The BEST Guide to POLAND
Unanswered [5]  |  Archives [1] 
 
 
User: Guest

Home / History  % width posts: 24

Restitution Sought by US Holocaust Survivor Family of Expropriated Property in Zywiec, Poland


Lyzko 20 | 6,185    
13 Aug 2015  #1
Am only curious as to what some of our members think about the above. An American family of Jewish Holocaust survivors and their children are seeking restitution from the current Polish government for expropriated (and presumably "aryanized") properties during WW II in the city of -ywiec.

Apparently former President Komorowski and sitting Premier Kopacz have bluntly refused to sign off on any document granting such restitution to the survivor's family. They are nonetheless trying to get at least part of the stolen property back, in their words, "if nothing else, than for our grandchildren!"

Germany and Austria too have faced a similar slew of paperwork amid countless document requests from aging survivors for similar "Wiedergutmachung" or restitution from the governments of these two countries.
delphiandomine 85 | 17,704    
13 Aug 2015  #2
Am only curious as to what some of our members think about the above. An American family of Jewish Holocaust survivors and their children are seeking restitution from the current Polish government for expropriated (and presumably "aryanized") properties during WW II in the city of -ywiec.

I don't think the Polish government has any responsibility for the actions undertaken by Germany/Russia during WWII, to be honest.
OP Lyzko 20 | 6,185    
13 Aug 2015  #3
The issue, I believe, is that said property/properties (consisting of among other places, a single, free-standing apartment building) was, so to speak "re-inhabited" by, obviously, gentile Poles after the War, in all likelihood blissfully unaware of its history! The survivor and her family simply are looking for some sort of financial remuneration for the fact that the property was stolen (and technically, on Polish soil), but the theft was never even acknowledged by either the Polish or even the German governments until today.

It seems the present Polish government would tend to agree with you, Delphi, that Poland bears zero responsibility for any actions undertaken by occupying forces pre-1945:-)
delphiandomine 85 | 17,704    
13 Aug 2015  #4
I think the situation is such that you have to regard the date of Poland's "liberation" as being a kind of Polish Stunde Null - it's just not possible (given the huge devastation in Poland) to recognise what existed before that date. But I think if anything, they should be chasing the German government for the loss of the property.

It seems the present Polish government would tend to agree with you, Delphi, that Poland bears zero responsibility for any actions undertaken by occupying forces pre-1945:-)

It's just impossible for them to do so. The country ceased to exist to all practical extents on the 30th of September with the government resigning, and although the Poles might recognise the Government-in-Exile as being the legitimate government of Poland - the reality on the ground was that the country had ceased to exist. Certainly, the Poles cannot really take any responsibility for actions committed by an occupying power - especially as the modern day German government traces its own history back to the Weimar Republic and before. West Germany used to recognise (legally) Germany as existing within the borders of 1937 for instance - which lends further evidence to the legal theory that modern day Germany is the successor state of Nazi Germany.
OP Lyzko 20 | 6,185    
13 Aug 2015  #5
Thank you again, delphiandomine, for an interesting and thoughtful reply:-) Let's see now what others out there on PF think about this!

To be sure, the survivor and her family couldn't disagree with you more. The point could be argued from the point of view covering legal ethics of ANY reparation for injury, damage or theft:-)
TheOther 5 | 3,693    
14 Aug 2015  #6
if anything, they should be chasing the German government for the loss of the property.

I can't see why Germany would be legally responsible for the failure of the Soviets and the communist Polish government to return stolen real estate to the rightful owners after the war (provided that the property survived the destruction). Interestingly, even today many land records from the pre-WW2 era are locked up in Polish court archives and are not publicly available.
OP Lyzko 20 | 6,185    
14 Aug 2015  #7
@TheOther,

