By adopting the Senate’s goofy bill S-447, the House of Representatives tried to kill three birds with one stone. They violated US inheritance law, they tried to violate other (European) countries’ inheritance law, and they violated international law as well.
Silence is golden. Is it?
The ancient Romans used to put everything into smart proverbs. Their language, Latin, was the language of farmers, people who work hard and speak little. Speech is silver, they said, but silence is golden.
Pax latina was an instrumental tool, enticing completely remote nations to gladly join the Empire. Sometimes they resisted; sometimes they didn’t. One could ask why they surrendered so easily. Roman law and Roman citizenship meant a new type of relationship between people.
Individual people owned property. They could sell it, will it, give it away, and inherit. They could deal with it in any way they deemed correct or advantageous. The entire world legal order is founded on this principle.
Successors could inherit property. They were chosen by the right of “blood succession”ior by the owner’s free will. As in Rome, the same mechanism transpires in modern states today.
What happened in the US House of Representatives on April 24, 2018?
By adopting the Senate’s goofy bill S-447, our legislators in the House of Representatives tried to kill three birds with one stone. They violated US inheritance law, they tried to violate other (European) countries’ inheritance law, and they violated international law as well.
Property of a legal entity, a person or an organization, can be transferred under particular circumstances. When the rights of blood succession are satisfied or when the property is condemned, confiscated, or willed, it may change hands. The successors of the owners inherit the property from the owners who died and left the property.
What happens when someone dies without successors? It is very simple and straightforward – the property goes to the state. The state is the ultimate successor of heirless property.
On April 24, 2018 only 92 out of 435 members of the House were present. The House Speaker designated the Honorable Bruce Poliquin to act as Speaker pro tempore for the day and to take over. Ms. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Congresswoman from Florida, noticed the “underrepresentation” of the lawmakers. The Speaker ordered recess. When the lawmakers returned, they emphasized the need to compensate the Jewish (only) survivors of the holocaust. This law “forgot” the victims of other religions, like Protestants, Catholics, gypsies, or atheists. Nobody would question inheritance by legal successors, but why by non-related organizations? Why should Latvia pay for holocaust education in the USA? They should do it in Latvia. Why should Poland pay American Jews from Germany or Russia for property previously owned by deceased Polish Jews, for their heirless property? Will America compensate Poland for the property left in Manhattan by General Tadeusz Kościuszko, hero of the American War of Independence, the father of West Point? The property – half of Manhattan – was donated to him by the US Congress. Should the Pułaski family claim benefits for the death of General Kazimierz Pułaski, killed in the Battle of Savannah, father of the US Cavalry?
Can friends or other nationals, organizations, maybe ethnic or religious groups inherit such heirless property? Not in the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom of Great Britain, France, or Germany. Not in most other countries. Only some countries recognize tribal law.
Should Apaches inherit lands that were owned by the Nations signing the famous Fort Laramie Treatyii signed into law on April 29, 1868? Maybe it should happen on the 150th anniversary of this act authored by the hero of Atlanta, General WiIliam T. Sherman. Apaches profess the same religion; they are also American Indians. The genocide actually happened to Apaches as well as to Oglala, Miniconju, Lakota, Yanctonai, and Arapaho.
How should the First Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1851 be treated? Should we add other “vanished” tribes, like Cheyenne, Crow, Assiniboine, Aricara, Haidatsa, Mandan? The territory at stake includes the modern areas of Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota. It is a very large portion of the United States. Should we return the land to those tribes of American Indians and remove all settlements, cities, businesses, improvements?
The law just passed by the US Congress allows the actions described above. Should American religious organizations and people inherit the heirless property of those of similar religions in Europe?
Is it acceptable or legal to pass a law with only 92 members (21%) of the US Congress voting? Can we superimpose our laws upon another country? Should our alliances remain stable? What steps should we take when humiliated by another state – by their refusal to obey our law?
American Jewish restitution organizations have claimed over $300 billion from Poland. Do our lawmakers think that any Polish government would give one half of the entire Polish economy to those religious organizations? Do our lawmakers know how easy it is to reclaim property in Poland by means of rightful inheritance? Do our lawmakers know anything about losing 11 million out of a 35 million-strong nation (one-third of an entire population)?iii
How about our country’s security when we betray our allies? Are we reshaping the NATO alliance, or are we ready to abandon it? Are we ready to derail the Three-Seas-Concept? Are our lawmakers derailing President Trump’s foreign policy goals?
Silence is Golden
Should we stay silent, or should we raise our voices? Today’s events turn with thunderous speed. It is time to make decisions – smart ones. The time for corrections has passed, and it is difficult to turn back events.
For example, Poland paid $40 million to the US government for the claims of US citizens who owned or inherited properties seized after 1945. How was this money distributed? In the spirit of the Terezin Declaration (signed by US representative Stuart Eizenstat), we should have resolved the issue. Have we? Are there any records? In the spirit of the Declaration, Poland transferred to nine Jewish religious communities in Poland and one in New York properties estimated at $8 billion as restitution and for sustaining Jewish cultural, religious, and social traditions. Are there any records showing how this money was used? Probably not since Polish nationals are the ones who established a foundation to repair and maintain the old Jewish cemetery in Warsaw. It was funded with $120 million from the Polish government when the nearby old Catholic cemetery is decaying with no funds available.
The ball is in the court of the White House. The President needs the votes of Polish-Americans as well as other Central European descendants. How is he going to convince them since he didn’t fulfill the promises he made during the last presidential campaign? Where are the Polish-Americans in the White House? Has he heeded their opinions as he promised? Is he going to continue what he promised to the cheering crowds of thousands in Warsaw’s old square? Is he the same Donald Trump we elected in 2016?
Is President Trump going to veto this goofy law?
Chris M. Zawitkowski, Chairman, Polonia Institute,
Washington, DC; April 29, 2018
i In a movie „The Adventures of Robin Hood”, when the bishop of Black Cannon asked John the Lacklland for his rights to the Throne of England, the later responded “by the right of blood succession”.