Poland and Israel are in an escalating row over Polish legislation that critics say will make it difficult for Jews to recover property lost during and after World War Two.
The Polish Constitutional Court ruled in 2015 that time limits should be imposed on the period during which flawed administrative decisions can be appealed – often the target of recovery claims.
Poland’s lower house of parliament Thursday night approved a bill imposing 10- to 30-year limits on some challenges, prompting an angry reaction from Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Lapid called the proposed changes “a direct and painful violation of the rights of Holocaust survivors and their descendants,” and said Poland was making a “fatal mistake.”
No law will change history. “The new Polish law is a disgrace and will seriously harm the relations between the two countries,” he wrote on Twitter. “Israel will stand as a defensive wall protecting the memory of the Holocaust, the honor and property of Holocaust survivors.”
Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Paul Jablonski, responded that Lapid’s statement should be “unequivocally condemned”, calling it “bad faith and – most of all – a profound lack of knowledge”.
“Poles and Jews alike were victims of German atrocities during [the second world war]. [The] The law adopted in Parliament protects victims and their heirs from fraud and abuse and implements the 2015 ruling of the Constitutional Court.
The Jewish community in Poland was once the largest in the world, numbering over 3 million on the eve of World War II. But the Nazis annihilated everything after Germany invaded and occupied Poland in 1939.
Claims for restitution were virtually banned during the post-war communist era, but since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, families who lost property have sought to refund or compensation.
However, unlike other countries in Central Europe, Poland has not passed a comprehensive law on restitution, despite various attempts to do so, and property claims often take years to resolve.
In addition to the angry reaction from Israel, the proposed changes, which still need to be approved by the Polish Senate and signed by the president, have drawn criticism from the United States.
Earlier this week, the Polish newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna published an excerpt from a letter sent by Bix Aliu, the US charge d’affaires in Warsaw, to the Speaker of the Polish House of Representatives, in which the US expressed “deep concern” about the bill.
“If it passes, [it] It would cause irreparable harm to the survivors of the Holocaust in Poland and their families.”
The US Embassy in Warsaw refused to confirm or deny the contents of the letter.