NEW YORK, NY, July 30, 2015 – On Thursday, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, and California State Treasurer John Chiang released a joint letter to Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz calling on her government to adopt measures to restore real property and provide restitution to victims of the Holocaust. Seven decades after the end of World War II, Poland remains the only European Union member-state, and the only major former Soviet-bloc country, with no legislation establishing a pathway to compensation or restitution.
Three million Polish Jews were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust and another three million Polish citizens died as victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. During the postwar period of Communist rule, government seizure of private property further exploited Polish citizens of all backgrounds.
Through the years, Polish leaders have repeatedly pledged to pass legislation for real property restitution or compensation. In 2009, Poland participated with more than 40 nations in the Holocaust Era Assets Conference that resulted in the Terezin Declaration. Yet these promises have not yielded any results.
“Seventy years after World War II, we must use every tool available to make sure that victims of the Holocaust and their heirs receive restitution in their lifetimes,” New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said. “The New York City Comptroller’s Office has a proud history of action and engagement with governments and organizations to provide restitution to owners, heirs or their successors for property that was confiscated during the Holocaust. We value the close relationship between Poland and the United States and welcome the opportunity to begin a dialogue about the effort to pass a law to restore or compensate victims for property seized by the Nazis, or nationalized by Communist governments.”
“The tragedy of the Holocaust is still borne today by its Survivors and the heirs of its victims,” New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said. “Compensation for their suffering and their losses is the right and just action to take. It is time for Poland to step forward. We hope and expect that the close bonds between our two nations will help Poland finally adopt a formal restitution policy.”
“Most of the 3 million Polish Jewish victims and the many other Polish victims of the Holocaust have passed away without recompense for property the Nazis took from them,” said California Treasurer John Chiang. “Poland remains the only country in Eastern Europe without laws calling for the restitution of individually owned property taken by the Nazis. The families and the last still-living victims of the Nazis’ deserve compensation. To all those who suffered, we owe our fullest effort to work with Poland to make restitution for what they lost.”
In their letter, Comptrollers Stringer and DiNapoli and Treasurer Chiang pointed to the Guidelines and Best Practices for the Restitution and Compensation of Immovable (Real) Property Confiscated or Otherwise Wrongfully Seized by the Nazis, Fascists and Their Collaborators During the Holocaust (Shoah) Era between 1933 – 1945, Including the Period of World War II. The guidelines, endorsed by 43 countries, serve as an international standard for how governments should handle previously confiscated property.
The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), which worked with the financial leaders on the letter, issued a statement hailing the officials’ efforts.
“We appreciate the continuing leadership of New York and California financial officers in pursuit of justice. Even at this late date, Holocaust victims and their families and heirs have a right to restitution or compensation for their property in Poland,” stated Abraham Biderman, co-chair of the WJRO Executive Committee, and Gideon Taylor, WJRO chair of operations.
The WJRO seeks the restitution of private property and Jewish communal property seized during the Holocaust in all countries, other than Germany and Austria.
To read the full letter, please click here.
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