U.S. Senators Urge Polish President: Oppose Bill Preventing Holocaust Restitution Claims

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington
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Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at The European Council Building in Brussels in June.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at The European Council Building in Brussels in June.Credit: Olivier Matthys / AFP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington

WASHINGTON - Twelve bipartisan U.S. senators urged Polish President Andrzej Duda to oppose a bill that would restrict the possibility of restitution claims for property stolen from Jews by the Nazis, and to veto the bill if successfully passed.

The senators — led by Sens. Marco Rubio, Tammy Baldwin, James Lankford and Jacky Rosen — wrote that they "strongly believe that this legislation would significantly increase the existing hurdles that prevent victims and their families from claiming restitution and compensation for property wrongfully taken by Nazi Germany and by the communist-era government of Poland."

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Under the pending legislation, outstanding claims for the restitution of property seized during the Holocaust that have not reached a final decision in the last 30 years would be halted or dismissed. In addition, new appeals of administrative decisions made over 30 years ago would also be forbidden. The law is further expected to limit restitution claims on Jewish-owned land that was taken by the Nazis and nationalized after World War II by Poland’s Communist regime.

The senators warned that passing the legislation would be a "step backwards in Warsaw's efforts to right the injustices of Poland's oppressors" and that it would "tell the survivors of Poland's Jewish community...that there is a time limit on their ability to seek redress for the crimes of the Nazis and the communists."

Officials from the World Jewish Restitution Organization have previously warned that the bill, if passed, would make it virtually impossible for Holocaust survivors and families to challenge decisions over stolen property, and claimed that it would adversely affect 90 percent of such property claims.

The senators note that Poland shouldn't be held responsible for crimes committed by Nazis and the communist regime, but that this is "an opportunity to demonstrate Poland’s commitment to achieving justice for the victims of these heinous crimes." Other senators to sign the letter include Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Dianne Feinstein, Cory Booker, Catherine Cortez Masto, Bob Casey, Ron Wyden, Sherrod Brown and Chris Coons.

The Polish bill has triggered a diplomatic crisis with Israel in recent weeks. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called it an "incomprehensible action" and warned it would seriously harm Polish-Israeli relations. 

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in turn said Warsaw would not pay a single zloty, euro or dollar for German crimes. Israel has since reprimanded the Polish ambassador over the legislation, and Israel's ambassador to Poland has urged the Warsaw parliament to reconsider the legislation.

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