Fighting for justice

By fighting for my rights I have joined innumerable other rightful contenders who have been waiting for years.

By ALEXANDER ZVIELLI
July 26, 2016 21:30
4 minute read.
Krakow

Krakow.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Dr. Marja Kozlowska, a Polish lawyer from Krakow who recently paid another of her numerous visits to Israel, is known as a great friend of the Jewish people. Not only due to her intense professional efforts over the past 30 years to win back numerous Jewish properties in Poland for their rightful owners, but because of her sincere, deep sympathy for the Jews. They have suffered so much, she says, worked hard to rebuild their lives in Israel and have a sovereign right to their once lost and currently found Polish properties. A graduate of the Krakow and Warsaw universities, she is cherished by scores of her Jewish friends and clients in Poland, in Israel and abroad for whom she fought and still continues to fight with Polish courts for the restoration of their long abandoned properties.

I was introduced to Marja after almost a year of prolonged and vain efforts to find a Polish lawyer willing to represent me in the Krakow District Court, in what they considered was an almost lost cause. A number of Polish public defenders I had approached had shown an initial interest in my request, but quickly gave up after finding out how much trouble and uncertainty my case actually involved.

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About a year-and-a-half ago, I was informed by the Krakow District Court that I was sought to be registered in a property case, as one of the inheritors of my wife’s aunt’s three houses in Krakow, that I had had no idea ever existed.

I was also advised by the court’s delegate, who had located me with considerable difficulty, that the mere fact the court had sought me out and had me registered was hardly sufficient to secure my rights, and that I had better to find a good Polish lawyer, possibly in Krakow, to protect my interests. This wasn’t easy, and I was very lucky to be finally introduced to Marja, who had kindly agreed to take on and to conduct my case. I enumerated all these difficulties in an article published in The Jerusalem Post on May 12, 2015.

The problem of ownership rights regarding abandoned Jewish properties in Poland remains to this day very complicated. According to the text of the original Polish law, properties abandoned for over 30 years becomes property of the state. My luck was that there was another distant relative who knew about the properties and had applied for his rights, so that the Polish government, and in this instance the Krakow Municipality, were unable to take over the much-desired huge building at Mostowa 8 Street without a court decision.

The Krakow Municipality still desires to take over this large building in what was once the town’s Jewish Quarter, close to the Vistula River, and has became today one of the town’s most fascinating quarters, marked by hotels, cafes and restaurants.

The building, built by Chana and Aharon Lednitzer, had once contained a synagogue, which the Nazis had turned into a furniture workshop. It is still worth a fortune, and so the fight for possession continues.

It is now up to Marja, who had just won for another family another one of the Krakow’s Jewish buildings (unlike the Warsaw ghetto which was completely destroyed, Krakow’s buildings suffered no wartime destruction) to continue to fight for my rights. She does this under a heavy cloud of uncertainty, for Poland remains the only once Nazi-occupied country which has so far failed to provide proper legislation to secure the rights of Jewish former property owners.

Jewish observers say that the Polish Parliament fears an avalanche of property claims, which seems today, after 70 years, quite unlikely. Anyhow I am speaking in my case about an instance in which the owner was not only found and identified, but was sought by the court in the interest of justice. The introduction of proper legislation in similar cases would be most helpful to claimants and judges, and would be in the interest of justice.

I HAD long talks with Marja, and I admire her determination. Many Jewish families in Israel and America are grateful to her for her determination to see justice done. I wish her full success, for it is no longer a question of my own personal interest.

I was quite comfortable and looked for no extra income prior to this unexpected case developing, but today, as time goes by, I see it in a different light – as an issue of principle which deserves not only a solution, but wider public interest and attention.

By fighting for my rights I have joined innumerable other rightful contenders who have been waiting for years. It is up to the Polish government and people to safeguard the fundamental principles of tolerance, freedom, democracy and respect for ownership, to honor signed international obligations and to return proven Jewish property to its rightful owners.

I have also noted that in the many recent exchanges between Israel and the Polish government and various friendly institutions, in the present full and productive economic, cultural and even military cooperation between the two countries, the matter of the rights of the former Jewish property owners in Poland who live in Israel and abroad is hardly ever mentioned. It is never too late to seek and have justice done.


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