Poland Creates Outrage by Limiting Holocaust Restitutions
(Bloomberg) -- Poland drew the ire of the U.S. government and Jewish groups for draft legislation that would make it more difficult for survivors of the Holocaust to recover property seized by the Nazis on Polish soil.
The nationalist Law & Justice Party, which has rejected calls for Poland to pay damages for the historic wrongs of World War II that began with an invasion by Germany, approved a law late Thursday in the lower house that establishes a 30-year limit for restitution claims.
The draft law, which must still be approved by the Senate, creates a major hurdle for anyone wanting to demand the return of property taken from them during World War II by the Nazis and then confiscated by the Communist regime that took power after the war.
The U.S. State Department said the law was “a step in the wrong direction,” with spokesman Ned Price urging on Twitter for the government “not to move this legislation forward.”
Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, called on the U.S. government to reevaluate its relationship with Poland in the wake of the bill’s passage.
“This law is a slap in the face to what remains of Polish Jewry and survivors of Nazi brutality everywhere,” Lauder said. “Perhaps the time has come to treat Poland with the same consideration it accords to Polish Jews and their descendants seeking justice.”
The Israeli Embassy in Warsaw denounced the bill as “immoral,” and said the proposed amendment “will make it impossible to return Jewish property or seek compensation.”
Poland is the only ex-communist nation without comprehensive legislation addressing claims for property nationalized last century. Law & Justice also ignited outrage in 2018 with a law criminalizing any suggestion that the country was responsible for the mass murder of Jews during World War II. The legislation was eventually watered down, but angered Israel.
The World Jewish Restitution Organization has repeatedly called on the country to address property claims by U.S.-citizen Holocaust survivors and their families, and the U.S. Congress in 2020 obliged the State Department to monitor progress in Polish restitution rules.
Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, made the rejection of allowing claims of compensation part of his campaign before his 2020 re-election victory, a stance backed by his ruling party.
Asked about Israel’s response to the restitution law, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in Brussels on Friday, “As long as I’m prime minister, Poland won’t pay a dollar, zloty or euro for German war crimes.”
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