Israel summoned Poland’s envoy to express its “severe unhappiness” with a Polish plan that opponents worry will make it harder for Jews to retrieve property lost during WWII, leading Warsaw to retaliate.
On Thursday, Poland’s lower house of parliament passed a draft bill imposing a statute of limitations on claims for property restitution, anger Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who branded it a “disgrace.”
According to a statement released by Israel’s foreign ministry on Sunday, the legislation could affect up to 90% of property restitution claims from Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
According to the statement, “This is not a historical debate about who was guilty of the Holocaust; rather, it is a moral obligation given by Poland to persons who were Polish citizens whose property was confiscated during the Holocaust and under the communist regime.”
The Polish foreign ministry summoned Israel’s charge d’affaires in Warsaw on Monday, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski.
According to Jablonski, Warsaw wants to put the legislation to rest.
Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon, Israel’s charge d’affaires, has been summoned, and the Polish diplomat said on state media TVP that he will “explain to her in a decisive and factual way what it is about.”
He stated, “Unfortunately, we believe we’re dealing with a scenario that certain Israeli politicians are using for domestic political gain.”
On Thursday, the Israeli embassy in Warsaw tweeted, “This immoral law will badly affect relations between our countries.”
According to Poland’s foreign ministry, implementing time limitations will “lead to the eradication of large-scale fraud and abnormalities.”
“The new legislation does not restrict the capacity to pursue civil actions for damages in any way, regardless of the plaintiff’s nation of origin,” the statement continued.
Incentives for compensation
Almost all of Poland’s Jews, approximately three million individuals, were killed during the Nazi Holocaust. Former Jewish property owners and their descendants have been asking for restitution from Poland since the fall of communism in 1989. Following WWII, communist administrations kept Jewish property stolen by the Nazis.
The bill would put into action a 2015 ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal that an appeals deadline should be established after which erroneous administrative decisions can no longer be contested. The age limit is set at 30 years by law.
Due to the legacy of World War II and related Polish laws, relations between Poland and Israel have previously been contentious.
Thousands of Poles risked their lives to defend their Jewish neighbors during WWII. According to evidence revealed after 1989, tens of thousands of Jews were slaughtered or accused of sheltering them from the German occupation.
In 2018, the government was forced to back down and remove provisions of a Holocaust law that imposed prison sentences for anyone who believed the country was complicit in Nazi crimes, angering both the United States and Israel.