US Warns of ‘Irreparable Harm’ Caused by Polish Legislation Closing Off Holocaust Restitution Claims
Divisions between the US Administration and Poland widened this week, as a top State Department official condemned the passage of new legislation in the upper house of the Polish parliament that closes off the restitution claims of Holocaust survivors.
In a statement opposing the law — which amends Poland’s Code of Administrative Procedure — the State Department’s special envoy for Holocaust issues, Cherrie Daniels, warned that it would “cause irreparable harm to both Jews and non-Jews by effectively extinguishing claims for restitution and compensation of property taken during the Holocaust that was subsequently nationalized during the communist period.”
The law effectively voids legal disputes over property that go back more than 30 years, when the Communist Party regime that ruled Poland after 1945 was overthrown. After World War II, property belonging to Jews and others that was stolen by the Nazi occupation authorities was nationalized by the new, Soviet-backed government.
Daniels took specific aim at Warsaw’s claim that Poland is not obliged to compensate survivors and their descendants because Germany was the aggressor in World War II. Speaking last month, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Marowiecki stated that his country would pay “neither zloty, nor euro, nor dollar” for “German crimes.”
Noting that Poland is the only European country that has not offered any compensation for private property seized by the state in its recent history, Daniels said that the Biden Administration was “disappointed that the Polish government and the opposition seems too often to purposely conflate property restitution or compensation with (wartime-era) reparations.”
She continued: “We would like to see the Polish government, at a minimum, amend the legislation so that claimants with pending claims can continue to pursue them through the existing administrative process.”
Responding to Daniels’ remarks, a pro-government member of parliament urged Polish leaders to stand firm against US pressure.
Speaking on the antisemitic Catholic broadcaster Radio Maryja, Arkadiusz Mularczyk, a representative of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), argued that “Poland must pursue its national interest aimed at stabilizing the legal system in our country.”
He continued: “We are dealing with lobbying on the part of Jewish communities, but Poland must be adamant, because the interests of our country require it.”