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Poland’s new government vows action on restitution

NEW YORK, Feb. 9 (JTA) — Poland’s deputy prime minister has promised Jewish officials that the new Polish government would press forward on issues of restitution to the Jewish community. In meetings in Warsaw last week, Janus Tomaszewski, the new deputy prime minister and minister of interior, said the government would create a mechanism to cover the expenses related to the identification and restitution of such properties, according to Kalman Sultanik, vice president of the World Jewish Congress and a participant in the meetings. Before Poland elected a new government last year, Poland had agreed that a foundation representing current and former Polish Jews would have the authority to identify and determine the fate of communal Jewish property that had been confiscated during and after World War II. Sultanik, who also serves on the Auschwitz Museum Council and is president of the Federation of Polish Jews in the United States, also said Poland’s minister of art and culture said she is going to press the issue of extending a silent zone around the Auschwitz concentration camp to “maintain the dignity of the site.” The minister, Joanna Wnuk-Nazarowa, was “very sensitive to our issues,” Sultanik said. Jewish groups long have urged an extended zone to protect the site where hundreds of thousands of Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust. While construction over a disputed shopping mall complex near the site has been halted, the Auschwitz Museum Council is seeking a permanent agreement that any development in the area would be kept as far from the site as possible, Sultanik said.