Israel is condemning Poland’s approval of a law that restricts the rights of former Polish property owners, including Holocaust survivors and their descendants, to reclaim propertyformer communist regime
By VANESSA GERA and JOSEF FEDERMAN Associated Press
August 14, 2021, 8:46 PM
• 4 min read
On Saturday, WARSAW, Poland — Israel condemned Poland’s approval of a law restricting the rights of Holocaust survivors or their descendants to reclaim property seized by the country’s former communist regime. It announced it was recalling its top diplomat in protest.
The move ignited a diplomatic crisis between Israel’s new government and the nationalist conservative government in Poland. After years of close ties under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s new government, which includes top officials who are the children of Holocaust survivors, has taken a far more aggressive approach. Polish President Andrzej Duda, earlier in the day, signed the law, which addresses appropriations done by the communist government that ruled Poland from the War II until 1989.
The law itself says nothing about the Holocaust or property owners who had their homes or business seized in the communist era can no longer get compensation. It is expected to cut off for all time the hopes of some Jewish and non-Jewish families of reclaiming property seized during that era. The U.S. and Israeli governments had strongly urged Poland not to , and Israel had warned it would harm ties.II. Instead, it establishes that any administrative decision issued 30 years ago or more can longer be challenged, meaning that
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett“a shameful decision and disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust”. He said, “Poland has chosen to continue harming those who have lost everything.” Yair Lapid said he had instructed Israel’s charges d’affaires in Warsaw to return home immediately. The new Israeli ambassador to Poland, who was scheduled to leave for Warsaw, will remain in Israel. The Israel Foreign Ministry also recommended that the Polish ambassador, who is on vacation at home, not return to Israel.
“Poland today approved world’s biggest genocides,” Gantz said. Duda said Saturday that he had analyzed the matter carefully and decided to sign the law to end legal uncertainty and fraud linked to properties whose ownership remains doubtful decades after World War II.— an immoral, anti-Semitic law,” said Lapid, whose late father was a Holocaust survivor. Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he was ” deeply disturbed, noting that he was the son of Holocaust survivors” and “deeply disturbed.” “Property restitution is a small yet significant part of the process to fulfill the rights of those who have survived and to acknowledge those who have perished in one of the
Thedoes not distinguish between Jewish and non-Jewish claimants. Duda said he strongly objected to anyone suggesting that the law was explicitly directed against Jews who survived the Holocaust. “I it with all my strength,” Duda said. “Linking this with the Holocaust raises my firm objection.” War II, Poland was home to Europe’s largest Jewish community of nearly 3.5 million. Most were killed in the Holocaust, and the Nazis confiscated their properties.
Some of the small numbers of Polish Jews who survived faced violence and persecution at Polish hands after the war, driving many to emigrate to countries including the United States and Israel, which was founded as a sanctuary for Jews after the Holocaust and whichof aging Holocaust survivors. Poland’s post-war communist many of those properties and the property of many non-Jewish owners in Warsaw and other cities.
When communism fell in 1989, it opened up the possibility for claimants to regain family properties. Some cases have been resolved in courts, but Poland has never passed a comprehensive law regulating restituting or compensating seized properties. Complicating the matter, some criminal groups in past years have falsely claimed to represent rightful owners, obtaining valuable properties through fraud and later evicting tenants from the 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 its citizens against injustice,” Duda said.
The last major diplomatic crisis between Israel and Poland erupted in 2018 when Warsawthat many in Israel viewed as an attempt to suppress the discussion of Poles’ crimes against Jews during the German occupation of World War II. The legislation was widely supported across the political spectrum in Poland. The law was eventually watered down and has not been applied. Federman reported from Jerusalem.