To the best of my knowledge, the petitioner's claim is with Poland, not Germany. The family contacted Ms. Kopacz and was politely, but firmly, rebuffed. I don't know if they also contacted the Merkel government. Something tells me they have not, nor would they, as the property in question is in Poland rather than in Germany or on the border area.
TheOther 5 | 3,693    
14 Aug 2015  #8
Lyszo, the problem is - once you compensate one group of previous owners (Jewish), you'll most likely have to compensate the other group (Germans) as well. Poland cannot allow that for obvious reasons. Polish authorities are paranoid when it comes to claims dating back to both pre-war and WW2 times.
OP Lyzko 20 | 6,185    
14 Aug 2015  #9
In theory, I'd have to concede your point! You do understand though, the wish for this family to gain some sort of closure. After all, it wasn't a "contract of sale"-type situation, whereby under "normal" circumstances the seller cedes to the buyer said goods, merchandise, property etc... This was the forcible expulsion vs. procedural "eviction" of tenant, NOT for violation of certain terms and conditions of a contract, e.g. lease or similar document etc., rather the wanton pillaging of property by an outside enemy from a group of persons (the Jews) whose legal status in occupied Poland already was tenuous, to say the least:-)
delphiandomine 85 | 17,704    
14 Aug 2015  #10
Lyszo, the problem is - once you compensate one group of previous owners (Jewish), you'll most likely have to compensate the other group (Germans) as well. Poland cannot allow that for obvious reasons. Polish authorities are paranoid when it comes to claims dating back to both pre-war and WW2 times.

Yes, it just opens up a huge amount of problems. If you went back there, you'd have to look at the allocation of land during the 2nd Republic - which (you would find) involved some very dodgy dealings, especially in Kresy. I can understand why the Polish government essentially says "right, we recognise what happened in the PRL to a certain extent, but no more".

rather the wanton pillaging of property by an outside enemy from a group of persons (the Jews) whose legal status in occupied Poland already was tenuous, to say the least:-)

I think you'd probably have to look at the law of Nazi Germany to try and ascertain as to what actually happened. If it was stripped in accordance with the law (and Nazi Germany was very big on legal legitimacy), then I suppose that there's not much that can be done.

Having said that, Poland also traces her legal legitimacy back to the 2nd Republic and not the People's Republic, so in theory, they should also seek to return things as to how it stood on 1st September 1939.

At least from my rather netural perspective, I'm happy to simply not recognise any claims by anyone. The amount of dodgy "restitution" claims settled in the favour of the RCC should convince anyone that it's wise not to return anything to anyone.
OP Lyzko 20 | 6,185    
14 Aug 2015  #11
Nice argument, Delphi!

Indeed, the fixing of guilt itself remains as sticky today practically as it did almost seventy years ago at Nuremberg. From our modern-day perspective, certainly from my own as a Jew, there can be no question that the "legality" of what the Nazis perpetrated was just a barbarous perversion of the law, period:-) On the other hand, the reason, sadly, you also have a valid point is that technically, the Nazis in occupied Poland or "Generalgouvernment" were not "breaking" any laws, they were following them to the letter. The fact that we today regard their actions as vile, immoral and/or unethical changes nothing about the facts. The facts were simply that Jewish property was to be confiscated bar none, to be aryanized at the behest of the local Reichskommissariat, and its owners displaced and/or usually sent to their certain death, end of story.
Vox - | 177    
14 Aug 2015  #12
@Lyzko, you may find that interesting:

Perhaps the most widely applied and the most representative of them is the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Polish People's Republic regarding claims of nationals of the United States, signed at Washington on 16 July 1960 (UN Treaty Series vol. 384 No 5518).

Under this agreement, the government of Poland undertook to pay the US government the sum of $40,000,000 "in full settlement and discharge of all claims" of US nationals, i.e. both individuals and legal entities, against Poland "on account of the nationalization and other taking by Poland of [...]

cropped 100+ words
OP Lyzko 20 | 6,185    
14 Aug 2015  #13
Hmmm, a devilishly tricky dilemma for those in today's Claims Conferences, all claiming restitution, redress and so forth for wrongs or missdeeds committed by the Germans during the Second World War. An equally sticky thread might be a claim by the descendants of those Germans these days, claiming with historical veracity that WE, the American Allies, in fact raped scores of innocent female German nationals after the end of the War!!

Be interesting to see how the Allies explain that one away, huh?

Wonder if the above text includes Jewish Poles as well as non-Jews:-) Thanks anyhow, Vox.
delphiandomine 85 | 17,704    
14 Aug 2015  #14
@Lyzko, you may find that interesting:

Not only Lyzko, but I also find it very interesting. But unfortunately, the treaty was seemingly never ratified by Poland, which was probably one of the most stupid moves that the PRL ever made.

