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Ambassador to Israel argues Poland’s case amid tension over new bill

29.06.2021 12:50
A Polish ambassador has said a bill adopted by deputies in Warsaw that has sparked tensions with Israel will put an end to “wild reprivatisation,” uncertainty and the prospect of eviction for families who legally acquired their homes.
Polands ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski.
Poland’s ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski. Photo: PAP/Mateusz Marek

Poland's lower house of parliament last week backed a bill that would bring in a statute of limitations on claims for the restitution of property, a move criticised as a "disgrace" by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Critics in Israel have said the bill will make it more difficult for Jews to recover property seized by Poland’s Nazi German occupiers in World War II and then kept by the Polish post-war communist authorities.

Poland’s ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski, has responded with a series of English-language posts on Twitter. Here is his case:


“Imagine a house in Warsaw. Burnt out and abandoned in 1945. Before the German occupation six families had lived in this place. One of them was Jewish. Some tenants perished, some were deported to concentration camps, some others fled the persecution.

Shortly after the war the house was nationalised by communists. Two new families moved in. Then three more. Some of them had lost their own property in eastern Poland, now part of the Soviet Union. And never received compensation.

Births, weddings, funerals. Precarious lives under communist dictatorship. Generation after generation.

Then comes freedom. In 1990 local authorities offer the remaining occupants a deal: you can purchase your flats, at a reasonable price. Most eagerly agree. New sewage system is installed. Roof mended, windows replaced, furniture updated.

Then comes a surprise. In 2005 a law firm representing prewar proprietors suddenly pops up. They demand for the premises to be vacated and returned to the legitimate owners.

Lots of similar claims – predominantly in Warsaw. Some of them straightforward and transparent. But many others dubious, to say the least. Some ownership certificates are missing, some documents are forged. Fertile ground for egregious real estate scams.

The so-called “wild reprivatisation” leads to utter chaos. Mafia-like entities control large part of the real estate market. Organised white-collar crime thrives.

After 45 years of communist rule, and more than 30 years since democratic transition, people who had never had anything to do with the war and the Holocaust, now face eviction from the properties they had legally acquired and invested in.

They live in fear and insecurity. Hundreds of pending cases and hundreds of families who do not know whether the apartment or the house they live in is actually theirs.

In 2015 the Polish Constitutional Tribunal issued a ruling which basically put an end to these predatory practices. Now it is being implemented in the Polish Code of Administrative Procedure. A 30-year, non-discriminatory statute of limitations has been imposed… the longest possible according to Polish legal system. The administrative procedures will be terminated. Nevertheless all interested parties will still be entitled to file civil suits and obtain compensation, in a fair procedure before the court of law.”