WARSAW, Poland (AP) – The Polish parliament on Wednesday passed a law that would prevent former Polish landowners, including Holocaust survivors and their descendants, from recovering property expropriated by the country’s communist regime.
Israel condemned the legislation, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid saying it “undermines both the memory of the Holocaust and the rights of its victims.”
Meanwhile, Gideon Taylor, president of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, or WJRO, an advocate for property restitution, said the group was “outraged” and called the bill “so unfair. for Jews than for non-Jews â.
The adopted amendment to Poland’s administrative law would prevent real estate ownership and other administrative decisions from being overturned after 30 years. It affects Jewish and non-Jewish owners who had their property seized during the Communist era.
In the case of the former Jewish owners, what is at stake in many cases are the homes or businesses of families that were wiped out in the Holocaust and whose properties were subsequently seized by Polish authorities in the communist era.
When communism fell in 1989, it opened up the possibility for the former owners to try to reclaim lost properties. Some cases have been brought to court, but Poland has never adopted a comprehensive law regulating the restitution or compensation of seized property.
Poland says the new legislation is a response to the fraud and irregularities that have emerged in the restitution process, leading to evictions or the granting of real estate to real estate dealers in a process called ” wild reprivatization “.
Michael Bazyler, an expert in international law and restitution at Chapman University School of Law in California, says this is not the right tool to tackle the problem, and that cutting claims from previous owners is like “perpetuating the injustice of the communists â.
âThe way you stop savage reprivatization and corruption is to go against corruption,â he told The Associated Press. “You don’t do it by taking claims from legitimate heirs.”
Taylor of the WJRO called on President Andrzej Duda to veto the bill and urged the Polish government to work with him to “settle the issue of the return of private property once and for all.”
He argued that more than 30 years after the fall of communism, Poland still benefited from illegally acquired property.
âProperty restitution goes beyond money – for many Holocaust survivors and their families, a home is the last physical connection to the lives they once led, to the countries where they were born and with the cities where they grew up, before their lives were shattered, âTaylor said.
In Israel, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy has decided not to re-establish the Israeli-Polish parliamentary friendship group.
“The anti-restitution law restricting the property claims of Holocaust victims is a robbery in the light of day which desecrates the memory of the Holocaust,” he said. âPoland’s decision to pass this immoral law is damaging the friendship and bilateral relations between Israel and Poland.
The United States had pressured Poland in the hope of stopping the legislation.
âWe are deeply concerned that the Polish parliament today passed a law severely restricting the process allowing Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as other Jewish and non-Jewish landowners, to to obtain the restitution of property wrongly confiscated during the communist era of Poland, âUS Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. He urged Duda not to sign the bill or send it to the Polish constitutional court.
Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem, Israel, and PA diplomatic writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.