Synagogue of the city of Luxembourg

Consistoire Israélite de Luxembourg, 45 Avenue Monterey, Luxembourg

Synagogue of Esch-sur-Alzette

JEWISH COMMUNITY OF LUXEMBOURG IN ESCH-SUR-ALZETTE, 52 Rue du Canal, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg

Musée national de la Résistance

Musée National de la Résistance, Place de la Résistance, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg

Holocaust Memorial of the city of Luxembourg

Place de la Constitution, Boulevard Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Luxembourg

Ancient synagogue of Mondorf

25 Rue du Moulin, Mondorf-les-Bains, Luxembourg

Ancient Jewish cemetery of Clausen

52 Rue Jules Wilhelm, Luxembourg

Jewish cemetery of Bellevue

10 Rue des Cerisiers, Luxembourg

Cemetery of Ettelbruck

Rue du Cimetiere, Ettelbruck, Luxembourg

Ancient synagogue of Luxembourg destroyed during the war

The first documents attesting to the presence of Jews in Luxembourg date from 1276, when an act mentions the Jewish religion of Henri de Luxembourg. The Jews have lived in the Pétrusse valley at the time.

Persecutions, leading in some cases to death, followed charges of poisoning wells during the plague epidemic of 1348. The Jews who survived these persecutions fled the country, from which they were officially expelled in 1391. Some families tried to stay in Luxembourg and Echternach, but, in 1532, the Edict of Charles V put an end to these hopes.

In the emancipatory spirit of the French Revolution, Luxembourg, conquered by France, applied imperial directives. Thus, on July 14, 1795, the discriminatory taxes imposed on the Jews and the geographic limitations were abolished by decree.

An early 19th century census shows that 75 Jews live in Luxembourg. A fairly young age average. They mainly came from villages of the Moselle and the Saar. People attracted by the hope of being able to work trade or crafts and live their religion freely.

Synagogue of Luxembourg. Photo by Cayembe – Wikipedia

Two characters symbolized the roots of the Jews on Luxembourg territory. First, Jean Baptiste Lacoste (1753 – 1821), lawyer and former deputy of Cantal to the Convention. He was appointed prefect in Luxembourg and in the company of the Municipal Council and the Imperial Prosecutor, they attested to the Court of First Instance that “civil and political conduct was free from all reproach and that police surveillance encountered no complaint. particular against them, which is a constant testimony of their morality ”.

The other outstanding figure was Pinhas Godchaux. Born in 1771, and coming from a Messina family and having among his ancestors the Maharal of Prague, Pinhas Godchaux moved to Luxembourg in 1798. Gradually, he became the leader of the Jewish community, first attached to the Consistory of Trier then to the one of Maastricht.

From 1815, the Jews, coming mainly from Germany and Lorraine, settled successively in other cities: Arlon (city which was part of Luxembourg until 1839), Ettelbruck, Grevenmacher, Mertert, Dalheim, Echternach, Grosbous, Erpeldange, Frisange, Schengen and Esch.

Synagogue of Luxembourg. Photo by Sultan Edjingo – Wikipedia

The inauguration of the first synagogue in Luxembourg took place in 1823, in the rue du Petit Séminaire. Following the arrival of other Jewish families the regions of Alsace and Lorraine during the War of 1870, the community obtained the right to build a second synagogue, inaugurated on September 28, 1894 by Rabbi Isaac Blumenstein and the President of the Consistory Louis Godchaux welcoming on this day the high Luxembourg authorities. During this century, the towns of Ettelbruck, Mondorf and Esch also built a synagogue.

Clausen Malakoff, created in 1817, was the first Luxembourgish Jewish cemetery. It remained active until 1884, when the  Bellevue cemetery was used instead.  Ettelbruck (1881), Grevenmacher (1900) and Esch-sur-Alzette (1905) also allowed the creation of Jewish cemeteries.

Rabbi Samuel Hirsch was the great intellectual Jewish figure of that time. Trained in the eminent traditional community of Dessau, his liberal vision of Judaism, promoting the familiarity of the Jewish philosophical approach and contemporary societal thought, forced him to leave the institution. Although he was appointed Chief Rabbi of Luxembourg from 1843 to 1866, he failed to convince the traditionalist community of his reformist approach. He then shared it in Philadelphia, deeply inspiring the American liberal current.

Synagogue of Esch sur Alzette. Photo by Aimelaime – Wikipedia

At that time, Samson and Guetschlick Godchaux, the nephews of Pinhas, revolutionized the weaving trade and the condition of workers in the 19th century. An economic adventure that started in 1823 with two weaving looms in a shed on rue Philippe II. Moving to Schleifmuhl, the company developed its activity. Associated at the end of the century with the manufacturer Conrot, the family employed more than 2,000 workers, the majority of whom were in Schleifmuhl. The evolution of social condition is characterized by the construction of a workers’ village with small houses in Hamm. Far from being a dormitory town, this village had its own choir, a nursery and a nursery school as well as a Kayak club. It organized cultural events and above all a society of mutual aid, a kind of early social security experiment. The decline started after World War I. The factories closed in 1939. Emile Godchaux, descendant of the family and last director of the company, was deported at Theresienstadt and died there in 1942.

