U.S. Lawmakers Blast Poland for Passing Controversial Restitution Law

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington
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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Capitol Hill, 2020
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Capitol Hill, 2020Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington

WASHINGTON - U.S. lawmakers sharply denounced Poland's controversial law that will restrict the possibility of restitution claims for property stolen from Jews by Nazis during World War II, and then nationalized by the postwar communist regime.

Polish President Andrezj Duda signed the controversial legislation into law on Saturday, after weeks of public pressure from the Biden administration and bipartisan lawmakers in both houses of Congress.

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“I have long opposed this deeply harmful law that bars new claims of restitution for Polish Holocaust survivors," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. "It is my hope the international community will be united in opposition to this shameful law, and denounce President Duda for signing this bill,” added the Maryland Democrat, who recently co-lead a letter to the speaker of Poland's lower house of parliament urging her to stop the legislation's advancement.

Sen. Jacky Rosen, who lead the writing of a separate letter to Duda several weeks ago which also raised concerns about the bill, said she was "deeply dismayed that President Duda signed this harmful legislation, which would make it effectively impossible for Polish Holocaust survivors and their families to seek restitution for the property taken from them by the Nazis during World War II." 

Rosen, who is the third female Jewish senator in U.S. history, as well as the first former synagogue president to serve in the Senate, spoke with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid several weeks ago concerning the legislation, among other topics.

"Poland should instead enact a comprehensive Holocaust restitution law, one which provides fair treatment of those whose families endured one of the darkest chapters in history," added the Democratic senator from Nevada, who is also co-chair of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combatting Antisemitism.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said "it is a cruel insult to Holocaust survivors and their families to legally abet property seizures by Nazis and communists. This nationalist-driven legal hurdle will hobble Jewish Holocaust survivors and their heirs from regaining property that is rightfully theirs."

"The United States should consider diplomatic accountability measures in response to this action that sanctions the Polish government’s seizing of private property," added the Florida Democrat, who in April introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at restoring the rights of Holocaust-era insurance policy beneficiaries in recovering billions in unclaimed payments that were left behind amid the chaos and destruction of World War II.

The lawmakers' criticism comes shortly after Israel said it is consulting with the United States on possible responses to Poland's move. Lapid recalled Israel's chargé d'affaires in Poland while recommending that the Polish ambassador to Israel extend his vacation before returning to Israel.

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