Row between Israel and Poland over Holocaust property restitution escalates

June 28, 2021 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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The dispute between Israel and Poland over an amendment to a Polish law that would hinder Holocaust victims’ ability to claim their property in the country escalated Sunday when both countries summoned each other’s ambassadors for a dressing down.

Yair Lapid

The Polish legislation, which was passed by the Sejm on Thursday, sets a 30-year deadline for Jews to recover property seized by Nazi Germany in Poland, essentially preventing any Holocaust-era compensation claims or appeals of past decisions.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stated on Friday in response to the vote that “no law will change history,” and the law is “a disgrace and will seriously harm relations between the countries.”

Alon Bar, head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s political department, summoned Polish Ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski, to a meeting on Sunday, and expressed Israel’s “severe disappointment” from the legislation, which he said is expected to adversely affect 90% of property restitution requests from Holocaust survivors and their descendants, according to experts.

Bar reiterated Lapid’s message that the legislation would affect relations between the two countries, stressing that it was not too late for Poland to halt the process that “means renouncing its obligations toward the Holocaust victims,” and to return to the discourse on property restitution, which was stopped in 2019.

Bar further clarified that “this was not a historical debate about responsibility for the Holocaust but a moral debt of Poland to those who were its citizens and their property was looted during the Holocaust and then under the communist regime.”

The Polish Foreign Ministry reportedly summoned the head of the Israeli embassy in Warsaw for a reprimand on Israel’s “intervention in the lawmaking of another country.”

According to reports, Tal Ben-Ari, the interim head of the embassy in Warsaw, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Warsaw for a meeting on Monday on Israel’s “interfering in the law of a foreign government and the statements of the foreign minister against the Polish government.”

Lapid continued with his combative statements against Poland on Sunday when he responded to a statement by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who said that as long as he is prime minister, “Poland will certainly not pay for German crimes: not zlotys, not euros and not dollars.”

“The Polish Prime Minister should check the facts again,” said Lapid.

“We are not interested in Polish money and the very implication is antisemitic. We are fighting for the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, for the pride of our people, and no parliament can enact laws aimed at denying the Holocaust,” he stated.

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