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US ratchets up pressure on Poland over Holocaust restitution law

WASHINGTON — The United States is ramping up pressure on Poland in hopes of stopping legislation that would prevent families from receiving restitution for property seized during the Holocaust and communist era.

The US says that 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 proposed compensation law, which may be enacted in August, has already been denounced by Israel, Jewish groups and the US. The new US criticism comes just before the one-year anniversary of the release of a congressionally mandated report tracking European progress in adjudicating Holocaust claims. That report called out several nations but was particularly critical of Poland.

On the eve of the anniversary, Cherrie Daniels, the US special envoy for Holocaust issues, says 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.”

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 that are subject to contested previous determinations.

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