Brussels (Brussels Morning) Israel and Poland are at loggerheads over Poland’s decision to place a time limit on applications for compensation for property seized from Jews in Poland by German occupiers in the Second World War and subsequently retained by succeeding communist regimes.
In a statement on Saturday, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda announced that he had decided to approve the move after detailed analysis and months of debate, Reuters reported.
Before the war, Poland had one of the largest Jewish communities. Former owners of Nazi-seized properties and their descendants have long been calling for compensation. Thus far, while members of the Jewish diaspora and their descendants could call for the return of properties that were seized illegally, Polish officials maintained that this was causing uncertainty over ownership.
In 2015, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that deadlines should be introduced on challenges to property titles. Last week, the Polish parliament adopted the relevant regulatory changes.
According to the new rules, restitution claims are subject to a 30-year time limit. Unlike other EU member states, Poland has not set up a fund to compensate people whose properties were seized.
Naftali Bennett, Prime Minister of Israel, condemned the Polish move and asserted “it is a shameful decision and a disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust”. The Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yair Lapid, described the decision as antisemitic and immoral, and noted that he had recalled Israel’s Ambassador to Poland because of it. “Poland has tonight become an anti-democratic, non-liberal country that does not honour the greatest tragedy in human history”, he remarked.
Referring to Poland’s Ambassador to Israel, Lapid observed that the ambassador is on vacation and suggested he should not return to Israel.
“He should use the time he has on his hands to explain to the Poles what the Holocaust means to Israel’s citizens and the extent to which we will not tolerate contempt for the memory of those who perished and for the memory of the Holocaust”, Lapid declared.
Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Israel’s reaction by stating that it would “ take appropriate political and diplomatic actions, bearing in mind the principle of symmetry in bilateral relations”.