US Senators urge Pompeo to press Poland to pay Holocaust victims for stolen property
A letter signed by 88 US senators, including the entire Senate Democratic Caucus, calls on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take urgent action on the restitution or compensation for property that was stolen from Polish Jews by the Nazis and subsequently nationalized by the Communists.
“Now is the time, while the last Holocaust survivors are still alive, to back up our words with meaningful action. We encourage you to pursue bold initiatives to help Poland to resolve this issue as quickly as possible,” the senators wrote.
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. More than 3 million of Poland’s Jewish population of 3.2 million were murdered during the Holocaust.
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.
In May, the Polish ultra-nationalist antisemitic government canceled the visit of an official Israeli delegation to Warsaw, which planned to discuss the restoring of Jewish property stolen from Polish Jews during and after the Holocaust.
“Poland decided to cancel the visit of Israeli officials after the Israeli side made last-minute changes in the composition of the delegation suggesting that the talks would primarily focus on the issues related to property restitution,” the Polish Foreign Ministry said.
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.