Anger at Poland’s restitution plan

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Anger at Poland’s restitution plan

Lower house backs bill which says Jewish property claims can't be lodged more than 30 years after the end of Poland's community era in 1989

Survivors Ela Stein-Weissberger and Inge Auerbacher with Dachau concentration camp liberator Jimmy Gentry
Survivors Ela Stein-Weissberger and Inge Auerbacher with Dachau concentration camp liberator Jimmy Gentry

Poland’s lower house of parliament has passed a draft bill to limit Jews’ claims to property seized during the country’s Nazi occupation then retained during its post-war Soviet years. 

The draft legislation builds on a 2015 Constitutional Tribunal ruling. 

It says restitution claims cannot be lodged more than 30 years after the end of Poland’s communist era, which ended 32 years ago, in 1989.

The bill triggered an angry reaction in Israel, where foreign minister Yair Lapid said: “No law will change history. It is a disgrace that will not erase the horrors or the memory of the Holocaust.”

Twelve years ago, Poland signed the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, an international agreement giving justice to Nazi victims. 

However, it has since been singled out by the US for failing to compensate families and is now the only post-communist EU country not to have passed a property restitution law.

Gideon Taylor, of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, said the law, if enacted, would represent “insurmountable legal conditions” that would “harm Polish Holocaust survivors who have already suffered so much”.

The issue has become a political football in Poland, where the ruling nationalist party attacked its liberal rivals for favouring restitution in the recent election campaign.

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