Foreign Ministry summons Polish ambassador for restitution bill


The Foreign Ministry summoned Polish Ambassador to Israel Mark Magierowski on Sunday over a bill passed by the lower house of parliament in Warsaw, making the restitution of the property of Holocaust survivors much more difficult.

Alon Bar, head of the foreign ministry’s strategic and political department, said Israel is “deeply disappointed with the bill … which experts say is expected to negatively influence 90% of property return claims by survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants. “

Bar reiterated Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s message that the bill will have a negative impact on relations between Israel and Poland, and said it was not too late for Poland to stop the process. legislative and return to its commitments to dialogue on restitution.

“This is not a historic dialogue about responsibility for the Holocaust; rather, it is a moral duty of Poland to its former citizens, whose property was confiscated during the Holocaust and under the communist regime, ”explained Bar.

Magierowski said in an interview with KAN Bet on Sunday: “I have a feeling that no one in Israel has read the bill and does not know its contents.

“The aim of Israeli politicians is to seize the opportunity to destroy the relations between us and not to defend the survivors of the Holocaust,” he added.

The bill in question sets a 30-year deadline for appealing administrative decisions relating to the return of confiscated property. It was adopted Thursday by the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament.

Soon after, Lapid declared that “no law will change history. Polish law is immoral and will seriously damage relations between countries. Israel will serve as a stronghold protecting the memory of the Holocaust and the dignity of Holocaust survivors and their property. “

“Poland, on whose soil millions of Jews have been murdered, knows what to do,” added the foreign minister.

The United States has also spoken out against the bill.

“Yesterday’s Polish parliament decision was a step in the wrong direction. We urge Poland not to push forward with this legislation, ”US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a tweet on Friday.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has pledged that his country will not pay compensation to Holocaust survivors for German crimes committed against them on its territory during World War II.

“I can only say that as long as I am Prime Minister, Poland will surely not pay for German crimes. Not a zloty [Polish currency], not a euro, not a dollar, “Morawiecki said Friday.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski presented the bill as an anti-corruption measure and said Lapid’s comments reflect “a deep ignorance of the facts”.

“Poles, like Jews, were victims of terrible German crimes,” Jablonski tweeted. “The law passed by the Sejm protects the victims of these crimes and their heirs against fraud and abuse. It is the implementation of the judgment of the Constitutional Court of 2015. Following a savage reprivatization … many people have been deprived of their property.

Relations between Poland and Israel have been strained since 2018, after Poland passed a law penalizing those who argue that Poland or the Polish people were in any way responsible for the Holocaust.

Prominent Israelis have sharply criticized the law; Then-Foreign Minister Israel Katz repeated a quote from former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that Poles imbue themselves with anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk, and Lapid, who was in the then a member of the opposition, said that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust. Then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said shortly after that some Poles had collaborated with the Nazis, which also sparked an uproar in Poland.

Poland was home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world until it was almost completely wiped out by the Nazis during World War II.

Former Jewish owners and their descendants have campaigned for compensation since the fall of communism in 1989.

Poland is the only EU country not to have legislation on the return of property, despite repeated calls from the United States to do so.

Some 70 gravestones were knocked over and smashed in a Jewish cemetery in the southern Polish town of Bielsko-Biala on Saturday amid tensions over the bill.

The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, described the incident as the worst case of cemetery desecration in the country in the past 30 years.

He said the police were working hard to try to find the culprits.

Schudrich said the Jewish community is planning a ceremony at the cemetery on Tuesday attended by Jewish leaders and, he hoped, national leaders as well.

The rabbi said the caustic rhetoric of Polish politicians in recent days regarding the controversy over the legislation was the immediate cause of anti-Semitic incidents such as the attack on the Jewish cemetery in Bielsko-Biala.

“When you have this tension, politicians say things they shouldn’t say, and when politicians start using hurtful and hateful language, it’s no surprise that sort of thing happens,” said Schudrich.

“I hope we can avoid a downward spiral of rhetorical attacks,” he added.

Dr Rafal Pankowski, associate professor at Collegium Civitas and co-founder of Never Again, notes that there has been a slight increase in rhetoric against Israel with anti-Semitic overtones from Polish politicians in recent days.


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