April 11, 2014 – The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) and the Board of Deputies of British Jews welcome the British Foreign Secretary’s statement on the need for Poland to resolve outstanding World War II-era restitution claims.
“We remain hopeful that the Polish government will revive legislation and will continue to encourage them to do so,” Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote in a letter, adding, “More broadly, the U.K. will continue to press for due recognition for victims in countries such as Poland where more can be done.” The full text of his letter can be found here.
Hague’s comments come after a group of 50 British parliamentarians pressed Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in February to follow through on a pledge to enact a restitution law for Holocaust victims. Hague outlined his stance in a letter to Baroness Ruth Deech, a member of the House of Lords who had approached the minister on behalf of the British lawmakers.
Deech, in praising Hague, said, “We are looking for him to encourage action during the U.K. chairmanship of the International Holocaust Alliance,” an international body that addresses Holocaust-era issues.
Many countries in Central and Eastern Europe have failed to return – or pay adequate compensation for – property that was stolen from Jews during the Nazi occupation or confiscated by the Communist governments. This includes private, communal and cultural property, including homes, art, businesses, synagogues, cemeteries, schools and libraries.
After years of unfulfilled promises, Poland in particular remains the only major country in Europe that has no law providing for restitution for private property stolen during the Holocaust. Before the war, Poland was home to more than 3 million Jewish citizens; 90 percent of them died.
“We welcome this deep and heartfelt commitment of the Foreign Secretary and the British government to this critical struggle for fairness and for the recognition of history,” said Gideon Taylor, WJRO chair of operations.
Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said, “The Board of Deputies looks forward to working closely with the Foreign Secretary in these efforts to bring justice while survivors are still alive.”
Hague also stated in his letter to Deech, “I attach great importance to supporting the many families affected by the Holocaust. As you rightly highlight, with the passing of time the urgency of delivering appropriate and satisfactory resolution to them intensifies.”