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Jewish property restitution still thorn in Polish-Israel relations

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 04.11.2013 11:00
As President Komorowski arrives in Israel for a state visit, the World Jewish Restitution Organization has called on Poland to return formerly Jewish-owned property lost during the Holocaust.

Polands President Bronislaw Komorowski (L) and Israel's President Shimon Peres (R) attend a meeting at the Presidential residence in Jerusalem, Israel, 04 November 2013. Komorowski is on an official visit to Israel: photo - EPA/ABIR SULTAN

"About 90 percent of the approximately 3.5 million Jews who lived in Poland prior to WWII were killed in the Holocaust," says an open letter to President Bronislaw Komorowski, written by Colette Avital, secretary of the World Jewish Restitution Organization and chairwoman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.

"Tens of thousands of owners in Israel and around the world – and heirs of victims who were owners – of real property in Poland continue to be left without what is theirs," she writes.

"Nearly a quarter-century after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Polish government has not taken significant action to return formerly Jewish-owned private property that was lost during the Shoah," the open letter says.

Poland has still to pass legislation on the thorny issue of property restitution and is the only major country in the former Soviet bloc, and member state of the European Union, without such a law, Jewish groups have complained.

President Komorowski said in April 2011 that “the lack of a bill on re-privatization is a disgrace for Poland. If such a law is passed, I will not hesitate to sign it.”


The topic of property restitution could be raised when President Komorowski has talks with his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

A recent ban imposed on the kosher slaughter of animals in Poland will also be raised during the talks.

Komorowski will also be having talks with president of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday and visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

On Israel - Palestine relations, minister for foreign affairs at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Jaromir Sokolowski, has told reporters that "Poland is in favour of a comprehensive settlement to the Israeli-Arab conflict" and that "Poland supports the conclusion by both parties of a peace agreement based on the principle of two states".

On Wednesday, Poland's president will open the Israeli - Polish Economic Forum to be opened by the Polish and Israeli heads of state on Wednesday.

President Komorowski and his wife will also meet with Polish - Jewish groups and attend an exhibition devoted to Jan Karski, the legendary emissary of the Polish government-in-exile during WWII, who reported to the western Allies on the situation in Nazi occupied Poland and especially the fate of Jews and the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto. (pg/ab)

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