Holocaust Remembrance Day: Luxembourg signs major restitution pledge

The agreement includes the donation of 1 million euros as a symbolic acknowledgement and the purchase of the Cinqfontaines Abbey, which was a Nazi internment camp, converting it into a memorial.

The Cinqfontaines Abbey in Luxembourg was converted by the Nazis into an internment camp for Jews before they were sent to concentration camps. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Cinqfontaines Abbey in Luxembourg was converted by the Nazis into an internment camp for Jews before they were sent to concentration camps.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Luxembourg has signed an agreement on Wednesday with the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) regarding the restitution of property taken from Jews during the Holocaust.
The agreement, which was signed on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, addresses numerous issues relating to the ongoing dispute over property restitution, such as looted art, insurance and dormant bank accounts.
However, it also provided monetary and practical steps that the Grand Duchy will take to restitute Holocaust survivors and contribute to historic research and memorialization of the Holocaust.
A total of a million euros will be donated to the WJRO in a symbolic acknowledgement of Jewish Luxembourgian Holocaust survivors, though these funds will be distributed through the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
A further 120,000 euros will be donated every year for 30 years to the Luxembourg Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, which seeks to promote Holocaust remembrance. An increased budget will also be given to Le Comité pour la mémoire de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale – The Committee for the Remembrance of the Second World War.
The landlocked Western European country also committed to funding independent research and further work on its national archives for information relating to the Holocaust and the Nazi occupation of Luxembourg, and to further collaborate on making a national antisemitism strategy.
But among the most notable parts of the agreement is the commitment to purchase and renovating the Cinqfontaines Abbey. Built in 1906, this cloister in northern Luxembourg originally served Catholic monks.
The monks were expelled in 1941 during the Nazi occupation of the country, and it was converted into an internment camp where the Nazis rounded up and held Jews before sending them to concentration camps in Eastern Europe. In 1969, a monument was erected in memory of the Jews who the Nazis gathered there.
Under this agreement, at an estimated cost of well over 25 million euros, the Grand Duchy will purchase the cloister, which has served as a retreat and meditation center since 1973, and renovate it into a Holocaust memorial and education center.
“The agreement today is a profound statement by Luxembourg of its abiding commitment to preserving the memory of Jews who were persecuted and murdered during the Nazi occupation of Luxembourg," WJRO operations chairman Gideon Taylor said at the signing ceremony. 
"Seventy-five years after the Holocaust, the agreement provides symbolic support to Holocaust survivors from Luxembourg," he said. "The agreement also sets a clear process to identify and return dormant bank accounts, insurance policies and looted art.” 
Luxembourg was occupied by the Nazis in May 1940. Before the war, the Grand Duchy was home to approximately 3,500 Jews. It is believed that only 36 of Jews deported by the Nazis survived the Holocaust, according to estimates from the United States Holocaust memorial museum.
In 2019, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Luxembourg was the last country in Western Europe to have made restitution difficult, as a 1950 law had in practice restricted eligibility for restitution to nearly a quarter of the Jews that had lived there.
Restitution remains a major issue for Holocaust survivors, particularly with Germany and Poland, where billions of dollars of property has gone unrestituted.