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Poland reaches out to expelled Jews

Poland will ease the way for Jews to reclaim citizenship 40 years after the start of massive expulsions.

In a letter released Monday, Polish Interior Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said he would “order the implementation of the appropriate procedures today.”

Piotr Kadlcik, the president of the Union of Religious Jewish Communities in Poland, told JTA he had already received verbal confirmation that Schetyna endorsed the plan to re-naturalize Jews who fled between 1968 and 1970. Some 15,000 Polish Jews were deprived of their citizenship.

Historians today look upon the period as a vast anti-Semitic campaign borne of Soviet anti-Israel policies.

In fact, Kadlcik said, it has been agreed that these former Poles actually never legally lost their citizenship. Once the decision is formalized, Jews who fled Poland can go to a Polish consulate in their new home country and “reconfirm their citizenship” as if they had never lost it, he said.

The decision to repatriate Polish Jews follows recent stepped-up pressure by Kadlcik and Jewish advocacy groups in Poland. Golda Tencer, the head of Poland’s Shalom Foundation, recently told the Polish newspaper Dziennik that President Lech Kaczynski had not yet answered her request of last October.

Schetyna said the problem could have been solved by Kaczynski, but “he did not take that opportunity.”

Kadlcik said the policy would apply particularly to Polish Jews who went to Israel, “because those who went to other places had no problem getting back their citizenship” up to now. He added that he doesn’t think the number of applicants would be very big, but he felt “very good about it because it shows that we as a Polish Jewish community can have dialogue with the Polish government. It is important.”

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