Poland: Neo-Nazis protest against restitution of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust
Hundreds of ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis marched in Warsaw on Saturday to protest against a US law on the restitution of Jewish property stolen during or after World War Two.
Carrying placards with slogans including “Poland has no obligations”, “Holocaust hyenas”, chanting “stop the Jewish claims,” and “This is Poland, not Polin,” [sing the Hebrew word for Poland], the antisemitic demonstrators marched from the prime minister’s office to the US embassy in central Warsaw.
Poland was home to one of the world’s biggest Jewish communities before it was almost entirely wiped out by Nazis in Polish death camps like Auschwitz.
Former owners and their descendants have been campaigning since the fall of communism in 1989 to be compensated for stolen property, which was seized by Poland’s authoritarian rulers but successive Polish administrations have lacked the money or determination to resolve the issue.
The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, or Act 447, requires the US Department of State to provide a report to Congress on the progress of dozens of countries that signed a declaration in 2009 on the restitution of assets seized during or following World War Two.
The so-called Terezin declaration also includes provisions to give formerly Jewish-owned property with no heirs to Holocaust survivors in need of financial help or to support education on the subject.
Polish ultra-nationalists have said that the law could result in Jewish organizations demanding as much as $300 billion in compensation.
More than 3 million of Poland’s Jewish population of 3.2 million were murdered during the Holocaust.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Polish ultra-nationalist Kukiz 15 coalition presented a bill to prevent “frivolous reparation suits” against Jewish claims for property stolen during World War II.
Yair Lapid reacted harshly to the report, writing on Twitter, “It isn’t enough for them that Jewish blood cries out from Polish soil, so now we’ve received more proof that there are antisemitic forces in Poland that dare to raise their heads at the same time that we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel”.
Last year, Polish lawmakers voted to water down the Holocaust denial law following pressure from Israel and the United States, and removed parts that imposed jail terms on people who mention Poland’s active role in the Holocaust and make the use of phrases such as “Polish Death Camps” to refer to the Polish death camps, punishable.