Blinken: We regret Poland's adoption of restitution law

Secretary of State reiterates US concerns over law restricting claims on Jewish property looted from Polish Jewry during the Holocaust.

Ben Ariel ,

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
State Department Photo by Freddie Everett

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded on Monday to Poland’s approval of the law restricting claims on Jewish property looted from Polish Jewry during the Holocaust.

“The United States reiterates our concerns about amendments to the Code of Administrative Procedure, which President Duda signed on August 14, severely restricting restitution and compensation for property wrongfully confiscated during Poland’s communist era,” he said in a statement.

“We deeply regret the adoption of these amendments. Further, we urge the Polish government to consult with representatives of affected parties and to develop a clear, efficient, and effective legal procedure to resolve confiscated property claims and provide some measure of justice for victims. In the absence of such a procedure, this legislation will harm all Polish citizens whose property was unjustly taken, including that of Polish Jews who were victims of the Holocaust,” added Blinken.

“We welcome President Duda’s statement this weekend in support of freedom of expression, the sanctity of contracts, and the shared values that underpin our relationship. We strongly encourage him to act on these values in regard to pending legislation that, if passed in the current form, could severely affect media freedom and the foreign investment climate.”

“We look forward to working with the Government of Poland to advance our shared priorities on the basis of democratic values including respect for the fundamental freedom of expression,” concluded the Secretary of State.

The bill, approved last Wednesday by the Polish Parliament, prevents the restitution of Jewish property, or compensation for it, to Holocaust survivors and their descendants. The proposed legislation, which will apply in retrospect, will make it almost impossible to appeal decisions made on the subject of stolen property more than 30 years ago.

The law would affect about 90 percent of restitution claims.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid criticized the approval of the law and said, "Today, Poland approved, not for the first time, an anti-Semitic and unethical law. Tonight, I instructed the chargé d'affaires of the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw to return to Israel immediately for indefinite consultations."

"The new Ambassador to Poland, who was due to leave for Warsaw soon, will not be departing for Poland at this stage,” added Lapid.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will recommend today that the Polish Ambassador to Israel remain on holiday in his country. This time should be used to explain to the people of Poland the meaning of the Holocaust to the citizens of Israel, and the extent to which we will refuse to tolerate any contempt for the memory of Holocaust and its victims. It will not end here," he promised.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sharply criticized Lapid’s decision to downgrade diplomatic ties between the two countries in the wake of Poland’s passage of the law.

“The decision of Israel to downgrade its diplomatic representation in Warsaw lacks justification and any sense of responsibility,” Morawiecki stated. “The words spoken by Yair Lapid enrage every upstanding person."