I am writing with regard to the article on Polish veteran benefits entitled ‘Holocaust survivors face crippling Polish bureaucracy’ that was published on your website on 20th of August (first appeared in Maariv’s online edition on August 19th, www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Holocaust-Survivors-face-crippling-Polish-bureaucracy-412537).
The author of the article, Mr. Yuval Bagano, presents a biased view of the procedure of awarding social benefits to Polish combatants and victims of German Nazi or Soviet oppression during World War Two and the post-war period (until 1956). In stark contrast to the opinion that Poland allegedly set up ‘peculiar demands unsubstantiated by Polish law’ for claimants residing inter alia in Israel, please be advised that the legal status of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust is the same as that of all other eligible persons.
The provisions under which Poland awards supplements to retirement pensions to certain categories of combatants and prisoners of German concentration camps have been in force since 1982. After the political transition process, in 1991, the Act on war veterans and certain victims of war and post-war oppression was passed, according to which benefits are – among others – due to:
a) Service in the Polish Army or in Polish military formations fighting alongside Allied armies during wartime operations conducted on all fronts by Poland;
b) Service in Polish underground formations and organisations, including in partisan detachments operating within the framework of those organisations;
c) Military service in Allied armies and also in Allied resistance movement organisations;
d) Service in Polish underground military formations or independence-orientated organisations on Polish State territory in its frontiers of before 1st September 1939 as well as in its post-war frontiers in the period from the entry of the army of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) to the end of 1956, if they were formations or organisations with the aim of upholding the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Poland;
e) Participation in the struggles of Polish Army units and militarised state services with detachments of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and Wehrwolf groupings;
f) Incarceration in German Nazi prisons, concentration camps and extermination centres;
g) Incarceration in other places of confinement whose conditions did not differ from those in concentration camps and the persons who were kept there remained at the disposal of the German Nazi security authorities;
h) Incarceration in other places of confinement in which the incarceration of children up to the age of 14 was of an exterminatory character and the persons kept there remained at the disposal of the German Nazi security authorities;
i) Incarceration due to reasons of nationality or race in ghettoes;
j) Incarceration in prisons or corrective labour camps or corrective labour colonies subordinate to the Supreme Board of NKVD Corrective Camps and Colonies (GULAG) and from March 1946 to the MVD of the USSR;
k) Forcible deportation to the USSR;
l) Incarceration in prison or other place of confinement on Polish territory on the strength of a sentence received in the years 1944-1956, on the basis of regulations issued by the Polish authorities by the common, military and special courts, or in the years 1944-1956 without sentence – for political or religious activities connected with the struggle for the sovereignty and independence of Poland;
m) Being taken away from parents for the purpose of extermination or the forcible change of nationality.
Eligible claimants are persons who hold Polish citizenship or held it while being subjected to oppression or while conducting combatant activities. They will not be awarded veteran benefits, however, it they fall under the so-called negative criteria such as: collaboration with the occupier, service in the German army, service in NKVD detachments or other Soviet formations fighting against Polish aspirations to freedom.
The Act was amended in March 2014. It exclusively relates to the technical aspect of money transfer (approximately €100) to the eligible beneficiaries living abroad, including in Israel. New principles of transferring combatant/oppressed person entitlements to persons residing in Israel came into force on 18th of April 2015 (up until that date beneficiaries had to have a bank account in Poland or authorize someone to receive payments in their stead). In accordance with the amendment, combatant/oppressed person benefits shall be paid out upon formal request of an eligible person. The form to apply for a combatant/oppressed person status is easily accessible on the website of the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression
(www.udskior.gov.pl/Forms,235.html#content) and is available in English and Polish. Contrary to the allusion made in the article, the procedure of awarding benefits to Holocaust survivors residing in Israel sets no specific, additional requirements, and is conducted in accordance with the Polish Code of Administrative Procedure (CAP). It is simply reasonable to expect claimants to prove they had been incarcerated or had otherwise suffered under German Nazi or Soviet regimes as Polish citizens. Therefore a picture showing one’s tattooed number does prove that fact of being a former concentration camp inmate, but unfortunately is no evidence of one’s citizenship. Poland pays its citizens (or those who suffered as Polish citizens) combatant/oppressed person benefits, but this can in no way be understood as paying compensation to all victims of World War Two. The Polish state cannot be expected to take upon itself the moral burden and the financial accountability for the oppressive policies of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and cannot be expected to redress the wrongs inflicted upon all victims of the said totalitarian regimes.
