Three British sisters this week pledged to “continue the fight” of their late father after a tribunal ruling in Poland upheld a decision by the country’s parliament to limit restitution claims.
The siblings are battling Polish authorities over their father’s family properties in Warsaw – two apartment blocks estimated to be worth about £5 million.
Maurice Tabaksman campaigned for the return of his family’s property for half his life, with help from Baroness Ruth Deech and TV personality David Baddiel, before he died in 2013 at the age of 94.
This week, following the tribunal ruling, Sharon Waters and her sisters Anna and Fiona vowed to carry on, saying: “It’s very disappointing. It is as if his inheritance has now been stolen three times, first by the Nazis, then by the Soviets, and now by the Poles. But we will continue my father’s fight for justice.”
Warsaw-born Tabaksman went abroad to study but could not return because of the outbreak of war. His parents and sister were among the 350,000 Jews living in the city at the time, and were part the Warsaw Ghetto, but did not survive. Tabaksman later built a home and life in the UK.
“We don’t know if he lodged a claim under the Warsaw Degree,” says Waters, referring to the process by which Soviet authorities half-heartedly requested claims, before ignoring many of them.
Years later, Tabaksman was offered an apartment in the city, provided he stayed and lived in it, but he had a family in London by that time, so did not take up the offer.
In 2007, Baddiel featured Tabaksman’s two apartments – which were valued at $7 million at the time – in a TV documentary. He learnt that the family still had the records from the Land Registry in Warsaw, showing ownership.
“It’s not about the money, although that would be very nice,” said Waters this week. “It’s the injustice of it all, and the insult to dead people. The Nazis deprived myself and sisters of grandparents and a wider family now the Poles are depriving us of our rightful inheritance.”