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June 15, 2024
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Why Poland Is Right to End Holocaust Property Claims



Taking a break from mismanaging the rapid resurgence of COVID-19 in a country that was until recently praised as a world leader in beating the pandemic, Israel’s prime minister and foreign minister found something else to be very worried about: Poland.

Last week, the Polish parliament amended an existing law by setting a 30-year limit on all legal cases involving attempts to reclaim seized property, as well as terminating all restitution claims that haven’t reached a final decision in the past three decades. Such limitations are not rare among European nations, and yet the Polish law struck Israel’s leaders as nothing short of Holocaust denial.

“It is a shameful decision and a disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust,” Prime Minister Bennett said in a statement. His coalition partner, Yair Lapid, translated the Israeli government’s ire into action, recalling Israel’s top diplomat in Warsaw, and instructing the Polish ambassador to Israel, who was vacationing in his native land, to remain there until further notice.


So Israel’s foreign minister doesn’t believe that property claims following seismic shifts like major wars, large-scale border changes, and other transformational historical events should be time-dependent—or that countries have a right, indeed a moral responsibility, to draw a line under the past and move on in order to ensure the happiness and prosperity of the people who actually live there. Instead, he imagines generations of Jews brandishing the rusty keys to their family homes in Krakow, or in some no-longer existent shtetl, and vowing to one day obtain their ancestral properties, which have since become homes to other people, who are trying their best to build a future for their children.


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