Warsaw Municipality put out on Wednesday a list of 50 assets belonging to Jews, who were stolen from their owners either by Nazi or Communist forces during World War II. The municipality is asking the rightful owners to submit their claims sometime within the next six months, while Jewish organizations have been pressuring it to extend the deadline.
The 50-long list is the first out of a 2,613-item list of open property claim cases. The previous list did not include the names of the claimants. It was made public due to a law from September, 2016, saying that Holocaust survivors and their heirs have six months to appear and submit their claims anew from the moment the City of Warsaw will publicly mention the disputed property in local media. An additional three months were added for claimants to prove their rights to the property, before it will be transferred to the state or to the Warsaw Municipality.
It should be noted that the new law applies only in Warsaw and not the rest of Poland. Responding to the law, the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) a new Warsaw database, in an effort to help Holocaust survivors and their heirs identify old claims before the Polish government claims the property for itself.
"It's critical that authorities in Poland make every effort to identify and notify potential petitioners of the list's publication," Said WJRO Operations Committee Chairperson Gideon Taylor. "We call on Poland to extend the extremely short deadline. This isn't fair to the petitioner, particularly those living outside of Poland, who will lose the last chance to reconnect to their past due to the administrative complexity of this law."
Taylor added that Poland "is the only country in Europe not to legislate a national law to return private property from the time of the Holocaust. We demand that the Polish government immediately deal with this problem, so Holocaust survivors and their heirs, as well as Jewish and non-Jewish property owners, will be given a pittance of justice."
Many Holocaust survivors who had returned to Poland filed property claims after 1945, under a Communist decree that had nationalized all Jewish property in Warsaw. Most of these claims were rejected or never solved, and as a result many survivors and their families are not even aware that they can still file their claims.