‘Disgraceful contempt’: Israel recalls envoy after Polish president signs Holocaust restitution law

“This is a shameful decision and disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.

By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff

Poland’s president signed legislation Saturday that restricts the rights of former Polish property owners, including Holocaust survivors and their descendants, to regain property seized by the country’s communist regime.

“Israel views with utmost gravity approval of the law that prevents Jews from receiving compensation for property that was stolen from them during the Holocaust,and regrets the fact that Poland has chosen to continue harming those who have lost everything,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated Saturday evening.

“This is a shameful decision and disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust,” he said. “This is a grave step that Israel cannot remain indifferent to.”

“Poland approved today, not for the first time, an anti-Semitic and immoral law, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stated Saturday night. “Tonight I ordered the supervisor of the embassy in Warsaw to return immediately to Israel for consultations indefinitely.

“The new ambassador to Poland, who was supposed to leave soon to Warsaw, will not leave for Poland at this point,” Lapid said.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will today recommend the Polish ambassador to Israel to continue his vacation in his country. He should use the time at his disposal to explain to the Poles what the Holocaust means to the citizens of Israel and how much we will not tolerate disrespect for the memories of the victims.”

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Israel is holding talks with the Americans about how to respond further, he added.

“Poland became an anti-democratic, non-liberal, country that does not respect the greatest tragedy in human history. You should never be silent. Israel and the Jewish people will surely not be silent,” Lapid declared.

The law, which was passed by parliament on Wednesday, is an amendment to Poland’s administrative law, which will prevent property ownership and other administrative decisions from being declared void after 30 years.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had called on President Andrzej Duda this week to veto the law, arguing that it would severely restrict the “process for Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as other Jewish and non-Jewish property owners, to obtain restitution for property wrongfully confiscated during Poland’s communist era.”

Duda said in a statement that he analyzed the matter carefully and decided to sign the law to end legal uncertainty and fraud linked to properties whose ownership remains in doubt decades after World War II.

He said he strongly objected to anyone suggesting that the law was directed specifically against Jews who survived the Holocaust, which was carried out by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland and elsewhere.

“I unequivocally reject this rhetoric and say it with all my strength,” Duda said. “Linking this act with the Holocaust raises my firm objection.”

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Before World War II, Poland was home to Europe’s largest Jewish community of nearly 3.5 million people. Most were killed in the Holocaust under Germany’s occupation and their properties confiscated. Poland’s post-war communist authorities seized those properties, along with the property of many non-Jewish owners in Warsaw and other cities.

When communism fell in 1989, it opened up the possibility for former owners to try to regain their lost properties. Some cases have made their way through the courts, but Poland has never passed a comprehensive law that would regulate restituting or compensating seized properties.

“I am convinced that with my signature the era of legal chaos ends — the era of re-privatization mafias, the uncertainty of millions of Poles and the lack of respect for the basic rights of citizens of our country. I believe in a state that protects its citizens against injustice,” Duda said.

The legislation was widely supported across the political spectrum in Poland.