12 April 2011

The Jews of Luxembourg

The history of Luxembourg dates back to the 10th Century, when in 963 CE it was first established by Count Siegfried. A beautiful country, located between Belgium, Germany and France, Luxembourg first welcomed Jewish residents in the late 13th Century with even more arriving into the early part of the 14th Century. This small Jewish community was for the most part eliminated in 1349. At that time Luxembourg went through the Black Death when most Jews were expelled or killed. What Jews remained were completely expelled by 1391. Amazingly, between 1400 and 1410, some Jews had already started moving back. However about 75 years later, in the 1478 Uprising, the homes of the Jewish families were pillaged and destroyed, forcing almost all families to leave. The history of Luxembourg after this time continued to be filled with uncertainly. In 1515 there were small communities in Luxembourg, Echternach and Arlon. These communities once again were expelled, this time in 1530. After this expulsion, Jewish families stayed away. The first major immigrants didn't return till the early 1800's. The next 130 years was a time of growth for the Jews of Luxembourg. The country gained Independence in 1815. This led to growth in the Jews as well. Some of those events included;

  • In 1823 they built their first synagogue.

  • Samuel Hirsch was appointed Chief Rabbi in 1843.

  • By 1880 there were about 150 families spread all over the land.

  • A new synagogue in the city of Luxembourg was built in 1894.

  • A new synagogue was built in Esch-sur-Alzette in 1899.

  • By the early 1920's the Jewish population was almost 1200 people, many of these refugees from Germany.

On May 10, 1940, Luxembourg a country of Neutrality was invaded by Germany. Of the approximately 4500 Jews of that time about 1000 were able to escape to places such as France and Portugal. Later in the year about 700 fled to America, settling in New York City. The leader of this group was Rabbi Serebrenik. Another thousand escaped to France. Most of those who fled to France, were later deported from there as the Nazi's continued to expand.

Luxembourg was liberated on 9 September 1944. Of that Jewish population prior to the war only about 1500 survived. After the Holocaust about 1500 Jews returned to Luxembourg, many of them merchants coming back in an attempt to rebuild what they once had. In 1953 a new synagogue was built to replace the one destroyed in the war. Today, people disagree on the total number of Jews still living in Luxembourg, however some feel that it may be the only European country to have increased it's Jewish population since the end of the war.

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