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Poland Failing to Comply with Holocaust Restitution Agreement

Poland is the only European Union nation that has not established formal procedures to resolve claims made by people whose property was seized during the Holocaust. According to the study, “Restitution of Immovable Property,” Poland has only partly complied with an obligation known as the Terezin Declaration to return communal Jewish property such as synagogues and cemeteries.

One obstacle to reparations for Polish Jews is the insistence by officials over the years that Poland was the victim of the Nazis and their refusal to acknowledge the degree to which Poles collaborated with the Germans. They also use the excuse that many minorities were victims as an excuse not to compensate any of them. For example, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the governing party asked his supporters in 2016, “On what basis should Poland decide that those with Jewish ancestors get compensated, whereas Belarussians, Poles, Ukrainians or Crimean Karaites, or Tatars and Germans — all of whom used to live here before the war — shouldn’t be compensated?”

He added, “Is Poland able to turn back time and compensate all those who suffered in those tragic events? Does it mean that the descendants of poor Poles are supposed to pay the descendants of those who were rich? This is what it comes down to.”

“Polish law treats everyone equally,” the foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, said in Israel during a 2016 visit. “Any legal or natural person, or their heir, is entitled to recover prewar property unlawfully seized by the Nazi German or the Soviet authorities, or the postwar Communist regime.”

Leslaw Piszewski, chairman of the board of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, told the New York Times, “current policies made it far too difficult for claimants — effectively denying justice by delaying it.”

Sources: Nina Siegal, “Holocaust Survivors in Poland Find Restitution Claims ‘Like a Carousel,’” New York Times, (May 10, 2017);
Michael Bazyler, “Restitution of Immovable Property,” European Shoah Legacy Institute, (April 26, 2017).