If it was stolen off them......and at the time they were Polish citizens, and now they are the children/grandchildren of same, they are just as entitled as the next Polish person to restitution.
I don't think we are dealing with theft here. Not by Poles, and not in all cases anyway. Poland was invaded by Germans, remember? Needless to say, after the war the rightful owners either owned ruins or they were dead.
Moreover, not only many properties were destroyed, but also the documentation proving ownership. The damage was done by Germans, not by Poles. This prsesents a difficult situation as there may be (and have already been) a lot of fraudulent claims.
I personally knew a group of NYC Jews who planned to claim some properties they used to own, but were not legaly elligible to get them back. Here's an example (true) story they told me (I will use fake names):
Ytzhak was a Polish Army officer before WW2. They family owned a large store in North East Poland. In 1938 they got the wind of troubles to come, so they sold the store, bought gold and a modest property in Warsaw. On September 1 when hell broke loose they went to Hungary and from there to France and finally the US, now mostly living around Great Neck, NY area.
When Poland, in 1989, finally shed the Soviet occupation, the country became open and free. In 1990 Ytzhak went to his original hometown and saw that the store was still there, and even being used as a store. All fixed up, taken care of and operational. Upon return the family decided they will pursue reparation claims for the property.
So here we have a deserter and a coward, who legally sold a property now trying to claim that property back as stolen. I don't know how these plans went since I left the US in 1991.
I don't know how isolated or prevalent the above was, is or would be if the 10,000 Israelis made calims for some properties. The point is that history hasn't been kind to this part of Europe and the whole proposition is open to a huge number of abuses and false claims. The only sure winners will be laweyrs.
Additionally, in Poland, since before WW2 there had been some regulations in regards to property ownership, which might make it hard to allow the original owners to claim those properties even under optimal circumastance (i.e. existing paperwork, documents, photographs etc). The regulation stated that a person becomes a legal owner of a property after a given number of years if:
- the person lived there in good faith (ie didn't know the property belonged to someone else)
- the person lived there in bad faith (ie was fully aware the property belonged to someone else)
The length of time required by the above differs but in both cases it is far shorter than the number of years after 1945. Not sure about the numbers now (or even if the regulation is still in force though)
The we have the building maintenance and care. How do you estimate the cost to maintain the building over the period of 60+ years. Modifications, additions, modernization. In some cases, I imagine, that cost could even exceed the value of the property.