The Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. (Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)
Auschwitz

Israeli officials condemned the legislation, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid saying it “damages both the memory of the Holocaust and the rights of its victims.”

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Poland’s parliament passed a law on Wednesday preventing former Polish property owners, including Holocaust survivors and their descendants, from regaining property expropriated by the country’s Communist regime.

The adopted amendment to Poland’s administrative law would make it impossible for those who had owned property to appeal unfavorable judicial decisions. It affects Jewish and non-Jewish owners whose properties were seized during the Holocaust or the Communist era.

In the case of the former Jewish owners, at stake in many cases are the homes or businesses of families who were wiped out in the Holocaust. Following World War II, those properties were nationalized by the Communist government.

Israel and other Jewish groups urged Polish authorities to reject the legislation, but the pleas fell on deaf ears. In 2020, Polish President Andrzej Duda was elected after promising that no legislation in favor of restitution would be passed. Supporters of the legislation claim the reparations process became rife with fraud and irregularities.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the legislation and called on Duda to veto it. Duda, who has 21 days to decide, is widely expected to sign it.

Gideon Taylor, chair of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, said the group was “outraged” and and called the bill “equally unfair for both Jews and non-Jews.”

Israeli officials condemned the legislation, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid saying it “damages both the memory of the Holocaust and the rights of its victims.”

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy called the legislation “outrageous thievery” and said he was canceling plans to form an inter-parliamentary friendship group.

Poland is the only member of the European Union that has not regulated through law the restitution of money and property seized by the Nazis or Communists.

According to Humanity in Action, a Polish social justice organization, “of the 5,814 claims for communal property restitution that managed the narrow application window between March 1997 and September of 2002, only 22% have since received a ruling.”

It added that the Polish restitution system only deals with Jewish “communal” property, such as synagogues, cemeteries and other Jewish holdings. “As of now no official claims system exists for individual assets including residences, business, and real estate expropriated from private owners between 1939 and 1962.” Poland has no laws on heirless property.

Of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, roughly half were Polish.

The Holocaust’s legacy, especially Polish complicity, has cast a shadow over Israeli-Polish ties for several years.

In 2018, Poland passed a contentious law penalizing people who claim Poland or the Poles were responsible for the Holocaust.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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