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Rubio, Baldwin Lead 86 Senators in Calling on Secretary Pompeo to Urge Poland to Support Restitution for Holocaust Victims and Their Families
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) today led 86 bipartisan Senators in calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to urge Poland to take action to secure compensation for, or the return of, property that was wrongfully seized by the Nazis and subsequently nationalized by the Communists.
Senators Rubio and Baldwin also co-authored the bipartisan JUST Act, which was signed into law last year, and would improve efforts assisting Holocaust survivors and the families of Holocaust victims by requiring the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries on the return of—or restitution for—wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets.
“The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) welcomes the resounding call by 88 Senators – led by Senators Baldwin and Rubio — for Poland to restitute property to Holocaust victims and their families,” said Gideon Taylor, Chair of Operations, World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO). “Time is of the essence. With fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors alive today, Poland must urgently address this historic wrong.”
“This letter demonstrates that the United States Congress has not forgotten about Holocaust survivors and remains steadfast in pursuing justice for them,” said Eric Gallagher, WJRO Washington Representative. “Senators Baldwin and Rubio are tireless champions for the rights of survivors and we cannot thank them enough for their bold leadership.”
“My family and I are grateful to Senators Tammy Baldwin and Marco Rubio, and the other Senators for calling for justice for me and other Holocaust survivors,” said Nate Taffel, 91, a Holocaust survivor living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “My family’s home in Radomy?l Wielki, Poland was wrongfully taken from us during the Holocaust, and it would mean so much to me to have Poland finally correct this terrible injustice.”
“I lost my entire family in the Holocaust and I survived the Warsaw ghetto. I still have the deeds to two properties in Warsaw. Poland should be more responsive to thousands of Holocaust survivors who are seeking justice for property that was stolen from them,” said Norman Trysk-Frajman, 89, a Holocaust survivor living in Boynton Beach, Florida. “I want to personally thank Senators Tammy Baldwin and Marco Rubio, and all the other Senators for making property restitution in Poland a priority.”
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Mr. Secretary,
The United States and Poland have a strong relationship dating back to the American Revolutionary War that continues today through our NATO partnership. Our alliance is not only based on shared interests, but also the deep affinity between our peoples, who aspire to common ideals. One of those ideals, respect for private property rights, is foundational to the success of democracies.
That is why we were heartened by your public statement in Warsaw in February calling on Poland to take appropriate steps to restitute private property belonging to Holocaust victims, their families and others from whom it was confiscated during the Communist era. Prime Minister Morawiecki’s response to your comments, in which he said that Poland has “resolved” this issue, was deeply troubling. As you know, the issue has not been resolved~ nor will it go away.
Now is the time, while the last Holocaust survivors are still alive, to back up our words with meaningful action. We encourage you to pursue bold initiatives to help Poland to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.
Poland suffered greatly during the Second World War, and its Jewish population was singled out by the Nazis for extermination. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, approximately 3 million Jews – 90% of Poland’s prewar Jewish population -were murdered by the Nazis. An estimated 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians were killed by the Nazis as well. It was the Nazi regime and its allies and collaborators – not Poland- that systematically confiscated Jewish property during the Second World War.
After the war, the Communist regime in Poland nationalized property owned by Jews and nonJews. In the decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Jewish Holocaust survivors of Polish origin and their families as well as others have found it nearly impossible to reclaim or seek compensation for the property that was nationalized by the Polish Communist regime. In fact, Poland is the only country in the European Union that has not passed a comprehensive law for the restitution of or compensation for private property, despite in 2009, endorsing the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets along with the United States and 45 other nations which among other things encouraged states to pass national legislation that facilitates restitution “in a fair, comprehensive and nondiscriminatory manner.”
Seventy-four years after the end of the Second World War, the remaining Holocaust survivors are aging and cannot wait any longer for justice. That is why 59 US Senators wrote to the Prime Minister of Poland in March 2018 urging the passage of legislation that would meet the Terezin Declaration’s standards by creating a claims process conducted “in a fair, comprehensive and non-discriminatory manner.” It is also why Congress in May 2018 U!J.animously passed the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, which aims to hold countries accountable for fulfilling their promises to Holocaust survivors.
While these actions were important reminders that Americans have not forgotten about this issue, Poland has not yet fulfilled its promises to Holocaust survivors and others from whom property was confiscated and time is running out.
As staunch supporters of the US-Poland relationship, we are writing to urge you to act boldly and with urgency to help Poland resolve this issue comprehensively, and in the context of strengthening the bilateral relationship between our countries.