Sen. Baldwin seeks restitution of Holocaust property in Poland

A letter signed by 88 U.S. senators, and promoted in particular by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, calls on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to push for the restitution of property for Holocaust victims in Poland.

The letter notes that survivors and their families have “found it nearly impossible” to reclaim or seek compensation for property nationalized in Poland after World War II. It urges restitution legislation in Poland.

The bipartisan Aug. 5, 2019 letter was spearheaded by two senators —Baldwin and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida. Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson also signed the letter.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin

“Now is the time, while the last Holocaust survivors are still alive, to back up our words with meaningful action.  We encourage you to pursue bold initiatives to help Poland to resolve this issue as quickly as possible,” wrote the senators in the letter.

Gideon Taylor, chair of operations at the World Jewish Restitution Organization, said that survivors of the Holocaust, Jews and non-Jews, “have waited too long for Poland to pass legislation to address property first taken by the Nazis and then nationalized by the Polish Communist regime.”

Taylor added that he is grateful to Baldwin and Rubio for “leading this effort.”

Nate Taffel, 91, a Milwaukee Holocaust survivor, also expressed gratitude to Baldwin, Rubio and the other senators.  “My family’s home in Radomyśl Wielki, Poland was wrongfully taken from us during the Holocaust,” he said, adding that it would mean a lot to correct the terrible injustice.

In February, Pompeo called on the Polish authorities to adopt a law allowing the restitution of private property taken away from Jews during the war.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki responded in an interview with the Polish Press Agency that expectations that “Poland should make amends for German crimes are based on a fundamental misunderstanding.”

At present, Polish law on restitution only deals with the property of pre-war Jewish communities, which is granted to the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland. Individuals can apply for property or compensation in private lawsuits.

President Donald Trump will visit Poland at the beginning of September to take part in the commemorations of the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.