A law in Poland defining a statute of limitations grows tensions with Israel regarding the Holocaust.
On June 24, the Sejm, Poland’s lower house of parliament, passed an amendment of the Code of Administrative Procedure. It would set a time limit between 10 and 30 years to claim invalidity of administrative decisions, following a Constitutional Tribunal ruling from 2015.
If passed by the Senate, challenging a decision issued by public authorities won’t be possible indefinitely.
But this legislation sparked harsh criticism from Israel. In effect, it considers it would remove the possibility for its population to claim restoration or seek compensation for property and land seized during the Holocaust or nationalized during Poland’s communist era. The amended rules would indeed set restitution claims with a time limit. It would therefore exclude the Holocaust period and anything that happened before the 1990s.
The Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jair Lapid, qualified the Polish law as a “horrific injustice and disgrace that harms the rights of Holocaust survivors, their heirs, and members of the Jewish communities that existed in Poland for hundreds of years“. It warned that it would “harm relations between the two countries“. The United States also considered the vote was “a step in the wrong direction” and “urge(d) Poland not to move this legislation forward“.
Dispute about the interpretation of the Holocaust
But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland issued a statement stipulating it would not limit the “possibility of filing a civil motion with the aim of receiving damages“.
Poland has not passed a comprehensive legislation to tackle the restitution of property confiscated by the Nazis. Poland, home to almost 3 million Jews before WWII, considers itself as a victim of the war and that any compensation should entirely be directed at Germany. “Poland bears no responsibility for the Holocaust, which was a crime committed by the German occupiers against Polish citizens of Jewish nationality and others“, repeated the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2018, Warsaw had passed a law in that direction, making it illegal to accuse or infer complicity of the Polish nation with the Nazi war crimes.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki subsequently said that “as long as I am the prime minister, Poland will certainly not pay for German crimes“. But Israel, which also stresses the fact that Jewish property was used during Poland’s communist years, responded that “we are not interested in Polish money […]. We are fighting for the memory of Holocaust victims“.
In 2019, Poland’s Prime Minister had cancelled a visit to Israel after tensions over the interpretation of the role of Poland in the Holocaust.
- FM Lapid’s response to the parliamentary discussion of Poland’s Law, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affaires, Free access
- MFA statement on amended Code of Administrative Procedure, Government of Poland, June 2021, Free access