On Sunday, 16th October, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg was joined by Prime Minister Xavier Bettel to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first deportation of Jews from the Grand Duchy during the Second World War.
The commemoration was held behind the city’s central train station where, 75 years earlier, 323 Jews were rounded up by the Gestapo for transportation to the Łódź Ghetto in Poland. This was the first of seven deportations in Luxembourg, occurring between October 1941 and June 1943.
The brutality of the Nazi Regime saw only twelve of the first 323 deported Luxembourgers survive the Second World War. It is estimated that of the original 3,500 Jews living in Luxembourg before the war, only 36 survived.
Joining the Grand Duke and Prime Minister in this moving ceremony of remembrance were the Mayor of Luxembourg City, Lydie Polfer, the President of the Parliament, Mars di Bartolomeo and local students.
The unique commemoration saw 323 fake suitcases (one for each victim) carried by the participants, including the Grand Duke, towards the rear of the station, where they were piled in a symbolic tower. This was followed by a speech from the Prime Minister in which he declared that a monument to those who lost their lives during the Holocaust would be built in 2018 on the site of the country’s first synagogue.
Following Bettel’s speech, the names of each victim were read aloud as well as three witness reports from the day. One of the reports, read by the President of the Jewish Community in Luxembourg, Claude Marx, centred on the Hermann family. Jakob, Irma and their three sons, Bernard, Robert and Eric were amongst those deported on 16 October 1941. Marx pointed out to the students at the event that the young Hermann sons were students just like those present when their lives were cruelly transformed in a short period of time. This led to him highlighting the significance and importance of discussing past atrocities in order to prevent them from occurring again.
Grand Duke Henri proceeded to meet with families of the victims, concluding the moving ceremony of remembrance.