On Monday, March 12, 2018 members of various Polish-American organizations will converge on Capitol Hill to engage in congressional outreach to express their views on pending legislation, bills S.447 and H.R.1226. Poland would be the country most affected by this legislation.
While return of stolen property to the Holocaust survivors is a worthy and just goal, it is inherently unjust to make Poland, country utterly devastated by World War II, and never for that devastation compensated, to be held accountable for actions of German perpetrators. Poland was one of the most ravaged countries during World War II. After the German invasion in September 1939 the Polish state seized to exist and its territory was either directly incorporated into German Reich or into a small colonial state called the General Government ran by a German administration. The German occupation was excessively harsh. It resulted in the 20 percent reduction from the pre-war population level for the Polish state as well economic losses that counted up to 16.9 billion dollars according to 1946 estimates. (Some statistics estimate it to be about 850 billion dollars today). On top of it Poland had to surrender almost half of its pre-war territory to the Soviet Union, which exerted its domination over the Polish state after World War II. For these enormous losses Poland was never compensated by its aggressors. In fact, six years of brutal German occupation were followed by forty five years of Soviet domination. When Poland regained its independence from Russia in 1989 it was economically years behind Western European countries, the gap that still has not been bridged.
Polish-Americans find it extremely unjust to see that Poland, one of the chief victims of the war, could be pressured into paying compensation to other victims of German genocidal policies during World War II. An attempt to compensate one group of survivors by taking advantage of another group of victims seems directly opposed to the American notion of justice. S. 447 that was passed by the Senate in December 2017 and its House companion bill H.R. 1226 subvert that notion. In addition to blaming the victims for actions of oppressors S. 447 and H.R 1226 contain legal issues such as an ill-defined reference to so called “heirless property” and legally unfounded demands of compensation or “restitution” of lawfully escheated property owned by Polish state.
We are also worried whether these bills will indeed provide direct compensation for the Holocaust survivors, or if they would be used to exert pressure on signatories of the Terezin Declaration on the Holocaust Era Assets to provide financial compensation or massive property give away, claimed to total 300 billion dollars, all of the above under the guise of so called “restitution”, to Jewish American and international Jewish private groups, which are in fact unrelated to the millions of Polish citizens of Jewish descent slaughtered by Germany, during WW II.
S. 447 and H.R. 1226 would affect all signatories of the Terezin Declaration, but it is Poland that would be hurt the most economically if these bills were enacted. Poland has been a steadfast and loyal ally of the United States in the last 25 years. Poland is the most pro-American country in Europe, country on which United States can count on to provide stability in the area between the Baltic and the Black Sea. We believe that passing this legislation United States would greatly hurt its image and interests throughout Eastern Europe.
Consequently, on March 12, 2018 Polish-Americans will encourage the lawmakers to refrain from any further action on S. 447 and H. R 1226.