Singer asks Poland to return seized properties - World Jewish Congress

Singer asks Poland to return seized properties

Israel Singer addressing a Warsaw news conference. (photo: Katarina Stoltz, Reuters)

Leaders of the Jewish Claims Conference (JCC) and the World Jewish Restitution Organization have joined with Polish organizations to appeal jointly for the return of private property seized during World War II and under Communist rule. They met with Poland's prime minister Jar slaw Kaczynski and parliament speaker Mare Jerk in Warsaw on Wednesday to lobby for legislation similar to a 1997 law that provided for restitution of Jewish communal property, such as synagogues or cemeteries.

"We had constructive meeting with the prime minister," Israel Singer, JCC president and chairman of the World Jewish Congress Policy Council, told a press conference held together with non-Jewish Polish groups after the meetings. He added: "You don't ask the person's religion, you don't ask the person's race, you don't ask the person's creed, you just give it back. That's what we're here to ask the government to do." Miroslaw Szypowski, the Polish Union of Real Estate Owners, estimated the value of seized property claimed by owners, or their heirs, was up to US$ 23 billion. About 17 per cent of that belonged to Jewish owners or their heirs, Szypowski said.

Poland's ruling conservatives have promised to resolve the issue and pass relevant legislation in coming months. But the government proposal envisages compensation for only 15 per cent of the property lost. Neither Kaczynski nor Jurek commented publicly after the meetings. Singer pointed out that the government was free to make offers based on what it thought it could afford but his group hoped the eventual compensation offered "won't be too much less than 100 per cent".

"We think we've started a process that over time will lead to some survivors getting actual property back and others getting [compensation]," Singer said at the press conference.

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