Poland keeps dodging Holocaust property restitution to Jews - opinion

Germany has not yet paid a third of the reparation agreement signed between Germany and Israel in 1952.

 GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER Annalena Baerbock and Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, hold a joint news conference in Tel Aviv, in February. (photo credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)
GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER Annalena Baerbock and Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, hold a joint news conference in Tel Aviv, in February.
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)

Poland demands reparations from Germany and offers Israel to join in, thus refraining from restituting Jewish property, and Germany still owes Israel a third of the 1952 reparations agreement. Poland, which intends to demand $1.3 trillion (NIS 4.4 t.) in reparations from Germany for the damage that Germany caused it during World War II, expects Israel to join its claim because a significant part of the murdered were Jewish Poles.

This indirect proposal is another Polish attempt to continue to evade the restitution of the remaining Jewish property in Poland. Jewish property in Poland was estimated at $3 billion (NIS 10.2 b.) in 1938 prices. About 49% of it, over a billion dollars (NIS 3.4 b.) at the prices of that time, is Jewish real estate property, such as land, residences, businesses and agricultural lands that have nothing to do with Germany, and that Poland should have restituted long ago.

Instead, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki responded to Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s rightful insistence that new Polish legislation would not jeopardize the chances of restitution by saying that he would not pay Polish Jews and their descendants, “not a zloty, not a euro, nor a dollar.” The Polish attempt at legislation that undermines the restitution of Jewish property has even caused diplomatic relations between Israel and Poland to freeze for a certain period.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (credit: FRANCOIS LENOIR / REUTERS)Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (credit: FRANCOIS LENOIR / REUTERS)

Why has Germany not paid a third of reparations?

As for Germany’s responsibility toward Israel, Germany has not yet paid a third of the reparation agreement signed between the two countries, in 1952. The agreement was signed with the West German government, which refused to pay for East Germany, so it was determined that it would bear about two-thirds of the total sum agreed upon, according to the ratio of the population and territory of each of the two Germanys at the time.

The missing third, as it is called, is estimated today to be at least $18 billion (NIS 61.3 b.), when updated according to interest on a 30-year US government bond. The new estimate was made by the American economist, Sydney Zabludoff, who has been employed by the White House, the US Treasury and the CIA.

With the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990, Germany was supposed to pay the missing third on its initiative, as part of all the debts of East Germany that it undertook to pay and, indeed, paid without exception. But in the context of the missing third, united Germany did not do so and did not pay its share. Germany waited for the Israeli government’s request on the subject. For some reason, the Israeli government did not appeal or claim the missing third from Germany to this very day.

This month, on the 70th anniversary of the signing of the reparation’s agreement, Prime Minister Yair Lapid will visit Germany for different purposes. It is appropriate that he takes advantage of the visit and demands the missing third, when he meets with his hosts.

It is important to mention that the missing third is part of an existing agreement between the two countries and chancellor Merkel, at the end of her term, said that the German government would seriously discuss any request from Israel on this issue. The advance waiver by the governments of Israel to the governments of united Germany for such a large sum is puzzling and does not pass the test of morality, law and common sense.

The writer served as a senior adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office for restitution of Jewish property and senior director of the Department for Restitution of Jewish Property in the Ministry of Senior Citizens (Social Equality). He is currently a researcher, and founder of the working group on Shoah restitution.