Poland cancels Israeli delegation’s trip over Holocaust property restitution issue

Poland said it had cancelled a visit by Israeli officials who intended to raise the issue of the restitution of Jewish properties seized during the Holocaust, a matter Warsaw insists is closed.

“Poland decided to cancel the visit of Israeli officials after the Israeli side made last minute changes in the composition of the delegation suggesting that the talks would primarily focus on the issues related to property restitution,” the foreign ministry in Warsaw said in a statement.

It said the delegation, headed by Avi Cohen-Scali, the director general of the Israeli Social Equality Ministry, had been due in Warsaw.

In a statement announcing the delegation’s visit, the Social Equality Ministry had said it was spearheading efforts to “widen the circle of those who receive restitution,” including promoting legislation to that effect in “additional countries.” It noted especially a bid to promote recognition of Romanian Holocaust victims by Germany and Romania.

In the statement, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel commended the Polish government for “its firm stance in the face of voices of antisemitic protest,” while warning that time was “running out” on the effort to restore Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust.

Jewish organisations, particularly the World Jewish Restitution Organisation, have been seeking compensation for Holocaust survivors and their families, consider compensation a matter of justice for a population that was subjected to genocide.

Poland is the only European Union country that has not passed laws regulating the compensation of looted or national property, and the head of the WJRO, Gideon Taylor, noted on Saturday that such property “continues to benefit the Polish economy.”

Pre-war Poland was a Jewish heartland, with a centuries-old community numbering some 3.2 million, or around 10 percent of the country’s population at the time. Most Polish Jews were murdered in massacres or concentration camps.

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