Meeting the Principles of the Terezin Declaration
More than 40 countries endorsed the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues during the Prague Conference in July 2009, as well as the follow-up “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.” Poland chose to withdraw its support for the Guidelines and Best Practices.
These documents provide specific and detailed guidelines to states on restituting or providing fair compensation for such properties. Thus, for example, the Declaration “[a]cknowledg[ed] the immeasurable damage sustained by individuals … as a result of wrongful property seizures during the Holocaust (Shoah)” and urged governments “to address the private property claims of Holocaust (Shoah) victims concerning immovable (real) property of former owners, heirs, successors, by either in rem restitution or compensation … in a fair, comprehensive and nondiscriminatory manner[.] The process of such restitution or compensation should be expeditious, simple, accessible, transparent, and neither burdensome nor costly to the individual claimant[.]”
In light of the principles affirmed in the Terezin Declaration, it is critical that Poland, a member of the community of democratic nations, develops and enacts legislation that takes account of the following:
- All Jewish-owned and non-Jewish-owned property confiscated by the Nazis and their collaborators, beginning in September 1939, and/or subsequently nationalized by the Communist regime should be covered.
- Warsaw property must be included.
- In rem restitution should be provided, certainly where the government, at any level, possesses the confiscated property.
- The compensation amount should be fair, specified and paid immediately.
- A simplified, non-bureaucratic and transparent claims process, providing all claimants easy access to the system, without legal obstacles, at no or low cost should be established.