Jewish Leaders Slam Polish PM for Saying Restitution Would Be Victory for Hitler

World Jewish Congress president accuses Warsaw of 'profiteering' from Jewish assets confiscated by Nazis and then Communist Poland

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Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki arrives at an extraordinary European Union leaders summit to discuss Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium April 10, 2019.
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki arrives at an extraordinary European Union leaders summit to discuss Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium April 10, 2019.Credit: REUTERS/Yves Herman

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder assailed Poland on Monday, accusing it of failing to “confront the tragedy of millions of its Jewish citizens” and of “profiteering” from Jewish assets for the past seven decades.

His unusually harsh language was prompted by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s statement on Friday that for Poland to compensate Jews for the property they lost during the Holocaust would constitute a posthumous victory for Hitler. Haaretz reported Morawiecki’s remarks on Sunday.

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In a press statement Monday evening, Lauder said Poland had failed “to appropriately confront the tragedy of millions of its Jewish citizens,” adding that “Successive Polish governments have steadfastly refused to recognize the material losses of Polish Jewry and have essentially treated their homes and other property as the spoils of war.”

“Individual Poles and Polish institutions have profiteered from these assets for more than seven decades,” he continued. “This unwillingness to acknowledge that the victims of the Holocaust and their heirs are entitled to a modicum of material justice is unfortunate enough, but Prime Minister Morawiecki’s contention – assuming that it was uttered as reported – that providing restitution to Jews for their stolen property would be ‘Hitler’s posthumous victory’ is alarming in the extreme.”

Gideon Taylor, the World Jewish Restitution Organization’s chief of operations and treasurer, also condemned Morawiecki’s remarks in a press statement.

“This statement, if reported correctly, is deeply insensitive to Holocaust survivors and their families,” he said. “It is also simply incorrect — the issue is not about the German Nazi confiscations during the occupation of Poland.  It is about property subsequently nationalized by the Polish Communist government that continues to benefit the Polish economy.”

“This issue impacts non-Jewish and Jewish property owners and is particularly important for Holocaust survivors whose property was first taken by the German Nazis and then by the Polish Communists,” Taylor added. “We call for Poland to meet its commitment to non-Jewish and Jewish property owners who have waited many years for Poland to provide them with a measure of justice.”

Several members of the U.S. Congress urged the Trump administration to get tough with Poland to force it to resolve the restitution issue. Some said they are considering legislation that would force Poland to resolve this issue as a condition for receiving U.S. military aid.