Senators Calling On Polish
Government To Pass
Property Restitution Law

By on March 29, 2018

U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Marco Rubio lead 59 Senators in calling on Polish Government to pass fair property restitution law and ensure justice for Poland’s Holocaust Victims and their families

WASHINGTON, D.C.  (March 26, 2018) – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) today led a group of 59 bipartisan Senators in calling on Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland to support legislation that allows Holocaust victims and their families to secure compensation for, or the return of, property that was wrongfully seized by the Nazis and subsequently nationalized by the Communists. More than half of the Senate joined the letter to encourage the Polish government to pass fair and just national property restitution legislation that ensures justice for all victims.

“The United States and Poland have a long and deep relationship stemming from the American Revolutionary War and continuing through our NATO partnership today. It is in this spirit—coupled with the recognition of the tremendous contributions made by Polish-Americans—that we are writing to express concern about legislation regarding Holocaust Era property restitution that has been proposed by the Polish Ministry of Justice,” wrote the senators in their letter. “The draft legislation, published on October 20, would eliminate the possibility of the return of actual property, provide only limited compensation, prevent compensation for ownership of companies that were destroyed, and bar claims by foreign citizens who did not benefit from eligible postwar treaties, including the one between Poland and the United States.”

“We are deeply concerned that the bill, in its current form, would discriminate against virtually all American survivors and heirs on the basis that they are not currently citizens of Poland and that they were not residents of Poland when their property was nationalized.  The current draft law also would exclude individuals who are not “first-line heirs” of Nazi victims or survivors.  This provision would disproportionately impact Jewish victims and their families.”

The senators continued: “As strong supporters of the critical and mutually beneficial U.S.-Polish relationship, we believe our alliance is rooted in our shared democratic ideals, including a respect for the rule of law and its ability to ensure justice for victims. We urge you to work with the Polish Parliament to pass fair and just restitution legislation that would both fully realize the goals of the Terezin Declaration and further strengthen the bond between our countries.”

In addition to Baldwin and Rubio, the letter is signed by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jack Reed (D-RI), John McCain (R-AZ), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Michael Rounds (R-SD), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), John Hoeven (R-ND), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Boozman (R-AR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Steve Daines (R-MT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), David A. Perdue (R-GA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Roger F. Wicker (R-MS), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Susan M. Collins (R-ME), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tim Scott (R-SC), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Robert P. Casey (D-PA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), James Lankford (R-OK), Doug Jones (D-AL), James M. Inhofe (R-OK), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), John Kennedy (R-LA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Dean Heller (R-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

“We survivors cannot afford to wait any longer for justice seventy years after the Nazis took everything from us,” said Nate Taffel, Polish Holocaust survivor living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “I am thankful to Senator Baldwin for all her efforts to help Holocaust survivors achieve justice.”

“Our families, who were slaughtered during the war, left the property to us. We have waited too long for justice for our property,” said Norman Trysk-Frajman, Polish survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto living in Boynton Beach, Florida. “I hope this will bring myself and my cousins closer to receiving justice for the theft of our family’s property by the Nazis and wish to thank Senator Rubio for supporting us.”

“The World Jewish Restitution Organization welcomes the call by United States Senators for justice for Holocaust survivors and their families,” said Gideon Taylor, WJRO Chief of Operations. “With fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors alive today, we call on Poland urgently to address this historic wrong. We are grateful to Senators Baldwin and Rubio and the 59 Senators who are raising their collective voice on behalf of Holocaust survivors and their families.”

“The Jewish Federations of North America is grateful to Senators Baldwin and Rubio for their leadership on this letter to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, expressing concern about Holocaust Era property restitution legislation by the Polish Ministry of Justice,” said William Daroff, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office of the Jewish Federations of North America (JNFA). “The legislation would adversely impact Holocaust victims and their heirs. This bipartisan effort is yet another example of the Senate’s commitment to Holocaust survivors and their families and U.S. support for justice for all those who have already lost so much.”

Senators Baldwin and Rubio also co-authored the bipartisan JUST Act which would improve efforts assisting Holocaust survivors and the families of Holocaust victims by requiring the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries on the return of—or restitution for—wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets. The JUST Act was unanimously approved by the Senate in December of 2017 and is awaiting a full vote in the House.

A copy of the letter is available here and included below:

The Honorable Mateusz Morawiecki
Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

First, we offer our congratulations to you on your appointment as Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland and to the Polish people on the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence.  The United States and Poland have a long and deep relationship stemming from the American Revolutionary War and continuing through our NATO partnership today. It is in this spirit—coupled with the recognition of the tremendous contributions made by Polish-Americans—that we are writing to express concern about legislation regarding Holocaust Era property restitution that has been proposed by the Polish Ministry of Justice. This draft legislation would adversely affect Holocaust victims and their heirs and is therefore of urgent importance to many of our constituents, millions of Americans, and Holocaust survivors around the world.

Poland suffered greatly during the Second World War and its aftermath. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, it is estimated that the Nazis killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians during the Second World War and at least three million Polish Jews—approximately half of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. This proud, culturally-rich, and long-standing community was utterly decimated by the murderous Nazi regime. Sadly, Jewish victims of Nazi crimes, including many American citizens, have found it difficult to secure compensation for, or the return of, property that was seized by the Nazis and subsequently nationalized by the Communists. Members of the U.S. Senate on both sides of the aisle stand united in seeking justice for victims of the Holocaust and their descendants.

In 2009, Poland, along with the United States, Israel, and 45 other countries, affirmed the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues. Among other guidelines, the Declaration urges participating states to pass national legislation that facilitates restitution “in a fair, comprehensive and nondiscriminatory manner.” We have been disappointed that Poland remains the only major European country that has not passed a national, comprehensive law for the restitution of, or compensation for, private property, but remain hopeful this will soon happen.

The draft legislation, published on October 20, would eliminate the possibility of the return of actual property, provide only limited compensation, prevent compensation for ownership of companies that were destroyed, and bar claims by foreign citizens who did not benefit from eligible postwar treaties, including the one between Poland and the United States.

We believe that the draft falls short of the standards set forth in the Terezin Declaration and—if passed without amendment—would be a failure of justice. We are deeply concerned that the bill, in its current form, would discriminate against virtually all American survivors and heirs on the basis that they are not currently citizens of Poland and that they were not residents of Poland when their property was nationalized. The current draft law would also exclude individuals who are not “first-line heirs” of Nazi victims or survivors. This provision would disproportionately impact Jewish victims and their families. As a result of the Nazi attempt to exterminate world Jewry, most European Jewish families were completely destroyed, including 90% of Poland’s Jewish community. Therefore, the remaining Jewish heirs are often non-linear — such as nieces, nephews, and cousins. The one-year window for filing claims will be particularly difficult for foreign claimants as the draft legislation does not yet provide for a simple application process or easy access to archives.

As strong supporters of the critical and mutually beneficial U.S.-Polish relationship, we believe our alliance is rooted in our shared democratic ideals, including a respect for the rule of law and its ability to ensure justice for victims. We urge you to work with the Polish Parliament to pass fair and just restitution legislation that would both fully realize the goals of the Terezin Declaration and further strengthen the bond between our countries.

Sincerely,

Tammy Baldwin – United States Senator for Wisonson Press Release
www.baldwin.senate.gov