Pol­ish gov­ern­ment re­vis­its draft leg­is­la­tion for resti­tu­tion of prop­erty

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By TA­MARA ZIEVE

The Pol­ish Jus­tice Min­istry is re­view­ing draft leg­is­la­tion re­gard­ing resti­tu­tion of prop­erty con­fis­cated dur­ing and af­ter the Holo­caust, af­ter the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters re­turned it to the min­istry for re­con­sid­er­a­tion.

Pres­i­dent of the coun­cil Jacek Sadi tweeted on Sun­day: “Dear sirs, there is no de­ci­sion to dis­con­tinue the work on the resti­tu­tion law. The project re­quires elab­o­ra­tion and fur­ther anal­y­sis to be car­ried out by the Jus­tice Min­istry.”

In Oc­to­ber, the min­istry pub­lished the draft leg­is­la­tion, an­nounc­ing that it would be passed by the end of 2017. The lim­its of the leg­is­la­tion drew crit­i­cism from the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment and the World Jewish Resti­tu­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion, which said it would ex­clude the vast ma­jor­ity of Holo­caust sur­vivors and their fam­i­lies.

On Wed­nes­day, the WJRO ex­pressed con­cern over the de­lay of the law, as well as ex­press­ing hope that it will be im­proved.

“We are very con­cerned that this ad­min­is­tra­tive step will de­lay pas­sage of this leg­is­la­tion,” WJRO chair­man of op­er­a­tions Gideon Tay­lor said on Wed­nes­day. “El­derly Jewish and non-Jewish claimants who have waited over 70 years for jus­tice for their lost prop­erty can­not wait any longer. We urge the gov­ern­ment of Poland to quickly pass leg­is­la­tion that is just and fair for all who lost prop­erty, in­clud­ing Pol­ish sur­vivors of the Holo­caust and their fam­i­lies.”

Pol­ish Deputy Jus­tice Min­is­ter Pa­tryk Jaki an­nounced in Oc­to­ber that the leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als would grant cash com­pen­sa­tion to those stripped of their prop­erty by the pro-Soviet com­mu­nist regime that gov­erned Poland fol­low­ing World War II. In many cases, prop­erty was ini­tially looted by the Nazis and sub­se­quently seized by the Com­mu­nists.

The draft leg­is­la­tion re­quires that claimants cur­rently be cit­i­zens of Poland, as well as hav­ing been res­i­dents in Poland at the time that their prop­erty was na­tion­al­ized by the Com­mu­nist regime.

A po­si­tion pa­per sub­mit­ted by the WJRO to the Jus­tice Min­istry ex­plains that these pro­vi­sions would ex­clude the vast ma­jor­ity of Holo­caust sur­vivors and their fam­i­lies.

Since the Com­mu­nist au­thor­i­ties na­tion­al­ized prop­erty be­tween 1944 and 1962, the re­quire­ment of res­i­dency at that time bars sur­vivors who left Poland dur­ing the Holo­caust or at any point be­fore the prop­erty was na­tion­al­ized, the WJRO wrote. Fur­ther­more, be­cause most Holo­caust sur­vivors and their fam­i­lies do not cur­rently hold Pol­ish cit­i­zen­ship, even those sur­vivors who were still res­i­dents and cit­i­zens at the time their prop­erty was na­tion­al­ized are still likely to be ex­cluded based on the re­quire­ment of hav­ing cur­rent cit­i­zen­ship.

In ad­di­tion, only spouses and di­rect de­scen­dants can stake a claim to as­sets. Since many Jewish fam­i­lies were killed dur­ing the Holo­caust, in var­i­ous cases there are no liv­ing first-line heirs that could step for­ward and make a claim to prop­er­ties, and sib­lings or nieces and neph­ews were of­ten the only re­main­ing heirs.

Of the few who would be con­sid­ered as el­i­gi­ble to claim prop­er­ties, they still will not be given their prop­er­ties back en­tirely. In­stead, a suc­cess­ful claim would re­sult in them re­ceiv­ing 20% of the value of the prop­erty in cash or 25% in gov­ern­ment bonds.

Claimants have a one-year dead­line af­ter which prop­erty would be trans­ferred to the Pol­ish Trea­sury.

Poland is the only ma­jor coun­try in Europe that has not passed na­tional leg­is­la­tion for the resti­tu­tion of prop­erty seized by the Nazis nor for prop­erty na­tion­al­ized by a Com­mu­nist regime, said the WJRO.

In 1997, Poland passed a law for resti­tu­tion on com­mu­nal-owned prop­er­ties, but long af­ter the claims dead­line, a ma­jor­ity of the more than 5,000 claims had still not been re­solved and most of the re­solved claims have not led to resti­tu­tion or com­pen­sa­tion, the WJRO has said.

More than three mil­lion Pol­ish Jews, around 90% of the pre-war pop­u­la­tion, were mur­dered in the Holo­caust.

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