We have read with great care in Poland the letter of 88 Senators from August 5, 2019 to Michael Pompeo as well as the "Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017". The letter refers to common ideals, including the right to private property. These are also our ideals.
The Act of 2017 provides for the support of the American administration in the efforts to return to its rightful owners - victims of the Holocaust all property that has been unlawfully taken away. If the return of property in nature would not be possible, the US administration should support the efforts to return the compensation to the rightful owner.
Who is responsible in the case? The German state is solely responsible for the Holocaust. Endlösung der Judenfrage was a German plan for an unprecedented extermination of Jews. Before World War II, Poland was the largest concentration of Jews in Europe. That is why the Germans established the most death camps in its areas. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. England and France - contrary to the treaties - did not provide Poland with military assistance. On September 17, 1939, the USSR acted as an aggressor. In occupied Poland there were no collaborative governments. The Polish underground state was the largest in occupied Europe. In accordance with art. 43 of the Hague Convention of 1907. the German occupation authorities were responsible for maintaining order in the occupied territories.
Movable and immovable property of Polish citizens of Jewish descent was plundered by the Nazi German state. In addition, some of the property was absorbed by war damage as a result of the war initiated by Germany. Warsaw, the capital of Poland, was completely destroyed by the Germans. House by house. It was a punishment for the uprising.
Post-war law in Poland introduced a universal rule for the acquisition by the Treasury of the so-called abandoned property. It was a property, which in connection with the war started on September 1, 1939. was not at his owner's disposal. It was also a property confiscated by the German occupation authorities. The abandoned properties were Polish and Jewish. However, the law guaranteed the owner, specific relative, the spouse of the owner the restoration of possession of abandoned property, and after 10 years the acquisition of his property by prescription.
Communist governments in Poland nationalized certain categories of private property. Nevertheless, it was not directed against some nationality, but against all disposers of certain goods. Regardless of their origin. There are therefore no contact points between the Holocaust and the nationalization of property in communist Poland.
It is a fact that a comprehensive law on reprivatization claims of all victims has not been passed in Poland after 1989. However there were exceptions. The agreement between the Polish Government and the US Government, signed in Washington on July 16, 1960, assumed that Poland would pay $ 40 million "for the full settlement and satisfaction of all claims of US citizens, both natural and legal persons, to the Polish Government for nationalization and other acquisitions of property (...)." Under the above mentioned act of international law, Poland has paid US citizens compensation for nationalization.
In addition, Polish civil law allows raising private recovery claims (rei vindicatio) regarding real estate without any time limits. In the event of claims for damages against the State Treasury, the court may not accept the prescription of limitation.
The possible reprivatization law in Poland should apply to all those injured by nationalization, without favoring any group of persons.
However, we do not understand in Poland the financial expectations of people who are not the owners of property (or their legal successors) towards Poland.
There is no legal or moral reason for Poland to pay any sums to Jewish organizations to support the victims of the German Holocaust (who are not Polish citizens), Holocaust education or "for other purposes."
The nationalization of private property in communist Poland (carried out by many countries in history) is a sin. However, not comparable to the Holocaust of Nazi Germany. The Slavs (among them the Poles) were another goal of German extermination plans.
Poland was the first country to fight against the Third Reich, and came out of World War II with enormous losses of population, territoriality, and enormous war damage. For decades, it lost its sovereignty, left with the consent of the US (under the Yalta agreements) under the Soviet sphere of influence.
Holocaust victims were Polish citizens. Their murder was a measurable loss for the Polish state. Post-war Polish legislation provided for the State Treasury to take over the property of abandoned citizens, without owners, in accordance with all civilization standards.
Can tribal heritage be stronger than state relations? One should not forget about several hundred years of Jewish connections with the Polish lands. In the Middle Ages, as well as in later periods, Jewish diaspora expelled from Germany (1346), Hungary (1349-1526, 1686 - 1740), France (1394), Austria (1420), Spain (1494), Portugal (1497), Kiev (1886) and Moscow (1891) found asylum among Poles. The foundation of the freedoms of the Jewish community was the royal edict of Casimir the Great from 1334, who submitted Jewish communities to the direct jurisdiction of his royal courts. Poland was referred to as paradisus iudeorum ("Jewish paradise").
In the context of claims of American Jewish organizations, we in Poland say "we truly respect your pain after the victims of Extermination."
However, we remember about historical facts. German occupation regulation of 15.10.1941 stated that "Jews who without authorization leave the district designated for them are subject to the death penalty. The same punishment applies to persons who knowingly give hiding places to such Jews. Instigators and helpers are subject to the same punishment as the perpetrator. An attempted deed will be punished as an done act." For all Poles' help for Jewish fellow citizens, the Germans used the death penalty. It was a difficult choice. Despite this the number of people from Poland honored with the title of "Righteous Among the Nations" was 6992. Fact two. In 1939, the United States refused to accept on its territory the St. Louis ship with Jewish refugees on board. As a result, several hundred refugees who returned to Europe lost their lives in the Holocaust. The odyssey of Jewish refugees took place after the events of Kristallnacht on 9/10 November 1938, which was a clear signal as to the intentions of the Third Reich towards Jews. The St. Louis case closed the way to the US for other potential fugitives.
Good relations with the USA are undobtelly Polish raison d'etat. We in Poland believe that the ideals of American democracy are also valid in the dimension of foreign policy.
Dr hab. Rafał Adamus