In the interwar period, many Jews from Eastern Europe fleeing poverty and anti-Semitism settled in the Grand Duchy, encouraged by the invitations to tender in the mining basins of the steel industry. This immigration continued with the arrival of Jews from Germany and Austria between 1935 and 1940, following the application of the Nuremberg laws.

Synagogue of Esch sur Alzette. Photo by FLLL – Wikipedia

On May 10, 1940, Luxembourg was invaded by the German army. Its 4,000 Jews were persecuted by the Nazi chief of civil administration sent by Berlin. The synagogues of Luxembourg and Esch were destroyed.

A period also marked by the courage of a handful of men who managed to organize the escape of the Jews from Luxembourg. Chief Rabbi Serebrenik was assisted by a Wehrmacht officer in charge of the passport office, Franz von Hoiningen Huene (François Heisbourg recounts this period in the book “This strange Nazi who saved my father”), the American charge d’affaires George Platt Waller and by the former president of the Consistory, Albert Nussbaum.

The latter organized a complex network from Lisbon, funded by the American organization JDC. The JDC enabled many Luxembourgish, but also Belgian, German and Eastern European Jews to embark for the United States, Brazil and other Latin American destinations such as Cuba, Jamaica or Venezuela.

Victor Bodson, former Minister of Justice, saved Jews by helping them to flee the country. In particular by the Sauer river near where he lived and which marks the border between Germany and Luxembourg. For his courage, he was then named Righteous among the Nations.

Following the Liberation on September 9, 1944, the 1,500 Luxembourg Jews who survived rebuilt the community, thanks in particular to government assistance. Architects Victor Engels and René Maillet constructed a building that serves as both a place of worship and a community center.

Mondorf-les-Bains synagogue. Photo by Cayambe – Wikipedia

The inauguration took place on June 28, 1953, in the presence of HRH the Grand Duke Jean, the high authorities of the City and the State and numerous rabbis among whom the Chief Rabbi of France Jacob Kaplan. Chief Rabbi Lehrmann consecrated the  synagogue during a solemn ceremony presided over by the President of the Consistory, Edmond Marx.

A year later, Esch-sur-Alzette also hosts a  synagogue. Of liberal current, it is located on the rue du Canal. A building made in the same style as the city synagogue built in 1899 and destroyed during the war. We particularly notice its large stained glass windows.

One can also visit the ancient  synagogue of Mondorf-les-Bains which is today a cultural center. The Ettelbruck synagogue, ceded by the Luxembourg Consistory to the city of Ettelbruck which has made it a Culture and Meeting Center will soon house a Museum of Luxembourg Judaism.

Doctor Emmanuel Bulz greatly marked the contemporary period of Luxembourgish Judaism. Chief Rabbi from 1958 to 1990, he worked constantly for a rapprochement with the non-Jewish world and more particularly Luxembourg civil society. This, by sharing a knowledge of Judaism and a demythification of certain prejudices. Joseph Sayag succeeded him, then Alain Nacache, Chief Rabbi since 2011.

The work of historians such as Serge Hoffmann, Paul Dostert and Denis Scuto, as well as the political action of deputy Ben Fayot allowed a precise study of the history of the Luxembourg Jews during the Shoah. This resulted on February 10, 2015, in the presentation by Vincent Artuso of his report “The Jewish Question in Luxembourg, 1933-1941. The Luxembourg State faced with anti-Semitic Nazi persecution”.

Musée national de la Résistance, Esch sur Alzette. Photo by Cayambe – Wikipedia

On May 11, 2015, the decision was made to erect a monument to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. A monument inaugurated on June 17, 2018 in the presence of the Grand Duke Henri, the Grand Duchess Maria Teresa and the national and municipal political authorities. The monument is located in the heart of the city. A  memorial carved in pink granite by the artist and survivor Shelomo Selinger, close to the Gëlle Fra, symbol of the freedom and resistance of the Luxembourg people.

The Luxembourg Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah (FLMS) was created in 2018. A structure whose mission is to perpetuate the memory of the Shoah but also of all other crimes against Humanity. It also fights preventively by organizing programs against racism, revisionism and negationism. Historical revenge, since the site is located on the site of the former Gestapo headquarters.

Another interesting place to visit is the  National Resistance Museum located in Esch. He retraces this history in Luxembourg during the war. Photos, objects and works of art are presented to the public.