Polish lower house passes bill that will limit Jews’ property restitution claims

Poland’s lower house of parliament on Thursday passed a controversial draft bill that could limit Jews’ claims to property seized during the Nazi occupation and then kept by postwar communist rulers, Reuters reports.

In March, a parliamentary committee proposed a bill that would implement a 2015 Constitutional Tribunal ruling that a time limit be set on challenges to administrative decisions. The draft bill proposes a deadline of 30 years. Poland’s postcommunist era started 32 years ago, in 1989.

“No law will change history. It is a disgrace that will not erase the horrors or the memory of the Holocaust,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement.

In 2009, Poland signed the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, a legally nonbinding agreement to address economic injustice faced by victims of Nazi persecution. The U.S. government, which is required by law to monitor the progress made by signatories of the declaration, has strongly criticized Poland’s failure to issue compensation in the past. Poland is the only post-communist EU country not to have passed a property restitution law.

“The current proposal, if adopted, would further harm Polish Holocaust survivors who have already suffered so much. New, insurmountable legal conditions should not be imposed in 2021 that would make it impossible to recover property or receive just compensation,” said Gideon Taylor, chair of operations for the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) in a statement issued by the group prior to the vote.

The issue also featured in the 2020 Polish presidential campaign. Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party and arguably the country’s most powerful politician, accused liberal rival Rafał Trzaskowski of favoring the payment of restitution to Jews for property lost during World War II.

“Only someone without a Polish soul, a Polish heart and a Polish mind could say something like that,” Kaczyński, who went on to become deputy prime minister, said. “Mr Trzaskowski clearly doesn’t have them, seeing as he says that this is open to discussion.”

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