Yair Lapid: Polish cut-off of restitution for Holocaust victims threatens ties with Israel

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid warned Poland on Friday that their actions were seriously harming ties with Israel after a bill on Holocaust restitution advanced in the Polish Senate, The Times of Israel reports.

The Polish Senate passed a bill Friday that will place a 10-to-30-year cutoff date on contesting past administrative decisions on restitution. Critics of the law argue that it will effectively cut off the ability of Jews to reclaim property that was seized before and during the Holocaust.

“The passage of the polish property law now in Warsaw will seriously harm our relations with Poland. Poland knows very well what is the correct and proper thing to do,” Lapid said in his latest broadside in the escalating rift between the two countries.

“We are watching with great concern the progress of the legislation in Poland regarding the rights to property restitution that are being stolen from the Holocaust victims,” Lapid said.

The Senate approval came weeks after Poland’s parliament passed the bill, sparking the spat between Jerusalem and Warsaw.

“Each stage the legislation progresses is a serious development in our eyes,” said Lapid. “We will not be deterred from our determined defense of the honour of the Holocaust victims and preserving their memory and their rights.”

The dispute over the law has seen both countries summoning their respective envoys to express anger over the moves and an angry back-and-forth between politicians.

Lapid has been particularly harsh in his condemnation, calling the law “immoral and a disgrace.”

In June, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hit back at Lapid and vowed to push ahead with the bill.

“I can only say that as long as I am the prime minister, Poland will not pay for German crimes: Neither zloty, nor euro, nor dollar,” Morawiecki said.

Lapid at the time called Morawiecki’s insinuation that victims and their families were after money “antisemitic.”

“We are fighting for the memory of the Holocaust victims, for the pride of our people, and we won’t allow any parliament to pass laws whose goal is to deny the Holocaust,” he said.

Holocaust restitution in Poland is unpopular among many citizens, and Polish President Andrzej Duda campaigned against it ahead of his reelection last year. Many Polish citizens believe that claims should only be addressed to Nazi Germany and that it is unfair for Poland to pay out any damages from the Holocaust era.

“There won’t be any damages paid for heirless property,” Duda said last year. “I will never sign a law that will privilege any ethnic group vis-à-vis others. Damages should be paid by the one that started the war.”

Poland is the only country in the European Union that has not passed comprehensive national legislation to return, or provide compensation for, private property confiscated by the Nazis or nationalized by the communist regime.

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