WJRO STRONGLY OBJECTS TO PROPOSED POLISH LAW THAT WOULD EXTINGUISH POSSIBILITY TO RESOLVE HOLOCAUST ERA PROPERTY RESTITUTION CLAIMS
New bill – on the agenda in the Polish Parliament this Wednesday & Thursday – will make it impossible to challenge administrative decisions older than 30 years, including pursuing re-privatization claims in Poland for Jews and non-Jews
(New York, NY) June 22, 2021: The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) is calling for the withdrawal of a proposed bill – on the agenda in the Polish Parliament this Wednesday and Thursday – which would extinguish any challenge to decisions issued by the Communist authorities to expropriate Holocaust era private property. The new bill would make it virtually impossible for Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as other Jewish and non-Jewish rightful property owners, to obtain restitution of, or compensation for, property unlawfully taken away during the Holocaust and Communist periods.
“We urgently call upon Prime Minister Morawiecki and the Polish Government to address the issue of private property restitution in a just and timely manner. Both Jewish and non-Jewish claimants have waited decades for a measure of justice resulting from the confiscation or nationalization of their property during the Holocaust or by the Communist government. The current proposal, if adopted, would further harm Polish Holocaust survivors who have already suffered so much. New, insurmountable legal conditions should not be imposed in 2021 that would make it impossible to recover property or receive just compensation,” said Gideon Taylor, Chair of Operations, World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO).
The proposed legislation would make it extremely difficult to challenge administrative decisions older than 30 years – including any decisions on nationalization of property during the Communist era that were issued without legal basis or in flagrant breach of the rules established by the Communist authorities. The Government of Poland has long contended that a comprehensive property restitution law was not necessary because individual claimants had the opportunity to reclaim their property or obtain compensation by challenging unlawful administrative decisions. Only a very limited number of claimants have succeeded on this basis. In addition to future cases, the proposal would apply retroactively to existing cases. If adopted, claimants who already filed claims under the current requirements, many of whom have been pursuing their claims for years, would now be told that their claims are terminated.
The bill is being processed in three stages. The proposal has had a first reading in the lower chamber of Polish Parliament, the Sejm, and the Committee issued its report on June 9. The second reading is on the agenda for June 23-24.
On June 15, WJRO wrote a letter to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki urging him to object to the proposed bill. A copy of the letter can be found here.
The proposed legislation (amending Articles 156 and 158 of the Administrative Procedure Code) would harm claimants, including Holocaust survivors and their families as well as many other Jewish and non-Jewish rightful property owners, in the following ways:
- According to proposed Article 158(3), it would become impossible to challenge administrative decisions older than 30 years, which in practice would include any decisions on nationalization of property during the Communist era. By contrast, a claimant can currently seek an order to declare an administrative decision null and void at any time, and then either seek restitution in rem or compensation before civil courts.
- According to proposed Article 156(2), public administrative bodies would no longer be able to declare invalid any Communist-era nationalization decision – including decisions issued without legal basis or in gross violation of Communist law. This stands in stark contrast to the current law, which contains a carve-out for administrative decisions that were issued in flagrant breach of the rules established by the Communist authorities.
- All pending proceedings with regard to such Communist-era property decisions would be discontinued and dismissed. If adopted, claimants who filed under the current requirements, many of whom have been pursuing their claims for years, will now be told that their claims are extinguished.
Poland was once home to the largest European Jewish community. For more than a thousand years, Poland had a thriving, vibrant Jewish community. The Nazis killed approximately 90 percent of Poland’s Jewish population during the Holocaust and were also responsible for the methodical theft of their every possession that was an integral part of the genocide. After the Second World War, the Communist regime subsequently nationalized their property in Poland along with that of many other Poles. Poland is the only country in the European Union that has not passed comprehensive national legislation for the restitution of, or compensation for, private property unjustly seized by the Nazis or nationalized by the Communist regime.
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