Paris, 29 April 2011
In a letter to Polish President, Bronislaw Komorowski, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, called for a Yom Hashoah Presidential declaration "to reinstate Poland's plan to compensate elderly Holocaust survivors for their property - nationalised by the Communists following World War II."
Samuels noted that "as the Jewish world, next Monday, 2 May, marks 'Yom Hashoah' (Holocaust Commemoration Day), with many solemn events in Poland at the sites of extermination, our Centre urges you to invoke the prestige of your status on the restitution issue."
The letter recalled that "the Polish government, only last month, announced the shelving of a restitution commitment reached after twenty years of vacillation, ostensibly on grounds of the financial crisis."
Samuels continued, "it is ironic in that the Polish economy has survived that crisis unscathed and, only last week, Foreign Minister Sikorski, presented a plan for Poland to fund democracy training in Arab countries currently in revolt - based on Warsaw's own struggle for liberation from Communism. As worthy as this project may be, Poland must first acquit its promises to assuage the past."
The letter pointed out that "on 1 July, Warsaw takes on the six-month rotation Presidency of the European Union. There are reported fears that Poland's continental responsibilities will be obstructed by the campaign
for national general elections to be held half-way through that Presidency",adding that, "too often, these elections have been tainted by the 'Jewish card'- for example, charges against then candidates Lech
Walensa and Tomas Mazowiecki of being of 'Jewish blood'".
Samuels stressed that "announcements to cancel the Holocaust property restitution are grist to the mill of antisemites in a forthcoming election".
The Centre therefore suggested that "as many of the properties claimed are still in the use of the Polish state, perhaps their direct return to their owners would obviate the financial considerations related to negotiated compensation."
The Centre also argued that "as the General Election is likely to distract the government from its European Union agenda, perhaps the Warsaw Presidency should be postponed."
"Our Center's request for your Presidential moral call, this 'Yom Hashoah', to reinstate the Holocaust survivors compensation plan, would go far to reestablish Poland's image for world Jewry, the European Presidency and as one of 46 signatory countries to the 'Terezin Declaration" of June 2009, for the restitution of private and communal assets forcibly seized during the Holocaust", concluded Samuels.