Amid a spat between Israel and Poland over a law being advanced by Warsaw to prevent restitution to heirs of property seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust, 82 of Israel’s 120 members of Knesset signed a letter earlier this week to members of the Polish parliament asking them to oppose the legislation.
“We, members of Israel’s Knesset, are contacting you with a request to vote against the law that denies Holocaust survivors and descendants of Holocaust victims [the right] to demand the return of the property stolen from them,” reads a Hebrew-language version of the letter published by the Ynet news website.
If adopted, the law would prevent property ownership and other administrative decisions from being declared void after 30 years, which would mean that pending proceedings involving Communist-era property confiscations would be discontinued and dismissed. It affects Polish, Jewish and other property claims that are subject to contested previous determinations.
“There is no doubt that Poles took part in the persecution, theft and extermination” during the Holocaust, reads the letter spearheaded by Likud MK May Golan and Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav Hertzanu. “That is the historic truth and it cannot be changed. The attempt by Poland to distance itself from the crimes committed in its territory by Poles is mistaken and dangerous, because how is it possible to educate young people not to repeat crimes that weren’t committed?”
The lawmakers added: “We implore you — as Polish citizens, as public leaders, as humans — to acknowledge the crimes and act to fix them. Not just for the sake of the victims’ memory and respect for the survivors, and not for the sake of the relations between our countries, but for Poland. Acknowledging history, not rewriting it, is the act that would increase the respect for the Polish nation.”
The signatories on the letter hailed from every party in the Knesset except the Islamist Ra’am.
On Wednesday, the United States stepped up its public pressure against the Polish legislation, which already passed in the lower house of the Polish parliament and then the Senate, and now returns to the lower chamber before heading to the president to be signed into law.
Cherrie Daniels, the US special envoy for Holocaust issues, said the Polish legislation “would cause irreparable harm to both Jews and non-Jews by effectively extinguishing claims for restitution and compensation of property taken during the Holocaust that was subsequently nationalized during the communist period.”
Daniels said Poland is the only country in Europe to have regressed over the past year in meeting commitments to return seized property or provide compensation for Holocaust victims and their families. The public admonishment is likely to anger Polish authorities, who have rejected previous criticism on the matter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.