Poland cancels Israeli visit amid Holocaust restitution row | News | DW | 13.05.2019
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Poland cancels Israeli visit amid Holocaust restitution row

Poland has called off a visit by Israeli officials, claiming they were seeking to force talks on the restitution of Jewish property seized during World War II.

Thousands of Polish nationalists march to the U.S. Embassy (picture-alliance/AP Photo/C. Sokolowski)

The issue of property restitution has become an emotive one ahead of European elections

The Polish Foreign Ministry on Monday said it had scrapped the planned visit of an Israeli delegation at short notice, claiming the officials were trying to force through talks on restitution.

The issue of former Jewish property — in particular in light of a new US law on the matter — has emerged as an emotive issue ahead of European elections later this month.

"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 said in a statement.  

Thousands of nationalists marched in the Polish capital on Saturday, railing against a US law on the restitution of property seized in World War II.

Under the US Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act — also known as the 447 law — the US State Department must report to Congress on how countries have progressed on the restitution of Jewish assets seized during and after the war.

Poland dismisses legal importance

Before World War II, Poland's Jewish population numbered more than 3 million people, or about 10% of the country's population. 

Poland's ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, as well as the centrist and liberal opposition, have sought to downplay the importance of the law.

Read more: Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski renews call for German WWII reparations

Nazi Germany occupied Poland during World War II and inflicted heavy material losses on the country. Poland argues that it should not be expected to compensate Jewish victims when it has never been adequately compensated by Germany.

Watch video 04:45

Anti-Semitism on the rise in Poland

Poland is the only country in the European Union that has not passed laws on the compensation or restitution of property that was lost because of both the war and communism. Successive Polish governments have said they cannot afford to do compensate the victims.

A restitution package was being prepared by the Polish government, but this was suspended in 2011 as the country grappled with an economic downturn in the wake of the financial crisis.

rc/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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