Far-right Polish lawmakers float bill limiting Holocaust restitution

Blue and White’s Yair Lapid says Israel must demand that Warsaw shelve this ‘disgrace’; parliament not expected to back proposal

Pawel Kukiz, the leader of Kukiz'15, shakes hands with supporters after a televised parliamentary elections debate in Warsaw, Poland, October 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
Pawel Kukiz, the leader of Kukiz'15, shakes hands with supporters after a televised parliamentary elections debate in Warsaw, Poland, October 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Polish far-right opposition party Kukiz’15 has floated a bill that would restrict restitution lawsuits by Jews over property confiscated and stolen during the Holocaust, according to a radio report on Thursday.

The report by the Kan public broadcaster, which coincided with Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, said Poland’s ruling party is not expected to support the bill proposed by Kukiz’15 lawmakers, who hold 42 of the parliament’s 460 seats.

The bill aims to “prevent demands for Polish property [in cases] without heirs” and thwart “frivolous suits over property,” according to Kan, apparently referring to direct descendants. The legislation refers generally to assets seized during World War II, but would primarily apply to Jews seeking compensation, it said.

Poland is the only country in the European Union that has not passed comprehensive national legislation to return, or provide compensation for, private property confiscated by the Nazis or nationalized by the communist regime.

But Jewish heirs can seek compensation in the Polish court system.

The proposed bill was condemned by Blue and White MK Yair Lapid, a perennial critic of Poland and the son of a Holocaust survivor.

“It isn’t enough for them that the blood of Jews is crying out from the ground in Poland, so now we have received additional proof of anti-Semitic forces in Poland who dare to raise their heads, and while we’re marking Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel,” he tweeted. “The Israeli government must demand that the Polish government shelve this disgrace.”

Blue and White’s Yair Lapid on March 31, 2019 (Saria Diamant/Blue and White).

Earlier this month, Polish nationalists protested in New York City against a bill designed to help Holocaust survivors and their descendants reclaim lost property in Poland, with some using anti-Semitic rhetoric.

They were protesting a law, which President Donald Trump signed last year, called the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today Act.

The measure requires the State Department to report on how certain European countries have progressed in returning wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets.

In February, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the issue of Holocaust-era property restitution during his first official visit to Poland.

“We also appreciate the importance of resolving outstanding issues of the past, and I urge my Polish colleagues to move forward with comprehensive private property restitution legislation for those who lost property during the Holocaust era,” he said.

Last year, Warsaw passed a law that made it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in Nazi German war crimes. The move sparked an outcry from Israel, which saw it as an attempt to ban testimonials on Polish crimes against Jews. In response, Warsaw amended the law to remove the possibility of fines or a prison sentence.

In February, Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz drew Poland’s ire by quoting late prime minister Yitzhak Shamir as saying “Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”

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