Poland's Senate Passes Law Preventing Restitution for Property Seized During Holocaust and Communist Era #poland #holocaust #records
Jan Meisels Allen
The upper chamber of Poland’s Parliament, the Senate, passed legislation that would prevent families from receiving restitution for property seized during the Holocaust and communist era.
The law passed last Friday has two amendments from its original draft bill:
If adopted, the law would prevent property ownership and other administrative decisions from being declared void after 30 years, which would mean that pending proceedings involving communist-era property confiscations would be discontinued and dismissed. It affects Polish, Jewish and other property that are subject to contested previous determinations.
Polish authorities insist restitution claims will still be possible through the courts, regardless of the claimants’ nationality or place of residence. Additionally, Poland says it is responding to “fraud and irregularities that have emerged in the restitution process leading to evictions or giving real estate to property dealers.”
Israel, the United States and Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) condemn the controversial law.
The United States said that Poland is the only country in Europe to “have regressed over the past year in meeting commitments to return seized property or provide compensation for Holocaust victims and their families. The public admonishment is likely to anger Polish authorities, who have rejected previous criticism on the matter.”
The new U.S. criticism comes just before the one-year anniversary of the release of a congressionally mandated report (Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today, (JUST), Act tracking European progress in adjudicating Holocaust claims. That report called out several nations but was particularly critical of Poland. A state department report has identified the following countries where significant compensation have not been addressed: Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
Israel, WJRO and the World Jewish Congress have called on Poland to enact a comprehensive law or establish a procedure that deals with compensation.
The bill now has to return to the Sejm, the lower house, for a final vote approving the amendments added by the Senate before being signed by President Andrzej Duda.
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee