WJC president Ronald Lauder calls Polish legislation a “slap in the face” to what remains of Polish Jewry
World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder called on the Jewish community worldwide to rethink its relationship with the Polish government over the weekend after the country’s lower house of parliament passed a draft law which would severely limit any ability by Polish Jewish Holocaust victims to recover their stolen property.
“This law is a slap in the face to what remains of Polish Jewry and survivors of Nazi brutality everywhere. It also sets a terrible precedent throughout Europe as survivors and descendants continue to seek justice,” said Lauder, who’s WJC represents Jewish communities in 100 countries. “It pains me to say this, but I think that the time has come for the international Jewish community to reevaluate our relationship with a government that is behaving with unimaginable callousness and is emulating the worst traditions in Polish history rather than the best and most uplifting ones.”
While most post-Communist countries have sought to right historical wrongs and address the issue of stolen Holocaust-era Jewish property, Poland has lagged behind. The Sejm’s new legislation will make it impossible for Jewish claimants or their descendants to recover or be compensated for what was taken from them in Poland.
Before the Holocaust Poland was home to more than 3 million Jews and was one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. The majority of Jewish Poles, however, were murdered in ghettos, death camps and concentration camps run by German-occupied Poland, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps and extermination centers.
“I have been an unwavering advocate of Poland in Washington and elsewhere ever since that country rejected the Communist system in favor of democracy. I was inspired by Poland’s fight for freedom and its national rebirth even when I disagreed with some of Warsaw’s policies. But this flagrant and entirely gratuitous act by the Polish parliament leaves me questioning my own commitment and the future of U.S.-Polish relations,” Lauder continued. “Since moral persuasion clearly has not been effective, perhaps the time has come to treat Poland with the same consideration it accords to Polish Jews and their descendants seeking justice.”
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