Dozens in Poland protest US bill demanding restitution of Jewish property

Polish nationalists demonstrated at the US embassy in Warsaw against a bill passed in Congress supporting Holocaust victims and their families in recovering property owned before WWII.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The American embassy in Poland’s capital was the scene of a small rally Wednesday as dozens of the country’s nationalists gathered to protest the issue of compensating Jews for properties lost during the Holocaust.

US legislation was the target of their ire as the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill the previous day to support Holocaust victims and their families in recovering or being compensated for assets owned before World War II. This follows a unanimous vote for the JUST (Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today) Act in the Senate last December, and now goes to President Trump for his expected signature to turn it into law.

The bill requires the State Department to report what progress certain European countries, including Poland, are making on returning assets confiscated during the Holocaust or compensating former owners in general – and American citizens in particular.

Although there are no sanctions anywhere in the bill for countries that do not have a restitution process, the nationalists were angry. It is admittedly a difficult legal issue, as the Communists took over where the Nazis had left off, nationalizing property left and right, disregarding the original owners. And yet, according to the World Jewish Restitution Organization, Poland is the only major European country without legislation regarding such properties.

While some of the nationalists took a broad view, objecting to the “interference of another state in our internal affairs,” National Movement lawmaker Robert Winnicki used ugly terminology with anti-Semitic overtones.

‘The Jews will not get a penny from us’

He said that the goal was to protest “against extortion of money and Polish national assets rebuilt after World War II by Polish people,” as if Jews were not Poles, adding, “The Jews will not get a penny from us.”

Back in October 2017, the Polish legislature did formulate a restitution bill. However, Israel lodged an official complaint with Poland’s foreign ministry when the bill was first introduced in October, as it was considered from the start to be discriminatory against Jews. This is because, according to the criteria for returning stolen or Communist-era nationalized property state, the claimant must be a Polish citizen and a direct descendant or spouse of the original owner. Considering the fact that 90 percent of Poland’s Jewish community was wiped out in World War II and very few Jews live there today, this means that in practical terms, almost nobody would be eligible to receive compensation from the government.