Court rebuffs property claim in Polish restitution test case

Haifa resident victim of “corruption” and pressure on judges


A woman’s battle to prove her ownership of a block of flats in central Warsaw become a restitution test case for Poland.

On Monday the Polish High Court  ruled that Haifa resident Maya Frenkel did not have enough evidence to substantiate her claim to share in the ownership of the property, which before the Second World War was part-owned by her uncle, Rubin Klayer.

The case is now stalled, even though Mr Klayer’s former partners have already had their claims upheld. Their cases cannot continue until Ms Frenkel’s is settled.

It is at test case because the restitution of both Jewish and non-Jewish property in Poland has been mired in corruption and because the country’s right-wing populist government has made judges wary of making unpopular decisions.

Grzegorz Dudek, Ms Frenkel’s lawyer, said: “The judge does not recognise the line of inheritance as family names are spelt differently on documents in Polish, English and Hebrew, and because some family members took Hebrew names.”

Mr Dudek thinks Ms Frenkel is a victim of corruption scandals connected to the restitution of prime real estate in the Polish capital. Earlier this month, a government commission was set up to investigate the issue. According to Mr Dudek, “People are very critical of the courts and judges are very afraid.”

Ms Frenkel said the case had never been about money, but it was “a moral issue”.

The building was just inside the ghetto set up by the Nazis in 1940. “It is important that the building belongs to a Jewish family,” she says “as in the courtyard is one of the best-preserved sections of the ghetto wall which needs protecting.

“If we don’t get the property back it will be as if my uncle, aunt and their five-year-old daughter, Tamara, did not exist,” she said.

Rather than face deportation to Treblinka, Mr Klayer, a prominent surgeon, gave his daughter cyanide and committed suicide along with his wife.

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