Poland slammed for halting restitution plans

AP News
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Posted: Mar 15, 2011 1:29 PM
Poland slammed for halting restitution plans

Dispossessed Jews and other former property owners have slammed a Polish government decision to suspend plans to offer them compensation for property seized during the Nazi and communist eras.

Miroslaw Szypowski, the head of an alliance of Polish groups seeking restitution, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his group was "dismayed" by the decision, calling it "unacceptable."

The government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk last week suspended work on a law that would have given some compensation to former owners of property lost, saying a rising state deficit left it unable to afford such payments.

Several Jewish groups have also strongly criticized the move.

"Poland is telling many elderly prewar landowners, including Holocaust survivors, that they have no foreseeable hope of even a small measure of justice for the assets that were seized from them," said Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress and chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization.

Some of the property was seized by Nazi Germany during its World War II occupation of Poland and later taken into public ownership, and some seized under the communist rule that followed the war.

Szypowski estimates the value of seized property claimed by owners or their heirs at around 100 billion Polish zlotys ($35 billion; euro25 billion).

Only about 17 percent of that rightly belonged to Jews. However, the unresolved issue looms large in Jewish restitution efforts given that Poland was home to a large Jewish community of nearly 3.5 million people _ Europe's largest _ before the Holocaust.