Dziennik: Interview with the former Israeli Ambassador to Poland Shevah Weiss

The Polish daily “Dziennik Gazeta Prawna” published yesterday an interview with Shevah Weiss, former ambassador of Israel to Poland. Weiss condemned demands of US Jewish groups lobbying for restitution of the so called “heirless” property and he proposed to issue state bonds instead.

In our opinion, the Ambassador forgets that Poland has already returned numerous Jewish real estate objects to their owners, frequently at the market value and notwithstanding the fact that some of them were burdened with mortgage before the war, that they were destroyed by Germans during the war and rebuilt by Poles after the war. Poland returned also communal property pursuant to the 1997 law on the relationship between the Polish State and Jewish religious organizations. Over 2,500 communal properties, including synagogues, cemeteries and cultural centers, have been either compensated for or returned, some of them despite the missing proof of ownership. The payments from Germany to Israel on the basis of the Luxemburger Agreement (1952) are also missing in this equation.

We publish an excerpt from “Dziennik”. You can read the full interview here.


Dziennik: Or maybe it’s not about the law, maybe it’s a pre-election game in Israel?

Sz. Weiss: This case has nothing to do with the election. Prime Minister Netanyahu has problems with various accusations, but his party leads in polls. And his party is not supported by Jews from Poland, but by religious Jews, or Jews from the Orient and their descendants, those from North Africa. For them, the Polish issue is marginal.

Maybe it’s about reprivatization?

Reprivatization must be carried out in Poland anyway, you know it. You can see how much trouble it brings here, in Warsaw. And do not be surprised that it stirs attention among Jews. One principle should be introduced here – it is forbidden that one wrong is compensated for by another wrong.

Meaning?

Many Poles live in post-Jewish apartments. And I am not talking about those who robbed the flats however, there were also such cases, but about all of them. These apartments after the expulsion and murder of Jews were taken over by the Germans, then – and rightly so – by the Polish government, and now the Poles who bought them live in them.

And what to do with this problem?

Poland, being a victim of the Germans – I do not say Nazis or Hitler supporters, but Germans – cannot give them back. This is obvious. Poland cannot destroy its economy, it would only trigger a great wave of anti-Semitism. But somehow, Poland has to take care of this.

How to do it?

When I was an ambassador, I had a plan to give those Jewish heirs, who are still alive, some compensation, maybe 20 percent of the value. They are huge sums, anyway. Therefore, it would be advisable to offer the bonds to those heirs and they could use it to invest in Poland.

But what to do with the Jewish “heirless” properties? American Jewish organizations are demanding the return of these properties.

Nobody will agree to it. Sometime ago, I proposed to accept, as a compensation, a certain amount  of money that would be spent on public benefit projects: schools, museums, places of culture, also scholarships, to commemorate the common Polish-Jewish history.

And what happened to this idea?

It was not accepted and I stopped being an ambassador.