Polish Holocaust survivors eligible for benefits

May 22, 2015 by J-Wire News Service
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Thousands of Holocaust survivors originally from Poland will benefit from a payment program from the Polish government, thanks to efforts by the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) and the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO).
wjroThe Claims Conference sent out letters to approximately 12,500 Holocaust survivors of Polish origin.  This first set of letters was mailed to survivors living in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Poland passed legislation in 2014 allowing certain Holocaust victims and others who were Polish citizens during World War II to receive payments in bank accounts outside Poland.

WJRO – of which the Claims Conference is a member organization – recently negotiated with the Polish government to make the application process more accessible to survivors.

The new legislation allows for Polish Holocaust survivors worldwide to receive the payments. Eligible applicants qualify for monthly payments of about PLN 400 (about US$130) from Poland.

Prior recipients needed a Polish bank account, making it difficult for Holocaust victims and others living outside Poland to qualify for the payments. Most beneficiaries of the existing program, initially created as a result of a 1991 law, are not Jewish.

Julius Berman, Claims Conference President, said, “The payments can make a real difference helping elderly survivors meet their daily needs and provides them a long-delayed measure of justice.”

Gideon Taylor, WJRO Chair of Operations, said, “The change in Polish law will finally enable survivors around the globe to receive these payments. The outreach program and our negotiations with the government will help thousands of survivors from Poland to get these benefits.”

WJRO has put the latest information on the program online, including all the information mailed to survivors: www.polishrestitution.com/pensions.

Drawing from its records of Holocaust compensation payments, the Claims Conference identified survivors who may be eligible for this program, informing them of the opportunity to apply. The Claims Conference also mailed these survivors an application and informed local social services agencies that may help survivors in their communities with the paperwork.

The Claims Conference and WJRO, working with the Auschwitz Jewish Center, also addressed a Polish government requirement that may have impeded applicants.

The Polish government requires applicants living outside Poland to appoint a proxy within Poland to receive official communications. This requirement would have been onerous for survivors without family or friends remaining in Poland.

At the request of the Claims Conference and WJRO, the Auschwitz Jewish Center has generously agreed to serve – free of charge – as a proxy for survivors. Along with its letter to potentially eligible survivors, the Claims Conference mailed a form that applicants must send to the Auschwitz Jewish Center if they would like the organization to serve as their proxy.

“We are pleased to be able to assist survivors and to play a role in helping them receive this payment from Poland,” said David G. Marwell, Auschwitz Jewish Center President.

The Polish government administers all applications and payments. Neither the Claims Conference nor WJRO can accept applications or determine eligibility.

The Legislation on War Veterans and Victims of War and Post-War Oppression offers monthly payments for those who were: detained by the Nazis in ghettos, prisons, concentration camps, extermination camps, or similar places of detention; forcibly deported to the Soviet Union; served in the Polish military, the Polish units of the Allied militaries, or in the Polish underground during World War II; or otherwise considered a veteran or a victim of oppression.

Before World War II, about 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland; 90 percent of this vibrant
community perished in the Holocaust.

Poland has passed legislation for the return of communal property to the Jewish community and other religious groups. Yet it remains the only major country in Central and Eastern Europe without a law to restore or compensate for private property confiscated during the Holocaust and/or subsequently nationalized by the Communist regime.

Although previous Polish governments had pledged to enact legislation concerning private property – such a move would benefit both Jewish and non-Jewish rightful owners – the current government has declined to support such restitution or compensation laws.

If you did not receive a letter and think that you are eligible, or for other questions and information about application requirements, please contact the Polish Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression:
Tel: +(48) 22-661-81-29 (during Polish work hours)
Fax: +(48) 22-661-90-73
Wspólna 2/4, 00-926 Warsaw, Poland

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