Israel seeks US help in efforts against Polish restitution law

Israel asks Biden administration to support its effort against legislation in Poland that would restrict restitution claims by Holocaust survivors and their families.

Ben Ariel ,

Poland
Poland
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Israel has asked US President Joe Biden's administration to support its effort against legislation in Poland that would restrict restitution claims by Holocaust survivors and their families for property stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust, Haaretz reported on Thursday.

According to the report, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is leading talks with Washington on the matter. He has raised the issue in his conversations with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and asked for his help.

Other Foreign Ministry officials have also discussed the issue with their counterparts in both Warsaw and Washington, Haaretz said.

The bill, which recently passed the lower house of parliament in Poland, is intended to provide greater legal certainty for current owners of pre-war properties against historical claims dating back to the Nazi German occupation.

Critics say it could effectively block descendants of Jewish families from claiming properties left empty during the Holocaust and Israel has condemned the legislation as "immoral".

The Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned Poland’s ambassador to Israel after senior Polish leaders excoriated Israel’s foreign minister for criticizing the legislation.

Lapid had condemned the Polish Parliament’s decision in a sharp-worded attack.

“Poland’s draft law will in effect prevent the restitution of Jewish property or the provision of compensation to Holocaust survivors and their heirs,” he said, adding, “This is a horrific injustice and disgrace … an incomprehensible action … a disgrace that will not erase the horrors or the memory of the Holocaust.”

A letter sent on Tuesday to Poland's president, Andrzej Duda, by a bipartisan group of 12 US senators bolstered the Israeli position.

The lawmakers, led by Marco Rubio, Tammy Baldwin, James Lankford and Jacky Rosen, wrote that they "strongly believe that this legislation would significantly increase the existing hurdles that prevent victims and their families from claiming restitution and compensation for property wrongfully taken by Nazi Germany and by the communist-era government of Poland."

The senators warned that passing the legislation would be a "step backwards in Warsaw's efforts to right the injustices of Poland's oppressors" and that it would "tell the survivors of Poland's Jewish community ... that there is a time limit on their ability to seek redress for the crimes of the Nazis and the communists."

On Wednesday, a senior State Department spokesperson told Haaretz that the Biden administration is “closely following a bill … affecting restitution and compensation claims for property that was expropriated by the Communists. Our concerns about restitution and compensation are related to fairness and equity for all victims, regardless of citizenship, religion, or ethnic background."

"We urge the parliament to amend the draft legislation so that pending cases can continue," the spokesperson said, adding that the U.S. has conveyed this message "both publicly and privately at the highest levels to our counterparts in Warsaw." The spokesperson also said that "The United States will continue to champion justice for Holocaust survivors and their heirs.”



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