Also, with relation to the article at The Jerusalem Post’s website entitled ‘Restitution advocates criticize Polish policies as overly onerous’ (www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Restitution-advocates-criticize-Polish-policies-as-overly-onerous-412621, August 19th), I am bringing to your attention the fact that private property restitution has been continuously underway in Poland for over two decades now. Polish legal provisions are the same and non-discriminatory for all claimants irrespective of their ethnic or religious background. Any legal or natural person (or their heir) is entitled to recover prewar property unlawfully seized by either the German Nazi or the Soviet occupation authorities, or by the post-war Communist regime. Much has been achieved by means of agreements and bills including the ‘Eastern Borderland Act’ of 2005 which offers compensation for property left by Poland’s prewar citizens (Jews among them) in territories now beyond our frontiers. Since the establishment of the Reprivatisation Fund in 2001 Poland has paid out PLN 1.9 billion to natural or legal persons and an additional PLN 3.5 billion for the property beyond Bug river, today east of Poland.
Moreover, note that the issue of Jewish communal property in Poland has been settled through the 1997 Act on Relations between the State and Jewish Religious Communities in the Republic of Poland. Over PLN 28 million has been paid so far by the state to Jewish communities in compensation, and over PLN 57 million in damages. These amounts do not include hundreds of properties that were returned to the Jewish communities of Poland in kind.
I am confident that your intention was to publicize valuable texts that inform about veteran benefits available for Polish citizens and the process of property restitution in Poland. I trust that my explanatory letter will be published in full in The Jerusalem Post in the coming days, so that the precise information about veteran benefits reach as many potential claimants as possible.
Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in Tel Aviv
Questioning a policy
With regard to “High Court orders release of hunger-striker from administrative detention” (August 20), Israel would do well to restrict to a minimum its use of administrative detention.
The public should be able to assume that the evidence gathered by the security services and presented to the defense minister is quite sufficient to enable a trial for the accused. In addition, there is a serious danger that administrative detention over time would reduce the thoroughness of the security services and lead them to request this type of arrest, knowing they will not have to prove their evidence in court.
There is another danger. Israel has major troubles in the international arena, and the administrative detention of Islamic Jihad figure Muhammad Allan brought such a volume of criticism that it should convince the defense minister to avoid wherever possible using administrative detentions.
There are three major advantages in holding a trial: 1. The accused would be held in prison during the duration of the trial, which is likely to be longer than a period of administrative detention.
2. If the period of administrative detention is renewed, it only leads to international criticism.
3. The public would be assured that the security services were doing a thorough job in collecting concrete evidence, and not taking the easy way out. Their constant failure to arrest Jewish terrorists raises the question of how they are coping with their work load.
A Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike is sent to an already overcrowded hospital for force-feeding. Doctors refuse.
Now the High Court of Justice orders the prisoner’s release from administrative detention.
It is a joke. Why not release them all without the fuss, avoiding the creation of even more popular Palestinians.
Your article “UN to reportedly let Iran inspect its own nuclear sites” (August 20) mentions that some people are against this.
I don’t see why anyone would be against this. There are two good reasons to be in favor.
First, who but the Iranians would know exactly where to inspect to find violations of nuclear agreements? Their inspections would be much more efficient. Second, we might suspect them of trying to hide evidence from international inspectors, but they certainly would not try to fool their own people.
So right there we have two good reasons to favor the Iranians doing their own inspections.
