The European Convention of Human Rights (1953), which the Republic of Poland has ratified, states in Article 1 that “Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions.” The convention makes it absolutely clear that “no one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.”
These principles were reinforced in the Terezin Declaration of June 2009, ratified by 46 countries including Poland, which established clear guidelines for the restitution of private and communal assets forcibly seized during the Holocaust.
The remaining ghosts of the past must be fought and old offenses must be compensated. It is high time Poland honor the memory of those who were murdered during the Nazi tyranny, and bring justice to the survivors and their heirs, by rectifying the wrongful expropriations of property by the Nazi and Communist regimes.
By intensifying our efforts to return the confiscated properties to their rightful owners and by honoring the memory of the past, we safeguard the fundamental principles of tolerance, freedom and democracy – and help ensure that no child in the future will have to learn his childhood heroes were annihilated.
Daniel Schatz is a doctoral candidate in political science and a member of the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps. He is a visiting fellow this spring at Stanford University.