Poland refuses to provide restitution for Jewish property taken during World War II when the country was under Nazi control, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said over the weekend, explaining that such a move was akin to making Hitler victorious.
“If someone says that Poland is to pay any compensation to anyone, we say: we do not agree to it!” Morawiecki said on Friday in Lodz, according to the Polish news portal money.pl.
“If this terrible injustice will ever happen – when the executioner and victim roles were reversed – it would be Hitler’s posthumous victory,” he said.
The prime minister’s comment, one of a number he made over the weekend, was aimed at Congress’s new legislation: Act 447, the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act. It requires the US government to report on property lost by Jews in Europe due to the Holocaust.
But they stoked existing tensions between Jerusalem and Warsaw over the treatment of Jews in Poland during the Holocaust. Poland denies any culpability in the Nazi atrocities towards the Jews. The idea is offensive to them, because they also see themselves as victims of the Nazis. And they view any restitution payments as a sign of culpability.
“Today, there are those in the world who have the nerve to ask compensation from Poland for German crimes. There is no agreement for such compensation and such behavior,” Morawiecki said in Krakow.
“For Europe, concretely, the area of historical memory and historical justice is also important. It is also a memory of Polish martyrs and victims. Here in Lesser [southeastern] Poland, Germans murdered and looted Poles in a unique way,” he added.
Israel has attempted to maintain its strong ties with the modern Polish state, while at the same time acknowledging the involvement of some Polish citizens in atrocities against Jews during World War II.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein immediately attacked Morawiecki’s words.
“The Polish leadership is again trying to distort history. It wants to thwart the justice that would come from returning the property of Holocaust survivors.
“Instead of solving the fundamental issues surrounding Holocaust remembrance once and for all, the Polish prime minister has once again chosen to create a provocation,” Edelstein said.
Poland recently canceled a planned meeting with an Israeli delegation upon learning that the question of compensation given to Jewish-Polish citizens who lost their assets during and after the Holocaust was on the meeting’s agenda.
Jewish assets were nationalized by the Polish state following the war, as were assets once held by German-speaking Poles, Ukrainian-speaking Poles and Polish people who attempted to resist the inclusion of the country in the Socialist bloc. Therefore, the question of compensation is a very complex one.
Many Poles view the focus on Jewish property lost during the Holocaust – as opposed to Polish property lost in what is modern Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania – as another example of how Jewish suffering is being treated differently than their own.
On Friday, deputy Minister of Sports and Tourism Anna Krupka was presenting her party’s views during a television debate when Konrad Berkowicz, of the Korwin Party, approached her from behind and placed a Jewish skullcap above her head as she was speaking, claiming she and her party are “kneeling in front of the Jews.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in response that Korwin “is a small racist party and is not worthy of a reaction.”