New York, June 25 -- Today, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder sharply condemned a draft law passed Thursday by Poland’s lower house of Parliament, the Sejm, that would severely limit any ability by Polish Jewish victims of the Holocaust to recover property stolen from their families by Nazi Germany during World War II and kept by successive Polish Communist and post-Communist governments.
Unlike most post-Communist countries that sought to right historic wrongs and enact legislation to address the issue of stolen Holocaust-era Jewish property, Poland has prevaricated for more than three decades. Most claimants and many heirs died without ever being given any opportunity to recover their stolen assets. The proposed new law codifies that policy of deliberate obstruction and will make it impossible for Jewish claimants or their descendants to recover or be compensated for any property that was plundered from them.
Reacting to this latest development, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder declared:
“This law is a slap in the face to what remains of Polish Jewry and survivors of Nazi brutality everywhere. It also sets a terrible precedent throughout Europe as survivors and descendants continue to seek justice.
“I have been an unwavering advocate of Poland in Washington and elsewhere ever since that country rejected the Communist system in favor of democracy. I was inspired by Poland's fight for freedom and its national rebirth even when I disagreed with some of Warsaw's policies. But this flagrant and entirely gratuitous act by the Polish Parliament leaves me questioning my own commitment and the future of U.S.-Polish relations. It pains me to say this, but I think that the time has come for the international Jewish community to reevaluate our relationship with a government that is behaving with unimaginable callousness and is emulating the worst traditions in Polish history rather than the best and most uplifting ones.
“Since moral persuasion clearly has not been effective, perhaps the time has come to treat Poland with the same consideration it accords to Polish Jews and their descendants seeking justice.”
Prior to 1939, Poland was home to more than 3 million Jews, one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, most of them murdered in the ghettos, death camps, and concentration camps of German-occupied Poland. Jewish property owners and their descendants have been fighting unsuccessfully for restitution or compensation from Poland since the fall of Communism in 1989.
Amb. Lauder has a long history of constructive engagement in that country and has done much to ensure the rehabilitation of the Jewish community, including building schools, synagogues and community centers and restoring the memorial museum at the German death and concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.
About the World Jewish Congress
West End Strategy Team