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Thousands of Polish nationalists protested against offering restitution to Jewish Holocaust survivors and their heirs.
From Poland’s Prime Minister’s office to the U.S. embassy in Warsaw, thousands of far-right supporters marched, rejecting the U.S.-imposed law which demands restitution of Jewish property, confiscated during or post World War II.
Carrying placards with slogans including “Poland has no obligations” and “Holocaust hyenas,” demonstrators accused the U.S. of prioritizing “Jewish interests” over Poland’s.
Poland was home to one of the world’s biggest Jewish communities before it was almost entirely wiped out by Nazi German occupiers who set up death camps such as Auschwitz on Polish soil.
Nationalists argue that as victims of German occupancy, they should not be expected to offer compensation when the country itself has never received any.
Former owners and their descendants have been campaigning since the 1989 Polish Revolution to be compensated for lost property, which was seized by the state but successive Polish administrations have lacked the money or determination to resolve the issue.
Twenty-two-year-old protester, Kamil Wencwel, said, “Why should we have to pay money today when nobody gives us anything? Americans only think about Jewish and not Polish interests."
Per the 2017 Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, the United States assumed the role of watchdog to ensure that the 47 European signatories of the 2009 Terezin Declaration, are making progress and offering compensation to Holocaust survivors and their heirs. However, the JUST Act only allows for U.S. officials to report back to Congress on international progress and not to enforce any actual means of compensation.
The so-called Terezin declaration also includes provisions to give formerly Jewish-owned property with no heirs to Holocaust survivors in need of financial help or to support education on the subject.
“There is no such law in the world that would sanction (restitution of heirless property) and the Americans want to force us to pay those damages which are simply illegitimate,” said Adam Jureczek, a driver from the south-western region of Silesia.
Many protesters have pointed out the U.S.’s blatant demonstration of double-standards, forcing other countries to make restitution to minority groups, while ignoring their own African and Native American communities.