What gift to bring for a man, who already has everything?
Before driving off to meet him, I pick a chestnut off the tree outside the DP fraction’s office and put in on my dashboard.
Jean Hamilius is a real townsman. At the beginning of the last century, his family owned Lassner on Knuedler. For a very long time this was the largest store of its kind in the country: “We had the best quality. People wouldn’t say, we have silverware from Rosenthal, they would say, oursilverware is from Lassner.” The family are ‘good catholics’, as was the tradition at the time. The aunt is married to the brother of his eminence Origer from the Wort.
During his high school years in the ‘Kolléisch’, Jean Hamilius is very conscious of what is happening in Germany. The father speaks of “dark clouds” at the neighbours. At 16 years old, Jean is drafted as an assistant with the air force and trained half-day on the ‘Flak’ anti-aircraft gun. However, the fifth division of the U.S. Army makes it to Luxembourg in time. Without his parents knowing, Jean had already arranged a hide-out in Limpertsberg – with Raymond Hagen, Jean’s boy scouts’ leader.
The 17-year old Chico was meant to join the Americans as an interpreter in Germany, however the Battle of the Bulge avoids this. After the liberation, Jean goes back to college and later to the Solvay of Brussel’s ULB.
Stock exchange in Helsinki
As luck would have it, the student reads on cut out newspapers on the toilet (actual toilet paper was rare after the war), that Luxemburgish students can get bursaries for American universities. “Well, that sounds like a good deal”, Jean thought. “I left with 5 Luxembourgish Francs, and came back with 500.” In the meantime, the word in Luxembourg is that this is how Jean tried to get around having to do military service. However, Jean Hamilius completes his service immediately in 1951. Jean does not want to be in politics at the time, nonetheless he becomes a founding member of the Young Democrats. He had experienced the founding of the Democratic Party by his father, Eugène Schaus, Lucien Dury and others personally. The meetings were held in the family living room and Jean’s bedroom was right next door where he would listen to everything that was being said.
Jean Hamilius is not interested in Lassner. He doesn’t get along with uncle Paul. Then things move quite rapidly. After a first job position with the Columeta of the ARBED, he associates himself with Mr. Gerbes and Mr. Schmitter in a fiduciary service. This was the start of a great career in financial services, where he, amongst other things, became president of the former Crédit Européen.
In 1952, the SPORA runner is part of the 4x400m relay (Hamilius, Rasquin, Hammerel, Schaefer) at the Olympic Games in Helsinki. He watches Josy Barthel’s victory over the 1,500m through a small set of windows under the grandstand. It was a somewhat slow race, and he immediately knew: “Josy is going to win this one, he was a very strong sprinter.”
Playing the second violin
In 1974, Jean Hamilius organised a modern election campaign for Gaston Thorn together with Luss Emeringer: “We were strict. There were no private campaigns. We had to agree!” Ultimately Jean becomes a member of the government in the blue-red coalition, however he is not really enthusiastic about his portfolios agriculture and public buildings. As a business auditor, he had hoped for the dossier economy: “I was basically given what was left over”. Oh well!: ”I was happy and proud to have been part of this government”.
In the next Werner-Thorn government, Jean Hamilius is no longer available to take the post of a minister.He and Jaques F. Poos (Member after the reorganization in 1976) are the remaining two ministers from the Thorn-Vouel government whoare still alive.
“I was miserable, it was a massive blow for me”, is what Jean Hamilius says also with a little restraint in regards to the internal DP vote after the municipal elections in 1981, when Camille Polfer could not take the post and when it came to a choice between Lydie Polfer and Jean Hamilius. In the end, Lydie Polfer became mayor: “It was my dream to become mayor of Luxembourg city. But Lydie is my friend and she proved her worth quickly back then”.
Hopping mad and then a book
After ending his professional life, Jean Hamilius could really take advantage of his refuge at home. Up until when he became furious about how young historians interpreted the role of Luxembourgers during the Second World War. “I thought to myself, you need to defend all those that are no longer around to defend themselves”. This was also his motivation to start writing the book Luxemburg im Wandel der Zeit (Luxembourg through the ages), which in the end turned out to be much more than a historical response. Ever since Jean Hamilius publishes texts on his blog jeanhamilius.lu: “I don’t want to impose with letters to the editor. On my blog I don’t bother anyone, and only those that are interested will read it”.
I agree with Xavier 100%
At the end of our interview Jean proudly shows me his garden and a beautiful chestnut tree which he planted many years ago. Time for a last question: Jean, was Gambia right in 2013 not to talk to the CSV at all? “I fully agree with Xavier, 100%. Had they started discussions with the CSV, it would not have led to any kind of result. The pressure – also on the inside – would have become tremendous.
The historical chance would have disappeared. The CSV mightpotentially have given Xavier the Prime Minister, just to remain part of it. If this isn’t done quickly overnight, the chance is gone”.
Before leaving, I pick up my chestnut from the dashboard and I exchange it for one from the Eecherfeld.
And as I wave goodbye to Jean from the car, there he is, standing upright, same as his chestnut tree. Both solid, with their feet firmly on the ground.