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Holocaust restitution body slams Poland for ‘unfulfilled commitments’

(JTA) — The World Jewish Restitution Organization urged Poland to honor its “unfulfilled commitments” to advance the compensation of Holocaust survivors for seized property.

“After repeated, unfulfilled commitments to pass a restitution bill over the years, the officials of your government recently claimed that such a law is unnecessary,” the organization’s secretary, Colette Avital, wrote in an open letter this month to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski ahead of his visit to Israel on Monday.

Israeli President Shimon Peres hosted an official state welcome ceremony on Monday morning for Komorowski, where he thanked the Polish president “for your support for Israel and your clear stance on the Iranian issue and Israel’s right to security.”

“Removing the Iranian threat is important to Israel but also to the entire world, ideally through economic sanctions. The sanctions have had an impact and there is value in continuing them.”

Peres was scheduled to escort Komorowski to Yad Vashem later in the day.

In her open letter, which was published Friday in The Jerusalem Post, Avital added that “tens of thousands of owners in Israel and around the world and heirs of victims who were owners of real property in Poland continue to be left without what is theirs” more than 70 years after the Nazis and their allies decimated Poland’s Jewish population of 3.5 million during the Holocaust.

Poland is among a handful of former Soviet countries without a law to regulate the restitution of property robbed by the Nazis. Much of the property is real estate that became the Polish government’s during the communist era. Polish municipalities have, however, transferred some property to Polish Jewish communities.

David Peleg, the director of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, has estimated the value of heirless Jewish property in Poland alone at billions of dollars.

In 2009, Poland was among 46 nations that co-signed a declaration that heirless Jewish property should be used to aid needy Holocaust survivors.

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