U.K. MPs, Jewish Groups Urge Poland: Return Property Nazis Stole

British parliament decides to debate restitution while some victims still live.

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A group of 50 British parliamentarians and leading Jewish organizations have urged Poland to ensure compensation for Holocaust victims and their families, and others who lost property to the Nazis or the Communist regime. 

A letter sent Monday ahead of a debate on Holocaust restitution in the upper chamber of the British Parliament, the House of Lords, called for Poland to pass legislation ensuring restitution of property "while some of the elderly victims are still alive."

Poland has a responsibility to elderly Holocaust survivors, their heirs and other victims to return their property which was seized by the Nazis or subsequently nationalized by the Communist regimes, the letter, addressed to Prime Minister Donald Tusk, said.

Some 70 years have passed since the Holocaust, in which 90 percent of Poland's formerly 3.5 million-strong Jewish community perished. However, Poland is still the only European Union member state, and the only former Soviet country, with no law in place to ensure restitution for victims, the letter said.

The signatories told Tusk that his country "stands out in its failure to fulfill – or even recognize – its responsibility to victims."

Since the end of Communism two-and-a-half decades ago, Poland has repeatedly promised to pass such legislation, the letter said. Meanwhile, the U.K. over 40 countries have endorsed the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues in 2009, and the guidelines and best practices for restitution in 2010. 

Thursday's House of Lords debate will look at Britain's leadership role in seeking justice for British citizens and other victims who want restitution for property seized from them or their families in countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

The debate takes place  prepares to take the chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2014, a statement released by The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews, the World Jewish Restitution Organization, the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Association of Jewish Refugees said. 

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.Credit: AFP

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