European Jewish leader presses Poland on Holocaust assets

12th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Unlike many of its neighbours, Poland has failed to produce blanket rules on property seized from Jews and non-Jews alike during the Nazi German occupation and not handed back since the post-war communist regime fell in 1989.

Warsaw -- A senior European Jewish leader last week urged Poland to clear legal hurdles to returning Jewish property seized by the Nazis during World War II, but welcomed a plan for presidential talks on the vexed issue.

"Laws should be modified. Laws can be changed immediately. It's goodwill that's important," European Jewish Congress leader Moshe Kantor told reporters after a closed-door meeting with Poland's President Lech Kaczynski.

"We asked the president to be very open and very sincere about this, and we see that there is a possibility to continue this discussion in a very constructive manner," he explained.

"We agreed with the president that in November we're going to meet again," he said, adding that "we understand that the president wants to have results before November".

Unlike many of its neighbours, Poland has failed to produce blanket rules on property seized from Jews and non-Jews alike during the Nazi German occupation and not handed back since the post-war communist regime fell in 1989.

Amid several failed drives to settle the issue, Poland has meanwhile dealt with such property on a case-by-case basis in the courts.

Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, Kaczynski's aide on Jewish affairs, rejected reporters' suggestions of foot-dragging since the return to democracy in 1989.

"Twenty years is a short period in history," she said, claiming that given the complex nature of the topic "Poland is moving at a fast pace to resolve all the issues".

In March the Polish government said it hoped to resolve the issue this year. Last month at a conference in Prague on Jewish assets, Poland was among 46 nations that signed a non-binding declaration on facilitating a settlement.

The declaration also called for some of the property of Jews who perished without heirs to be used to help Holocaust survivors in need.

Polish officials, however, have pointed to potential legal pitfalls, noting current legislation does not allow "heirless" property to be used for other purposes.

AFP/Expatica

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