Poland hopes Israel will change view on WWII restitution claims law, deputy FM says criticism 'inappropriate'

Poland hopes Israel will change view on WWII restitution claims law, deputy FM says criticism 'inappropriate'
The bill, passed in Poland's lower house of parliament last week, was criticised as 'immoral' by the Israeli embassy in Warsaw.
2 min read
Poland and Israel have both summoned each other's diplomats [Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty-file photo]

Poland's deputy foreign minister said Monday he hoped that Israel would change its "approach" to a bill on World War II restitution claims which the Jewish state has condemned as "immoral".

The bill, which passed the lower house of parliament last week, is intended to provide greater legal certainty for property owners against historical claims dating back to the Nazi occupation.

But critics say it could effectively block Jews from claiming property seized during the Holocaust.

Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski spoke after Israel's charge d'affaires in Warsaw, Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon, was summoned to the Polish foreign ministry to be briefed on the new law.

Jablonski said in a televised briefing after Monday's meeting that Israeli criticism was "inappropriate" and "we hope that the approach of the Israeli side will change".

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Jewish claims for property were frozen during the Communist era and, unlike other countries in the region, Poland has never had a comprehensive law on restitution claims since the fall of Communist rule in 1989.

Some families who lost property have since sought restitution or compensation but the process has been chaotic and long.

In some cases, there have been fraudulent claims for restitutions.

The new law sets a cut-off date for some legal challenges of up to 30 years.

This means that if a person bought a pre-war property in 1989 and has a specific official confirmation from that time proving their right to own it, any previous historical owners will now be excluded from contesting that right.

Jablonski said critics in Israel "refer to the issue of the Holocaust, which this law does not address in any way. This demonstrates, I have the impression, a lack of knowledge of the facts".

"This law is not aimed against anybody," he said.

The new law still has to be passed by the Senate and signed by the president to enter into force.

The Israeli embassy in Warsaw had earlier said "this immoral law will seriously impact relations between our countries".

It "will in effect prevent the restitution of Jewish property or compensation requests from Holocaust survivors and their descendants as well as the Jewish community that called Poland home for centuries. It's mind-boggling," the embassy said.

Israel's foreign ministry also summoned Poland's ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski, on Sunday.