Poland hopes Israel will change view on WWII claims
Published: Jun 29, 2021 06:23 PM
A man wears a face 
mask in Warsaw, 
Poland on October 
23, 2020. Photo: AFP

A man wears a face mask in Warsaw, Poland on October 23, 2020. Photo: AFP

Poland's deputy foreign minister said Monday he hoped that Israel would change its view on a bill that could cut off World War II restitution claims in an increasingly bitter row.

The bill is intended to provide greater legal certainty for current owners of prewar properties against historical claims dating back to the Nazi German occupation. 

But critics say it could effectively block descendants of Jewish families from claiming properties left empty during the Holocaust and Israel has condemned the legislation as "immoral."

Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski spoke after Israel's chargee d'affaires in Warsaw, Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon, was summoned to the Polish foreign ministry to be briefed on the new law.

Jewish claims on property were frozen during the Communist era and, unlike other countries in the region, Poland has never had a comprehensive law on restitution claims since 1989.

The new law, which still has to be passed by the Senate and signed by the president before entering into force, sets a cut-off date for some legal challenges of up to 30 years.

This means that if a person bought a prewar property in 1989 and has a specific official confirmation from that time proving their right to own it, any previous historical owners would now be excluded from contesting that right.

Jablonski said critics in Israel "refer to the issue of the Holocaust, which this law does not address in any way. This demonstrates, I have the impression, a lack of knowledge of the facts."

The Israeli embassy in Warsaw had earlier said "this immoral law will seriously impact relations between our countries."

It "will in effect prevent the restitution of Jewish property or compensation requests from Holocaust survivors and their descendants as well as the Jewish community that called Poland home for centuries. It's mind-boggling," it said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday also responded to comments made by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki last week in which he said that Poland would not "pay" for German crimes - "not one zloty, not one euro, not one dollar."

"Poland's prime minister should check the facts again. On Polish soil millions of Jews were murdered and now law will erase their memory," Lapid wrote.

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