Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Joseph Kleinman, a 90-year-old survivor of the Auschwitz and Dachau death camps in Poland on his porch in Jerusalem wearing a face mask and holding a picture himself as a young boy, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 21, 2020.

A new restitution law approved Friday in the Polish Senate has outraged Israel and European Jewry.

In Israel, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Poland’s new legislation “will severely damage our relations with Poland. Poland knows very well what the right and proper thing to do is.”

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Lapid said the Israeli government “is following with great concern the progress of the legislative process in Poland on the restitution rights of property which was looted from Holocaust victims.

“We consider every progress in this legislative process as a serious development,” he said Friday in a statement to media. “We will firmly defend the dignity of Holocaust victims, their memory and their rights.”

European Jewry likewise condemned the measure, which would make it much harder for Jews to claim restitution on properties that were appropriated and stolen during the Holocaust era.

“This is not just another law, it is legalized theft, and the language is written in such a way that it implicitly seeks to single out Jews as undeserving of retrieving what was stolen from them,” European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor said.

“It is not ‘privileging’ Jews as some claim in Poland, it is disenfranchising them, creating a higher bar than for all others.”

Kantor added that the new law will also further highlight Poland’s unique position as the only country in the region which makes Holocaust restitution impossible and said the move runs counter to Poland’s international commitments.

“It is outrageous that someone who survived the Holocaust, who will be in their later years, will still be deprived justice by this cruel, illegitimate and discriminatory law,” Kantor said.

The new legislation, which has already been adopted by the Polish lower house, prevents Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust and their heirs who lost property due to asset confiscations during the Communist era, from reclaiming their property or receiving compensation for it.

Poland was where most Jews lived before the war and where most were murdered during the Nazi genocide, Kantor noted. “All we are asking for is justice and decency, and both are severely compromised by this law.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.