Joseph Bech

Joseph Bech (17 February 1887 – 8 March 1975)[1] was a Luxembourgish politician and lawyer. He was the 15th Prime Minister of Luxembourg, serving for eleven years, from 16 July 1926 to 5 November 1937. He returned to the position after World War II, and served for another four years, from 29 December 1953 until 29 March 1958. The 1982–1983 academic year at the College of Europe was named in his honour.

Joseph Bech
Joseph Bech (detail).jpg
15th Prime Minister of Luxembourg
In office
29 September 1953 – 29 March 1958
Preceded byPierre Dupong
Succeeded byPierre Frieden
In office
16 July 1926 – 5 November 1937
Preceded byPierre Prüm
Succeeded byPierre Dupong
Personal details
Born17 February 1887
Diekirch, Luxembourg
Died8 March 1975 (aged 88)
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Political partyRight
Christian Social People's


Bech studied law at Fribourg and Paris before he received his doctorate in law in 1912,[1] and qualifies as a lawyer in 1914. The same year, on 30 June, he was elected to the Luxembourgish Chamber of Deputies for the newly-founded Party of the Right, representing the Canton of Grevenmacher.[1]

On 15 April 1921, Bech was appointed to Émile Reuter's cabinet, holding the positions of Director-General for the Interior and Director-General for Education.[1] In 1925, Bech lost those positions, as the Party of the Right was edged out of government by a coalition of the other parties, which formed the government under Pierre Prüm.

When Prüm's coalition collapsed in 1926, Bech became Prime Minister, as well as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Education and Wine-growing. He was to remain Foreign and Wine-growing Minister until 1954. His term as Prime Minister, on the other hand, lasted until 1937, when he resigned over the outcome in the referendum on the Maulkuerfgesetz. At various points, he also held the portfolios of Agriculture, Arts and Sciences, and the Interior.

With the invasion of Luxembourg on 10 May 1940 Germany, most of the government quickly departed Luxembourg City and escaped to France.[2]

It was in Bordeaux that Bech and his family were granted transit visas from the Portuguese consul Aristides de Sousa Mendes, along with the rest of the government and the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg, in June 1940.[3] Joseph, along with his wife Georgette, and their children Charles and Betty, followed the Grand Ducal family through Coimbra and Lisbon, settling at Praia das Maçãs after the Grand Ducal family had moved to Cascais.[2][4] By August, the entire entourage had moved to Monte Estoril, where the Bech stayed at Chalet Posser de Andrade until 26 September 1940, with the exception of Charles, who would stay until 2 October. On 26 September, Georgette and Betty boarded the S.S. Excalibur headed for New York City, along with Prime Minister of Luxembourg Pierre Dupong and his wife Sophie. They arrived on 5 October 1940.[5] Joseph Bech eventually returned to London, where the Luxembourg government-in-exile was officially based.[2]

During World War II, Bech was the Foreign Minister of the Luxembourg government-in-exile in London.[1] In that capacity he signed the Benelux Treaty in 1944.

Bech is considered to be one of the 'Founding Fathers' of the European Union and the European Community.[6] He was one of the participants of the Messina Conference in 1955, which would lead to the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

He was Prime Minister again from 1953 to 1958, succeeding Pierre Dupong. He remained in the government until 1959, when he became President of the Chamber of Deputies until 1964.[1]

Bech died on 8 March 1975, at the age of 88.[7]

Honours and awardsEdit

Gathering for the funeral of Konrad Adenauer, Bonn, 1967. Joseph Bech is fourth from right, looking downwards with walking stick.



  • Charlemagne Prize (26 May 1960) – "in recognition of his life's work and his high merits for the unification of Europe that began in the old League of Nations and in the European institutions took their purposeful continuation."


  1. ^ a b c d e f Thewes, Guy. "Les gouvernements du Grand-Duché depuis 1848." Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine Service information et presse. Luxembourg: Imprimerie Centrale, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Ramalho, Margarida de Magalhães (23 May 2019). "A fuga para a liberdade da família grã-ducal". Contacto (in Portuguese). Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  3. ^ Sousa Mendes Foundation - Bech/Bodson/Dupong/Elvinger/Krier families.
  4. ^ Exiles Memorial Center.
  5. ^ Ellis Island Passenger Registration Records.
  6. ^ Dumont, Patrick; Hirsh, Mario (2003). "Luxembourg". European Journal of Political Research. 42 (7–8): 1021. doi:10.1111/j.0304-4130.2003.00129.x.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (PDF) (in German). p. 19. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
Political offices
Preceded by
Guillaume Leidenbach
Director-General for Justice
Succeeded by
Norbert Dumont
Preceded by
Pierre Prüm
Prime Minister of Luxembourg
1st time

Succeeded by
Pierre Dupong
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Eugène Schaus
Preceded by
Pierre Dupong
Minister for Defence
Succeeded by
Pierre Werner
Preceded by
Pierre Dupong
Prime Minister of Luxembourg
2nd time

Succeeded by
Pierre Frieden
Preceded by
Émile Reuter
President of the Chamber of Deputies
Succeeded by
Victor Bodson