'Boycott Poland for dropping Holocaust restitution'

By Nissan Tzur, April 7, 2011

The polish government's decision to withdraw a restitution law that would have compensated thousands of people who lost property during the Holocaust has sparked a mixture of uproar and backpedalling in the Jewish world.

The WJC's general counsel, Menachem Rosensaft, last week called for an economic boycott of Poland until it adopts the law.

However, WJC secretary general, Michael Schneider, responded that "Mr Rosensaft's statements were made in a personal capacity. At no point has the WJC proposed a boycott of Poland."

Meanwhile, the Israeli government, which funds Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce (HEART), a body set up by the Jewish Agency to help individuals get back property that was confiscated, looted or stolen during the Holocaust, was reluctant to take a forceful position on the issue.

Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Information and Diaspora, told the JC: "I sincerely hope that this is a local parliamentary initiative aimed at winning favour from a particular constituency and not at a global audience."

The American government hit out at the decision, however. Stuart Eizenstat, special adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told Polish Radio: "Polish officials have stated on several occasions that property restitution and compensation would be addressed during the tenure of the current government." In reply, Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs Radoslaw Sikorski said: "If the US wanted to help Polish Jews, a good moment for that would have been 1943-44, when the majority of them were still alive."

Bobby Brown, head of HEART, said: "We are dismayed that 66 years on, Polish Holocaust survivors and their heirs are still waiting for justice."

Last updated: 12:26pm, April 7 2011