It's such a difficult situation that I think the current approach of the Polish government makes sense. Nothing else is possible - without causing a great deal of distress and financial hardship.
OP Lyzko 20 | 6,185    
14 Aug 2015  #15
How right you are! And yes, there's plenty of scammers out there to keep both the Polish as well as the US and German courts mighty busy for years to come.
sunbreak 14 | 20    
14 Aug 2015  #16
Actually, I worked with someone of Jewish descent who went with his father to Poland and the father was able to reclaim ownership of his property. I don't know what part of Poland this was in. In this case, however, he found a young mother and her children living there and allowed them to continue to use it. With the situation in question, it seems like all they can do is go through the courts and see if they can claim the property again.
OP Lyzko 20 | 6,185    
14 Aug 2015  #17
Certainly, not every restitution claims case will be identical! As far as I'm aware, this woman's family were Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust and sojourned to the United States. They hailed from, or at least, had lived in -ywiec and held certain property there. I'd have to read more on the case in order to post a more substantive message and/or rebuttal to counter claimants' positions that actually the present government of Poland doesn't owe them one thin złoty:-)
terri 1 | 1,574    
14 Aug 2015  #18
Yesterday I read on the BBC website, that a portion of an arras (woven cloth) was taken from a Jewish family and ended up being in a Scottish museum. The family will now get monetary compensation for it for a sum yet to be decided.
Roger5 1 | 1,463    
14 Aug 2015  #19
Good. If someone stole my stuff and it ended up in a museum, I'd want compensation.
OP Lyzko 20 | 6,185    
14 Aug 2015  #20
Hey guys!

Just to follow up with yesterday's post, it turns out (get this one!!) that the survivor's family WON in a Polish Appeal's Court, but it was then flatly rejected by the government. Apparently, as in Germany particularly, the Sejm concluded that the continued pay out of compensation claims (both real and spurious) would simply bankrupt the Polish State. Therefore, noone can expect much action on this.

In fifteen to twenty years hence?? Who's to say?
TheOther 5 | 3,693    
16 Aug 2015  #21
If someone stole my stuff and it ended up in a museum, I'd want compensation.

Guess we can close the British Museum then... :)
Roger5 1 | 1,463    
16 Aug 2015  #22
The BM is probably not that exposed ;-) but families surely have the natural right to claim back artefacts stolen from them. The case of land is more complicated, especially in the case of Poland, and the post-communist state can hardly be found culpable or responsible for restitution on the scale talked about.
jon357 64 | 14,382    
16 Aug 2015  #23
Guess we can close the British Museum then... :)

Most of the big museums in Berlin would be further up the queue. There's a difference between something like, say, the Pergamon Gate, the Gold Mask of Agammenon or the Head of Nefertiti and an item with an identified owner and a specific legal heir, stolen from a family within living memory and who now want it back.

With real estate in Poland it's very complicated. It all depends on when, why and how it was seized and whether there's concrete proof of ownership. Often records didn't survive the war and there was also fraud afterwards by people who took advantage of missing records. There's also the issue of properties seized just after the war, sometimes on entirely legal grounds akin to the nationalisation in Western Europe and sometimes not.
OP Lyzko 20 | 6,185    
16 Aug 2015  #24
Acquisitions from permanent foreign collections, typically funded by the government, e.g. the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, the Louvre etc. such as the Mona Lisa on "indefinite loan" from its original resting place in Italy, is a far cry from what the Germans call "Raubkunst" or "pilfered art", predatorily rested from the hands of its original owner, typically a Jewish individual, and then taken into a private collection by someone of "Aryan" descent!!

Typically, Poland was occupied, the nationalized, much, much later privatized, in order to reap the benefits the Polish State felt was appropriate:-)

"Ownership" in the strictest legal sense is a contractual obligation between two consenting persons. If what passed for legal during the Third Reich, let along what passed for justice throughout occupied Europe, was the porousness of any contract between an Aryan and a Jew (according to the Nuremberg Laws), the fact that Jews were no longer German or for that matter Polish citizens between 1935-1944, merely exacerbates any serious attempts to prove that restitution is even justified, much less within the pervue of the law:-)


Home / History / Restitution Sought by US Holocaust Survivor Family of Expropriated Property in Zywiec, Poland
BoldItalic [quote]
 
To post as Guest, enter a temporary username or login and post as a member.