Luxembourg City (Brussels Morning) Today is a poignant day for Marcel Salomon and his fellow Holocaust survivors from Luxembourg. Marcel, 85, vividly remembers his life in Luxembourg before World War II. His father, Aron Josef Salomon immigrated from Lodz, Poland, to Luxembourg in the early 1920s to escape the rise of anti-Semitism in the country, undertaking a harrowing journey lying beneath a planks of a train car.
Upon arriving in Luxembourg, Aron was given a warm welcome by the local Jewish community, which helped him secure housing, build a shoe store, and put his theatrical talents to use as actor-director of “le Teatre Juif du Luxembourg.” With the money he saved, Aron rescued his sisters and brother from Poland.
He then met his wife, a Luxembourger, and a short time later, they were married and began a family. Marcel, born in 1935, recalls his family’s quiet, honest life. His father’s memories of anti-Semitism began to slowly fade as his bonds with the people of Luxembourg deepened, and he saw people treat each other as equals.
With a lovely wife and children, a thriving business, and the support of friends and neighbours, Marcel’s father had built the dream life he had always sought. But that quickly changed when the Nazis occupied Luxembourg.
Thankfully, the Salomon family was able to escape to the Dominican Republic. They had to leave all their possessions behind them – the product of two decades of hard work.
Just yesterday, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, more than 80 years after Marcel’s family fled for their lives, Luxembourg signed a historic agreement to provide a measure of justice for property wrongfully taken during the Holocaust and not returned.
This historic agreement between the government and Luxembourg’s Jewish community, together with the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) and the Luxembourg Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, serves as a powerful commitment to celebrate the rich contribution of Jews in Luxembourg and memorialize the horrors Jews suffered during the Holocaust.
Under the agreement, Luxembourg will provide funds as a symbolic acknowledgement to support Holocaust survivors from Luxembourg and commit dedicated resources for Holocaust memorialization, remembrance, education, and additional research on looted art and other issues. Luxembourg, working with the Jewish community of Luxembourg and WJRO, will research and return dormant bank accounts, unpaid insurance policies, and looted art.
A centerpiece of the agreement is the Cinqfontaines monastery complex, which was the last station and collection point for Jews before deportation to concentration camps. Cinqfontaines will be transformed into a permanent memorial and educational facility commemorating the stories of Holocaust victims.
The agreement is a compelling call to action for justice across Europe. Other European countries must fulfill their commitments to Holocaust survivors and provide restitution or compensation for property that was wrongfully taken by the Nazis, their allies, and their collaborators during the Holocaust and its aftermath.
The urgency of this issue is clear—the JUST (Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today) Act Report, released by the US State Department in July 2020 at the request of a unanimous Congress, found that many European countries have not yet resolved Holocaust property restitution issues.
After fleeing Europe and spending time in the Dominican Republic, Marcel Salomon emigrated to Israel and today is a strong advocate for Holocaust survivors. He has met with the Prime Minister of Luxembourg to urge action on seeking justice for those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. To Marcel, Luxembourg’s agreement marks a significant step in honouring Holocaust victims, including his grandmother and two uncles who perished.
We commend Prime Minister Xavier Bettel for his leadership on these issues. Former US Ambassador J. Randolph Evans has been a passionate and tireless advocate dedicated to justice for Holocaust survivors, as has Israeli Ambassador Emmanuel Nachshon.
More than 75 years after the end of the Holocaust, we urge leaders across Europe to have the courage to stand up for what is right. It is imperative that we focus not just on the challenges of today, but also work tirelessly to right the wrongs of the past. We must work together urgently to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and secure justice for those who suffered so greatly during the Holocaust.