Ronald Lauder
Ronald LauderFlash 90

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder on Friday sharply condemned a draft law passed on Thursday by Poland’s lower house of Parliament, the Sejm, that would severely limit any ability by Polish Jewish victims of the Holocaust to recover property stolen from their families by Nazi Germany during World War II and kept by successive Polish Communist and post-Communist governments.

“This law is a slap in the face to what remains of Polish Jewry and survivors of Nazi brutality everywhere. It also sets a terrible precedent throughout Europe as survivors and descendants continue to seek justice,” he said in a statement.

“I have been an unwavering advocate of Poland in Washington and elsewhere ever since that country rejected the Communist system in favor of democracy. I was inspired by Poland's fight for freedom and its national rebirth even when I disagreed with some of Warsaw's policies. But this flagrant and entirely gratuitous act by the Polish Parliament leaves me questioning my own commitment and the future of U.S.-Polish relations. It pains me to say this, but I think that the time has come for the international Jewish community to reevaluate our relationship with a government that is behaving with unimaginable callousness and is emulating the worst traditions in Polish history rather than the best and most uplifting ones,” added Lauder.

“Since moral persuasion clearly has not been effective, perhaps the time has come to treat Poland with the same consideration it accords to Polish Jews and their descendants seeking justice,” he concluded.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid criticized the Polish law on Thursday.

"Preserving the memory of the Holocaust and being concerned for the rights of Holocaust survivors, including the matter of restitution of Jewish property from the Holocaust era, are central components of the State of Israel's experience and its defined identity," Lapid said.

"They are also important elements of the endeavors of Israel's Foreign Ministry. This is a duty grounded in values, morals and history, which we all fulfill with pride.”

"The Terezin Declaration, issued in 2009, calls for all relevant states to act for the restitution of Jewish property that was stolen during the Holocaust era. Israel expects that these states will act according to this principle. The fact that Poland is forsaking the Declaration is extremely worrisome and grave,” said Lapid.

"Poland's draft law will in effect prevent the restitution of Jewish property, or the provision of compensation, to Holocaust survivors and their heirs. It is a horrific injustice and disgrace that harms the rights of Holocaust survivors, their heirs, and members of the Jewish communities that existed in Poland for hundreds of years. This is an incomprehensible action.”

"This immoral law will seriously harm relations between the countries. We view with gravity the attempt to prevent the restitution of the property that was stolen by the Nazis (and their helpers) in European states during the Holocaust to their legal owners.”

"No law will change history. It is a disgrace that will not erase the horrors or the memory of the Holocaust.”

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)