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July 20, 2021 2:02 pm
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US Senators Appeal to Polish President to Stop Bill Blocking Holocaust Restitution

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) speaks during a Senate Small Business Committee hearing on coronavirus relief aid and “Implementation of title I of the CARES Act.”, in Washington, U.S., June 10, 2020. Al Drago/Pool via REUTERS

A group of US Senators have sent a letter to Poland’s president calling on him to oppose a controversial bill that would effectively prevent Jews from pursuing restitution claims linked to Nazi-era persecution.

The law has passed in the country’s lower house, but must still pass in its Senate and gain the president’s approval.

Since the fall of communism in 1989, attempts by Holocaust survivors and their representatives to secure compensation for stolen Jewish property valued at $30 billion — according to an experts report commissioned by the Israeli government in 2007 — have failed.

Under the proposed Polish law, outstanding claims for the restitution of property seized during the Holocaust that are more than 30 years old will be dismissed. The law also rules out appeals against legal decisions made outside the same 30-year deadline.

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This makes it effectively impossible for victims to claim compensation.

The bipartisan Senate letter, released on Monday, asked Polish President Andrzej Duda to “press for the withdrawal of this bill from the Polish Senate, but, if the bill is passed, veto it.”

The letter was spearheaded by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), James Lankford (R-OK), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV). It was also signed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“While we share your belief that Poland should not be held responsible for crimes committed by the Nazis and the communists, we also believe that this is an opportunity to demonstrate Poland’s commitment to achieving justice for the victims of these heinous crimes,” the letter said.

“Countless Poles — both Jewish and non-Jewish — suffered during this dark and tragic period of history, and the families of these victims should be able to seek redress for these crimes,” it added.

“We firmly believe that the partnership between the United States and Poland is strongest when we are united in our commitment to freedom and justice for the victims of the crimes committed by the Nazis and communists,” the Senators concluded.

Gideon Taylor, chair of operations at the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), commented, “This letter clearly demonstrates that the US Senate cares deeply about the rights of Holocaust survivors and other rightful property owners who have waited years for a measure of justice for property that was wrongfully confiscated by the Polish Communist regime after the end of the war.”

“Justice for those who lost so much is of great concern, not only to the Jewish world but also to the world at large,” he said.

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