This year marks the 70th anniversary of what is surely the most important international agreement on Compensation for National Socialist injustice. On September 10, 1952, Konrad Adenauer, representing the Federal Republic of Germany, and Moshe Scharett, Israel's Foreign Minister, signed the "Luxembourg Agreement" in Luxembourg City Hall. It was intended as financial support for the settlement and integration of Victims of National Socialist persecution in Israel in the form of goods deliveries and services. Today it is regarded as a symbol and basis for all further arrangements for the redress of National Socialist injustice.
Selected documents from the holdings of the Bundesarchiv provide an insight into the negotiations on the Luxembourg Agreement.
The end of World War II and the collapse of National Socialism, did not end the plight of Victims of National Socialist persecution and their families. The newly founded state of Israel had taken in numerous immigrants and had difficulties in providing for its citizens.
As early as 1951, the Israeli government had attempted to make reparation demands on Germany through the Allies. However, this was rejected by the Allies. Israel then entered into direct negotiations with Germany, which initially took place in secret due to the negative attitude of both countries. On September 27, 1951, Konrad Adenauer confessed Germany's guilt and willingness to negotiate with Israel in a government declaration before the Bundestag:
„Im Namen des deutschen Volkes sind aber unsagbare Verbrechen begangen worden, die zur moralischen und materiellen Wiedergutmachung verpflichten, sowohl hinsichtlich der individuellen Schäden, die Juden erlitten haben, als auch des jüdischen Eigentums […]. Die Bundesregierung ist bereit, gemeinsam mit Vertretern des Judentums und des Staates Israel, der so viele heimatlose jüdische Flüchtlinge aufgenommen hat, eine Lösung des materiellen Wiedergutmachungsproblems herbeizuführen, um damit den Weg zur seelischen Bereinigung unendlichen Leides zu erleichtern.“ (BArch B 136/1127)
Negotiations with the German Democratic Republic, which was originally supposed to make a share of the required payments, did not take place. The GDR, which did not see itself as the legal successor of the German Reich, refused any negotiations on compensation with Israel.
In light of Adenauer's expressed willingness to pay, the "Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany" (Jewish Claims Conference, or JCC for short) was constituted from 23 Jewish organizations, primarily to represent the interests of the Jewish population outside Israel. The president of the World Jewish Congress, Nahum Goldmann, was appointed as chairman. A meeting between Nahum Goldmann and Konrad Adenauer followed on December 6, 1951.
Negotiations between Germany, Israel, and the Jewish Claims Conference took place in The Hague, Netherlands, beginning in March 1952 due to the lack of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany.
In Israel, the negotiations with the West German government were controversial and triggered protests. The compensation payments were condemned and rejected as "blood money" by the public as well as by the Israeli opposition (above all Menachem Begin). The Bundesrepublik was accused of trying to buy itself out of its debts. There were street battles in Israel and, on March 27, an attempted letter bomb attack on Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, in which a fire chief of the fire department was killed. Two other letter bombs were directed at members of the German delegation.
At the same time as the talks with Israel, negotiations are ongoing on the London Agreement on German External Debts, in which Germany's foreign debts were settled. In view of this, even before the actual negotiations, there are initial concerns from the government about the level of the planned payments and from the President of the Direktoriums der Bank deutscher Länder (Wilhelm Vocke) against "special treatment for Israel".
The agreement was controversial not only in the Israeli government, but also within Adenauer's cabinet. After the first two months of negotiations, there was disagreement above all about the amount of an offer to Israel. The head of the German delegation, Franz Böhm, was in favor of accepting the DM 3 billion demand from Israel. Immediately after the discussions, with the Negotiations on the verge of breaking down, Franz Böhm and his representative Otto Küster announced their resignations. Franz Böhm withdrew his resignation a few days later on the advice of Adenauer and submitted a new suggestion.
Moreover, it was Finance Minister Fritz Schäffer, in particular, who both spoke out against the level of payments to the Jewish Claims Conference and, only a few days before the finalization of the planned agreement, formulated harsh criticism of it and saw the coverage of the budget in danger.
The agreement was signed on September 10, 1953, also on neutral ground in Luxembourg. When the treaty was ratified by the Federal Council in February 1953, only a narrow majority was obtained.
Six months after negotiations began, an agreement was reached. The Luxembourg Agreement acknowledged Israel's financial burden to settle Jewish refugees as a result of the crimes of National Socialism. The Federal Republic assured Israel of a global refund of DM 3 billion, to be paid over 14 years or in the form of goods and services.
In addition to the agreement on payments to Israel, the so-called Hague Protocols were signed with the Jewish Claims Conference. Under the 1st Hague Protocol, Germany undertook to initiate a legislative process for the restitution of property and individual compensation. In the 2nd Hague Protocol, the Federal Republic pledged payments of 450 million DM to the Jewish Claims Conference to support Jews living outside Israel.