WJRO Calls on Incoming Polish PM to Return Stolen Private Property
Rightful Owners Should Get Property Plundered by Nazis, Nationalized by Communists
Incoming PM Should ‘Make History,’ Says WJRO
NEW YORK, Sept. 14 – The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) congratulates Dr. Ewa Kopacz on her upcoming nomination for Polish prime minister and urges her to provide justice for Holocaust survivors whose property was plundered by the Nazis.
Dr. Kopacz, speaker of the lower house of the Polish parliament, would replace Donald Tusk, who recently resigned to become the next president of the European Council, a key EU body.
Poland remains the only EU member-state, and the only major country in Central and Eastern Europe, not to have passed a law to return or pay compensation for private property confiscated by the Nazis during World War II and/or later nationalized by the Communists.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski is expected tomorrow to nominate Dr. Kopacz, who is a member of Tusk’s ruling Civic Platform party.
Komorowski has called Poland’s failure to pass a restitution law a “disgrace.”
Gideon Taylor, WJRO chair of operations, said, “We call on Dr. Kopacz to make history and finally end the wrong caused by Poland’s continued use of property plundered by the Nazis and/or nationalized by the Communist regime.”
“As an economically strong, democratic Poland assumes a central role in Europe,” Taylor added, “its government can no longer ignore the human rights of Jewish and non-Jewish rightful owners of looted property.”
Jehuda Evron, president of the Holocaust Restitution Committee, a New York-based group of Polish survivors, said, “We have been trying for decades to get back the apartment house and factory in Poland that were taken from my wife’s family before her father and sister were murdered by the Nazis. Survivors like us do not have any more time to wait for Poland to do the right thing.”
About 90 percent of the 3.3 million Jews who lived in Poland prior to World War II were killed during the Holocaust.
Both Jewish and non-Jewish rightful owners – as well as their heirs – continue to be deprived of their property in Poland. Much of this stolen property remains in the hands of the Polish government, which continues to benefit from owning it.
WJRO has worked for years to promote meaningful legislation to address this problem.
Between 1990 and 2012, the Polish government made commitments and proposed numerous draft laws – none of them enacted – to address the restitution of confiscated private property. Tusk promised in 2008 to move ahead on legislation, but never submitted a bill to Parliament.
In the spring of 2012, Tusk’s government reversed course and claimed that legislation was superfluous. His government directed claimants to pursue their cases in the Polish legal system.
However, such lawsuits place claimants, who often reside outside Poland and are elderly, through a complex process that is impractical, expensive, time-consuming and rarely successful.
“Without the crucial legislation, rightful owners and their heirs continue to wait for the return of their property,” Taylor said.