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Boris Johnson urged to intervene over Holocaust restitution law

Foreign Secretary asked to step in as Poland plans legislation that will restrict property claims by survivors

    Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been asked to lend his weight to efforts to prevent Poland limiting restitution claims by Holocaust survivors.

     On Friday, the Polish government published a proposed law that would allow claims on private property seized by the Nazis but restrict them to current Polish citizens or the “first heirs” of the original owners.

     Jewish groups say this would effectively make claims impossible, as most “first heirs” were themselves murdered in the Holocaust, while the vast majority of survivors and their descendants do not hold Polish citizenship.

     In a letter sent ahead of the publication of the bill, Baroness Deech, who is a prominent campaigner on the issue, urged the Foreign Secretary to intervene.

     Warning that time was of the essence, the peer called on Mr Johnson “to ask the Polish government to address these issues and move forward with revised legislation”. 

     Baroness Deech pointed out that over 70 years after 90 per cent of Polish Jewry was murdered in the Holocaust, “survivors and their families continue to wait for an opportunity to seek restitution for property unjustly taken from them.”

    She noted Britain’s long-standing leadership role in attempts to rectify this “injustice”, and requested Mr Johnson’s help in persuading the Polish government to “meet the standards of the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets, which both Poland and the UK have endorsed”.

    The World Jewish Restitution Organisation said it was "profoundly disappointed” by the proposed law.

    Restitution or compensation should be just and fair for all who lost property and “must not discriminate based on current citizenship”, the organisation said.

    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been asked for comment.

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