The pressure to restitute pre-WWII Jewish property and the issue of compensations by Poland have resurfaced anew. This time in a form of a new, more powerful tools — Congressional Bills — that Jewish groups are pushing through the legislative machinery of the US Congress. The game is worth billions of dollars. Representatives of the Polish government make reassuring comments, but the Polish community in the USA asserts that this time the problem will not fade away.
On December 12, 2017, the American Senate unanimously passed the nonpartisan Bill no. 447, “Justice for uncompensated survivors today” (abbreviated “JUST”), authored by prominent Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin. The Bill gives the State Department the right to support Jewish organizations in their efforts to restore assets of Jewish proprietors who left no beneficiaries after World War II. The bill affects participants of the 2009 Terezin Declaration, signed by 47 countries including Poland (represented by Władysław Bartoszewski).
In principle, the return of Jewish property (whose owners were murdered along with all relatives who could make claims to them in the normal legal proceedings, thus affecting the vast majority of pre-war Jewish property) is intended to support the survivors of the Holocaust that are still alive. In practice, however, it may support organizations that have no connection with Poland or Polish Jews. Because “restitution” means the restoration of ownership of property that has the rightful owner, if the owner is not there, the restitution is impossible. This is what Jewish organizations are demanding, to be allowed to assume the role of beneficiaries.
What will Trump do?
The bill is waiting for a vote in the House of Representatives, and if it passes, it will need the signature of President Donald Trump. It is not clear, however, whether Congress will follow the Senate and pass it. (…)
The SR447 and HR1226 apply to all signatory States of the Terezin Declaration. If they pass and the President signs the final Bill, the State Department is to monitor how these countries fulfill the provisions of the declaration (which includes a non-binding list of actions for the Holocaust survivors in the area of property restitution) and draw up a report every year.
More (in Polish): weekly Sieci, 22-28.01.2018