement said the accord “provides answers to all unresolved questions in connection with the confiscation of Jewish property linked to the Holocaust”.
It will also see the authorities spend 25 million euros turning a monastery used to help transport Jews to the concentration camps into a memorial and education centre and pump two million euros into Holocaust research.
Until now, the restitution of property looted during the war had come up against a law from 1950 which reserved compensation to nationals only, effectively excluding some 75 percent of the Jews who lived in Luxembourg before the Nazi invasion of May 10, 1940.
A report commissioned by the government in 2000 said there were some 4,000 Jews living in the country when it was taken over, but most were refugees from Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Austria who were considered stateless.
As part of Wednesday’s agreement the government also committed to search for dormant bank accounts once owned by Jews, insurance policies and looted artworks.
An independent auditor has been tasked with tracking down accounts and their beneficiaries. If there is no one to receive the money then it will go to a local foundation working on the Holocaust.
The government commission had estimated the amount of money on dormant accounts in Luxembourg at just 25,000 euros — a tiny sum compared to the $1.2 billion Swiss banks agreed to pay in 1998 to settle claims by Holocaust victims.