The UK Government has strongly reaffirmed its support for Holocaust-era property restitution in Poland and other countries, in reply to a question asked in the House of Lords by Baroness Ruth Deech.
Speaking on behalf of the Government, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minster of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development, said: “We are in regular conversation with the Polish Government on the restitution of property seized during the Nazi occupation. The UK post-Holocaust issues envoy, my noble friend Lord Pickles, is working with the US and other parties to call on Poland to pass legislation to provide restitution to provide restitution of, or compensation for, private property.”
Poland is the only country in the European Union that has not passed comprehensive legislation for restitution or compensation for private property taken during the Holocaust by the Nazis and/or subsequently nationalized by the Communists.
Lord Ahmad added that he would raise the issue of property restitution in his first meeting with the Polish Foreign Minister.
“We applaud the British Government for its leadership on the issue of Holocaust-era property restitution and its commitment to continue to raise the issue with the Polish government,” said Gideon Taylor, Chair of Operations, World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO). “We thank Baroness Ruth Deech and Lord Pickles for their leadership on this issue and all the other British members of both Houses of Parliament, across party, for their unwavering support. Seventy-five years after the Holocaust, time is of the essence for survivors and their families living in the UK and elsewhere, to receive a small measure of justice.”
“This is a powerful statement of Britain’s commitment to supporting Holocaust survivors and their families in their quest for justice,” said Marie van der Zyl, President, Board of Deputies of British Jews. “The United Kingdom has long played a leadership role working with international partners to encourage the full implementation of the Terezin Declaration. By asking the question about Holocaust-era property restitution in the House of Lords, Baroness Ruth Deech has helped raise awareness on this issue.”
Baronss Ruth Deech asked the oral question: “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made toward fulfilling their commitments as a party to the Terezin Declaration of 30 June 2009; and what discussions they have had with the government of Poland about the restitution of property seized from Polish Jewish citizens during the period of Nazi occupation?”
Baroness Deech cited the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, in which the United Kingdom and 46 other countries affirmed the importance of restitution of Holocaust-era property.
In addition to questions posed by Baroness Deech, nine other members of the House of Lord across parties spoke on the issue.
Lord Pickles, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, said “[Shortly], we should see the publication of the United States Government’s response to Congress on the [The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today] JUST Act, focusing on compliance with the Terezin Declaration. Will my noble friend pledge that we will work alongside our allies in the United Sates and Poland to see that justice is brought to the families of Holocaust victims whose property was confiscated by the Nazis?”
Lord Ahmad affirmed that the British Government would work with the US Government after the release of the JUST Act report: “We continue to ensure that Poland stands up as a signatory of the Terezin Declaration. We will work with the US. Noble Lords have mentioned the JUST Act. We will look at its outcomes and work closely with our partners.”
Poland was the home to the largest European Jewish community before the outbreak of World War II – approximately 3.3 million lived there – only 10% survived.
WJRO represents world Jewry in pursuing claims for the recovery of Jewish properties in Europe (outside of Germany and Austria). WJRO was established by leading world Jewish organizations to address the restitution of Jewish property and to remind the world that the time has come to redress the enormous material wrongs caused to European Jewry during the Holocaust.