Polish law on property stolen by Nazis angers Israelon August 14, 2021 at 10:12 pm

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A new law will make it harder for people to recover property lost in World War Two.

Memorial commemorating the Jedwabne pogrom in Jedwabne, Poland on July 29, 2021

image sourceGetty Images

Poland’s president Andrzej Duda has approved a law that will make it harder for Jewish people to recover property lost during and after World War Two.

Israel has recalled its diplomatic envoy to Warsaw over the changes, branding the law “anti-Semitic”.

The legislation relates to claims on property stolen by Nazi Germany, then seized by Poland’s communist regime.

The law sets a 30-year limit on challenges to such confiscations.

As most happened soon after the war, many outstanding claims will now be blocked.

The Polish government says the change will end a period of legal chaos, but Israel condemned it forcibly.

“Poland today approved – not for the first time – an immoral, anti-Semitic law,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement.

Mr Lapid also said he was recommending Poland’s ambassador to Israel remain on his summer holiday in Poland.

“He should use the time available to him to explain to the Poles what the Holocaust means to the citizens of Israel and how much we will not tolerate contempt for the memory of the victims and the memory of the Holocaust,” he tweeted.

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Analysis box by Adam Easton, Warsaw correspondent

Mr Duda said signing the bill into law ends an era of legal chaos in the process of handing back confiscated properties.

In recent decades property restitution has become deeply mired in corruption, with title claims being bought and sold, and tenants suddenly finding themselves thrown out of their apartments from one day to the next. Jewish claims account for just a minority of total claims, most of which have been made by Poles.

As a result, the law received the backing of Poland’s opposition as well as the government.

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett branded the law “shameful”. He said it showed “disgraceful contempt for the Holocaust’s memory”.

About six million Jews died in the Holocaust, half of them Polish. About 90% of Poland’s pre-war Jewish community were killed.

Israel’s opposition to the legislation was supported by the US, and Mr Lapid said further courses of action would be discussed with Washington.

The Polish government has previously said the new law has nothing to do with Israeli and US fears.

When World War Two ended, Poland’s communist authorities nationalised many properties that had been left empty because their owners had fled or been killed.

The new law covers both Jewish and non-Jewish claimants, but critics say Jewish owners were often late in lodging claims after the war and will be disproportionately affected.

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