Rehovot US Jews on deal
Just as Rabbi Stephen Wise failed his brethren during the Holocaust by agreeing to suppress information about the Nazi genocide and then refusing to support efforts to pressure the Roosevelt administration to rescue Jews, the Reform movement today cannot bring itself to support the six million Jews living in Israel by opposing the Iran appeasement/nuclear deal/ throw the Israelis under the bus (“US Reform movement: We can’t choose sides on Iran,” August 20).
It is critical that next time the Reform movement complains about any of our policies, religious or otherwise, we remind it of its historical lack of support when Jews outside the United States are threatened with destruction.
We can nicely say to Reform leaders: Don’t bother us, you have proven your loyalty to Roosevelt and Obama; our loyalty must be to the Jews in Israel.
I strongly object to your reporter’s comment at the end of “US Reform movement: We can’t choose sides on Iran,” that “the majority of American Jews polled have been supportive” of the Iran deal.
Only one survey, by the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, indicated this, and its methodology was impossibly flawed. The protocols of the survey considered any respondent a Jew who stated that there was someone they considered to be a Jew in the household. Also, the same number of calls were made to Iowa as to all of New York, seriously under-counting religious Jews.
All other such surveys have found the opposite – that more US Jews are against the deal than for it.
Modi’inLiberal Jews on deal
This week, 340 liberal American rabbis sent a letter to members of Congress indicating their support for the nuclear agreement with Iran, as well as their fears for the worst should the deal be rejected (“Elkin criticizes US rabbis for backing Iran deal,” August 19).
Based on past history, the letter was a very bad idea. Barely five years ago, in April 2010, a similar group of liberal rabbis sent a letter to Judge Richard Goldstone in fulsome praise of his report on the 2008-09 fighting in Gaza known as Operation Cast Lead, concluding that our army had probably committed war crimes. The language of their letter was shocking. I quote: “We are deeply saddened by the controversy around the report. We affirm your findings and believe you set up an impeccable standard that presents strong evidence that during the war in Gaza, Israel engaged in war crimes that revealed a pattern of continuous and systematic assault against Palestinian people and land that has very little to do with Israel’s claim of security.
Your report made clear the intentional targeting of civilian infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, agricultural properties, water and sewage treatment centers and civilians themselves with deadly weapons that are illegal when used in civilian centers.”
We all know that the following year, based on fuller knowledge of the facts, Judge Goldstone recanted and acknowledged that he would have written a different report. But I do not recall reading that those liberal rabbis ever admitted their mistake or apologized.
Now, they’ve done it again.
Knowing that the vast majority of American Jewish leadership opposes the Iran agreement, and having been so colossally wrong about the Goldstone Report, perhaps these 340 rabbis should have been more circumspect before they sent off their open letter. We have no reason to think they are more correct in their position on Iran than they were about Goldstone.
This time, the subject is one of life and death for us, so American Jewish leaders cannot afford to be so wrong so publicly.
Jerusalem The sordid truth
Your Reuters report “Russia sentences Estonian cop to15 years hard labor” (August 20) demonstrates that Russia still views the Baltic states as inseparable limbs of its imperial domain, as per the secret protocols enshrined in the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact consummated in August 1939. The immediate outcome of the pact was, of course, the outbreak of World War II and the Holocaust.
Lesson: Israeli politics and diplomacy must digest the sordid truth of such treacherous and perfidious acts of international conduct in history, which in this case felled six million Jews plus their potential progeny – numbering some 30 million additional souls, according to estimates by the esteemed demographer Prof. Sergio Della- Pergola.
Berlin A hard rain
In view of US President Barack Obama’s “herculean efforts to distinguish himself from his predecessor – President George W. Bush” and his desire to “opt for diplomacy over military means” at any cost and risk (“Obama, Netanyahu and Tuco,” Comment & Features, August 18), I am reminded of that famous utterance attributed to Louis XV (or perhaps to his mistress, Madame de Pompadour): Après moi, le déluge.