Far-right protest in Poland against US Holocaust law
Far-right groups marched to the US embassy in Warsaw, chanting “no to claims” and “this is Poland, not Polin”, using the Hebrew word for Poland. They said Washington had no right to interfere in Polish affairs and that the legislation was putting “Jewish interests” ahead of those of Poland.
Rafal Pankowski of the anti-extremist group Never Again said the march was “probably the biggest openly anti-Jewish street demonstration in Europe in recent years”.
The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today Act, signed into law by Donald Trump last year, requires the State Department to report to Congress on the restitution of Jewish property taken during the Holocaust.
A couple wore matching T-shirts saying “Death to the enemies of the fatherland” and a man’s shirt said: “I will not apologize for Jedwabne”, in reference to the 1941 massacre of Jews by their Polish neighbours under Nazi occupation.
Protesters said it is not fair to ask Poland, which suffered heavily during the Second World War, to compensate Jewish victims while Warsaw had never received adequate compensation from Berlin.
Claims of compensation were abandoned under Soviet pressure because Moscow did not want tension between its puppet governments in communist Poland and East Germany.
Last year, the Polish senate passed legislation that criminalised accusing the Polish state of the crimes committed by the Germans during the Second World War. Many Polish properties were destroyed during the war or later nationalised by the communist government.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and the main opposition parties said the US law would have no impact on Poland.
Morawiecki told an election rally that it was Poles who deserved compensation.
“We will not allow any damages to be paid to anyone because it is us who should get damages,” Morawiecki told state-run PAP.
Countries covered by the US law are signatories to the Terezin Declaration at the 2009 Holocaust Era Assets Conference, which was signed by 46 countries, including Poland.
During a visit to Poland this week, the US State Department’s anti-Semitism envoy said the act would only require Warsaw report on compliance and it was the government’s decision on how to comply.
The European Shoah Legacy Institute said Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina were the only two European countries to have not established a “comprehensive private property restitution regime” for seized property.
Nationalists say the law could result in demands for compensation for Jewish property of billions of euros.
In 1939, Poland had around 3.5 million Jews, by far Europe’s largest.
Auschwitz in 1944. Picture credit: Wikimedia