Polish President Rejects Jewish Property Claims Before Election

Polish President Andrzej Duda said he’ll never allow compensation for Jewish property lost in World War II as the controversial topic resurfaced just three days before the country’s election.

Jewish organizations have for years called for a restitution law to return property of those who died in the Holocaust and left no heirs. Duda has said that descendants can seek compensation in courts, while rejecting suggestions that Poland should pay any damages for the historic wrongs of a war that began with Nazi Germany’s invasion of its territory.

“There won’t be any damages paid for heir-less property,” Duda told tightly controlled state television on Thursday, when asked about the Jewish compensation issue. “I will never sign a law that will privilege any ethnic group vis-a-vis others. Damages should be paid by the one that started the war.”

Duda has tilted further to the right in a bid to attract voters ahead of Sunday’s run-off ballot, in which he’s running neck to neck with Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski. While the incumbent hasn’t mentioned the Jewish property issue at rallies before this election, public television has repeatedly said that only Duda can fully defend Polish national interests.

Poland is the only ex-communist nation without comprehensive legislation addressing claims for property nationalized last century. 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 last year obliged the State Department to monitor progress in Polish restitution rules.

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