Polish President signs bill to limit claims on property seized by Nazis

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The Polish president decided to sign a bill that would limit the ability of Jews to recover property seized by German Nazi occupiers and kept by post-war Communist leaders, sparking fury from Israel, who said that the law was anti-Semitic.

“I made a decision today on the act, which in recent months has been the subject of heated and noisy debate at home and abroad,” Andrzej Duda said in a statement released on Saturday. . “After careful analysis, I decided to sign the amendment. “

Before World War II, Poland was home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, but it was almost completely wiped out by the Nazis, and the former Jewish owners and their descendants campaigned for compensation.

Until now, Jewish expatriates or their descendants could claim that a property had been illegally seized and demand its return, but the Polish authorities argued that this caused uncertainty about the ownership of the property.

In 2015, the Polish Constitutional Court ruled that there should be specific time limits after which administrative decisions on property titles could no longer be challenged. Amendments to the law were passed by the Polish parliament earlier this week. The bill sets a 30-year limit for compensation claims.

The issue of Jewish property rights in Poland is further complicated because, unlike other EU states, it has not established funds to compensate people whose property has been seized.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett condemned the law and said Israel would not stand idly by on its approval. “It is a shameful decision and a shameful disregard for the memory of the Holocaust,” he said in a statement.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said: “Poland today approved, for the first time, an anti-Semitic and immoral law. In response, the head of the Israeli embassy in Warsaw was recalled immediately, he added.

“Poland tonight has become an undemocratic and non-liberal country that does not honor the greatest tragedy in human history,” said Lapid.

A new ambassador to Warsaw will not be sent at this point, he said. He also suggested that the Polish ambassador to Israel extend his vacation and not return to the country.

“He should use the time he has to explain to the Poles what the Holocaust means to the citizens of Israel and to what extent we will not tolerate contempt for the memory of those who perished and for the memory of the Holocaust. It won’t stop there, ”Lapid said.

Israel was discussing new measures with the United States, he added.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that Washington was deeply concerned that the Polish parliament had passed the bill and urged Duda not to enact it.

Washington is one of Warsaw’s most important allies, but relations between the countries have been strained by the property issue, as well as other issues such as plans to introduce changes which, according to the opposition , aim to silence an American news channel critical of the government. .

The World Organization for the Restitution of Jews (WJRO) on Saturday urged the Polish government to work to resolve the problem of property seized in the past.

“Democracy and justice hit a new low in Poland as President Duda signs a law making it virtually impossible for all former Polish owners to obtain redress for property illegally seized during the Communist era,” said Gideon Taylor , president of operations of WJRO. Reuters.

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