Leader of Polish ruling party lashes out at Lapid over Holocaust law

Israeli diplomat addresses Polish Senate as Holocaust restitution casts pall over ties.

By World Israel News Staff

The leader of Poland’s ruling party lashed out at Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who in June criticized Warsaw’s draft legislation making it harder for Holocaust survivors and their families to claim restitution.

Lapid had warned that Israeli-Polish ties would suffer “severely” if the bill passes.

The legislation sets a 30-year limit for restitution for Jewish property seized by the Nazis and then confiscated by the Communist regime after the war. Public administrators would be unable to invalidate Communist decisions to nationalize property, stopping most Jewish restitution claims in their tracks, even ones that have been fought for years.

“No law will change history,” said Lapid, in June. “The Polish law is immoral and will severely harm relations between the countries. Israel will stand as a bastion protecting the memory of the Holocaust and the dignity of Holocaust survivors and their property.”

“The Polish law, which effectively prevents restitution of Jewish property or compensation in exchange for it, is a terrible injustice and shamefully harms the rights of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, which came from Jewish communities that lived in Poland for hundreds of years,” Lapid added.

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In an interview with Gazeta Polska published this week, Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński said Lapid’s comments were unacceptable and insisted, “We make our laws ourselves, and… we owe nothing to anyone.”

Kaczyński then asserted it was Poland that deserves reparations, saying, “There are bills that have not been settled with us. For the crimes and destruction of World War Two, Germany owes us over a trillion dollars.”

Poland is the only member of the European Union that has not legislated the restitution of money and property seized by the Nazis or Communists.

Meanwhile, Israel’s charge d’affaires in Warsaw, Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon, addressed the Polish Senate to argue that the bill is not only unfair to Jews, but also to all Poles pursuing restitution. She said Poland had a moral duty to Jewish survivors and their families.

“We share a moral obligation to respect the rights of Holocaust survivors, former citizens of Poland, current citizens of Israel. It is our duty. Each and every one of us,” she said, speaking through a translator. “The issue of their property is an issue of dignity, of justice, and of memory,”

According to Humanity in Action, a Polish social justice organization, “of the 5,814 claims for communal property restitution that managed the narrow application window between March 1997 and September of 2002, only 22% have since received a ruling.”

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It added that the Polish restitution system only deals with Jewish “communal” property, such as synagogues and cemeteries and other Jewish holdings. “As of now no official claims system exists for individual assets including residences, business, and real estate expropriated from private owners between 1939 and 1962.”

Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, roughly half were Polish.