Britain criticizes Polish restitution law

British minister says Poland should provide legal avenues for victims of the Holocaust to pursue restitution claims.

Elad Benari ,

Lower house of the Polish parliament
Lower house of the Polish parliament

Britain on Wednesday joined in the criticism of the Polish law restricting claims on Jewish property looted from Polish Jewry during the Holocaust.

Wendy Morton, a Minister at the UK Foreign Office, tweeted, “We are disappointed by the passage of legislation limiting opportunities for property restitution in Poland.”

“Legal avenues for the victims of the Holocaust, their families & descendants to pursue such claims must remain open,” she added.

The bill, approved last Wednesday by the Polish Parliament and later signed by President Andrzej Duda, prevents the restitution of Jewish property, or compensation for it, to Holocaust survivors and their descendants.

The proposed legislation, which will apply in retrospect, will make it almost impossible to appeal decisions made on the subject of stolen property more than 30 years ago.

The law would affect about 90 percent of restitution claims.

The British criticism follows that of the US. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday expressed concern over Poland’s approval of the restitution law.

“We deeply regret the adoption of these amendments. Further, we urge the Polish government to consult with representatives of affected parties and to develop a clear, efficient, and effective legal procedure to resolve confiscated property claims and provide some measure of justice for victims. In the absence of such a procedure, this legislation will harm all Polish citizens whose property was unjustly taken, including that of Polish Jews who were victims of the Holocaust,” said Blinken.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid criticized the approval of the law and said, "Today, Poland approved, not for the first time, an anti-Semitic and unethical law. Tonight, I instructed the chargé d'affaires of the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw to return to Israel immediately for indefinite consultations."

"The new Ambassador to Poland, who was due to leave for Warsaw soon, will not be departing for Poland at this stage,” added Lapid.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will recommend today that the Polish Ambassador to Israel remain on holiday in his country. This time should be used to explain to the people of Poland the meaning of the Holocaust to the citizens of Israel, and the extent to which we will refuse to tolerate any contempt for the memory of Holocaust and its victims. It will not end here," he promised.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sharply criticized Lapid’s decision to downgrade diplomatic ties between the two countries in the wake of Poland’s passage of the law.

“The decision of Israel to downgrade its diplomatic representation in Warsaw lacks justification and any sense of responsibility,” Morawiecki stated. “The words spoken by Yair Lapid enrage every upstanding person.”