President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill that will help Holocaust survivors to reclaim lost assets or property.
The measure, which was introduced last year into the Senate by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and in the House by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), requires the State Department to report to Congress efforts by European countries to compensate Holocaust survivors or their heirs for assets seized by the Nazis and later Communists.
The legislation capped intensive efforts by Jewish groups, including the World Jewish Restitution Organization, to take immediate action while Holocaust survivors are still alive.
“This is a powerful statement of America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Holocaust survivors in their quest for justice,” said WJRO Chair of Operations Gideon Taylor.
Enacting the legislation will enable Congress to ensure transparency and accountability for the 47 countries that support the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues.
Despite the Terezin act, many countries in Europe have not fully address the restitution of Jewish property and assets. Poland, which was home to 3.3 million Jews prior to the Holocaust, is the only country in Europe that has not passed legislation to compensate for owners of assets seized by the Nazis or Communists. Jewish claimants have been able to regain some lost property in Poland on a case-by-case basis. However, the process has been slow and riddled by corruption.
Nevertheless, Poland believes it is being unfairly targeted by the U.S. legislation, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz says he feels legislation is favoring Jewish claimants above non-Jewish ones.
“This position of the (U.S.) Congress is not good because it wants some privileges for the Jews, for the Jewish community, but not for the Poles. I think that the Poles who live in the U.S. may feel hurt by that,” Czaputowicz said in an interview last week with the Associated Press.
He added: “Their property here remains without any settlement, and nobody speaks on their behalf, only on the behalf of the Jews. That is not good because that divides our society.”
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