March 20, 2011
World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder laments Poland’s failure to meet its responsibility for dispossessed property owners
Ynetnews and AP Poland’s government is coming under fire from Jewish and non-Jewish former property owners for suspending plans to offer them a measure of compensation for property seized from them during the Nazi and communist eras.
The government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk last week suspended work on a law that would have established compensation to former property owners for about 15 or 20% of the value of what they lost, saying a rising state deficit left it unable to afford such payments.
Miroslaw Szypowski, the head of an alliance of Polish groups seeking restitution, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his group was “dismayed” by the “unacceptable” decision.
Several Jewish groups have also strongly criticized the move in recent days. The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WRJO), representing Holocaust survivors and their heirs worldwide, expressed shock and dismay at the Polish announcement.
Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and chairman of the WJRO, said that “regrettably, the Polish government has said that for financial reasons they cannot move forward on legislation to compensate for confiscated property. For us, this is an issue of justice and not money.”
In a statement, Lauder declared: “We are greatly disturbed by this turn of events as Polish officials have been publicly stating for many years – indeed too many years – that the property restitution and compensation issue would be addressed and legislation introduced in Parliament.
“By its announcement, Poland is telling many elderly pre-war landowners, including Holocaust survivors, that they have no foreseeable hope of even a small measure of justice for the assets that were seized from them.”
He added, “This issue has been under discussion in Poland for almost two decades, through many economic periods, including the present one when Poland is experiencing some of the strongest economic growth in the European Union. It is unacceptable that Poland cannot find some way to meet its responsibility to former landowners.
“Most central and eastern European countries have adopted some type of law to provide for the restitution of or compensation for confiscated property. Poland stands out for its failure to do so,” stated Lauder.