26 May 2011
The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WRJO) has appealed to US President Barack Obama to raise the issue of the return of confiscated Jewish property during his visit to Poland this week. In a statement, the WJRO director-general and former Israeli ambassador to Poland, David Peleg (pictured on the right), asked Obama to take up the issue of basic justice for those seeking closure to the issue. “A country that has not properly addressed its past is not truly free to move into the future,” said Peleg. “We ask President Obama to raise this issue of profound and basic justice with the Polish government. Stolen property must be returned. We call on Prime Minister Tusk to resume the legislative process for restitution, as he has promised.”
Poland is the only major country in the former Soviet bloc yet to solve the problem of returning private property confiscated by the Nazis or nationalized by the Communist regime. About 3,500,000 Jews lived in Poland prior to World War II; only about 10,000 currently reside there now.
Grzegorz Schetyna, speaker of the Sejm, Poland’s parliament, admitted that the matter had never been fully resolved. “This problem is facing us and it must be finalized”, he told the news agency PAP. “But this depends on the financial capabilities of the Polish state. I don’t think Barack Obama will raise this issue”, Schetyna said.
Earlier this this year, the Polish government announced that, due to financial reasons, it was suspending a pending restitution bill for former property owners whose assets were confiscated during the Nazi occupation or the Communist period. In response, Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress and chairman of the WJRO, had expressed regret at the Polish government's decision and said: “For us it is a matter of justice and not money.”
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