Poland should pay $40 million in monthly “rent” to Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors for property they once owned that is now managed by the Polish government.
So says a new initiative put forth by a coalition of Holocaust survivor groups who fear Poland’s continued delay in passing a private property restitution law will mean that sick and elderly survivors with property claims may wind up with nothing.
In a letter sent last week to Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller, the Holocaust Survivors Foundation says the monthly rent could be used to provide health care for the aging survivors.
HSF executive director Jehuda Evron, a Queens resident, said the rent proposal is an interim plan until the Polish government passes a private property restitution bill, which legislators have failed to do for nearly a decade.
Poland says it cannot afford to deal with the issue, which could billions of dollars, because of national economic constraints. The government recently said it would not take up the issue this year, and perhaps not next year.
But in a resolution approved last week, the HSF, which Evron said includes 40 Holocaust survivor organizations from across the U.S., said “the advanced age of the survivors asks for some immediate action.”
“We demand that until the Restitution Law is approved, the Polish Government will allocate every month [$40 million] to a Fund for survivors who registered their claims for properties in Poland. The money of this Fund will be distributed among those survivors to cover their social needs such as Home care, medications, etc.”
Evron, who is also president of the 3,000 member Holocaust Restitution Committee, said the HSF estimated that the Jewish survivors’ real estate assets and factories in Poland produce revenue of a minimum of $40 million a month.
“We want whatever they collect on Jewish property that they took away from us until they give back the property,” Evron said. “They will keep postponing until there are no survivors left to claim it.”
A spokesman for the Polish Embassy in Washington said he could not comment on the rent proposal.
In a January meeting in New York with Jewish leaders, Prime Minister Miller said he wanted to resolve private property restitution in a fair and just manner. He appointed chief adviser Lech Nikolski to be his point man on Jewish property issues.
Evron said his group will push the rent plan at meetings with the European Union in Brussels on March 19 and next month at meetings in Washington with Polish and Jewish officials and U.S. congressmen. He called for the Jewish community to back the proposal.
Evron is also waiting for a ruling in Brooklyn Federal Court on the merits of a lawsuit by survivors against Poland to return private property.
Survivors’ attorney Mel Urbach said the rent proposal is “an opportunity for the Polish government to show they genuinely intend to resolve this issue.”