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Fury as Poland suspends Holocaust payments

    The decision by the Polish government to suspend the legislation to compensate former property owners, whose assets were confiscated during the Second World World War and the Communist period, has caused outrage among world Jewish leaders.

    In a statement by the Treasury Ministry in Warsaw last week, the Polish government declared the suspension of a bill on compensation payments for nationalised property, due to the current economic crisis in Poland.

    According to the statement, the compensation payouts "could make Poland exceed the public debt ceiling", a condition stipulated by the European Union for countries which wish to join the eurozone. The Polish government announced 2015 as its goal to join the eurozone.

    In a speech on Friday in Brussels, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said: "Poland can't afford now to accept the restitution law, due to our economic situation."

    In 2008, Mr Tusk announced that "every Polish citizen from before the Second World War, no matter if he is Polish, Jewish, Ukrainian or German, will receive restitution for their properties that were nationalised by the Communist regime".

    This week Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Restitution Organisation, expressed his deep disappointment and surprise at the Polish governmental statement and said it was "an issue of justice, not of money".

    He added: "By its announcement now, Poland is telling many elderly pre-war landowners, including Holocaust survivors, that they have no hope of even a small measure of justice for the assets that were seized from them".

    Michael Schneider, secretary-general of the WJC, described the decision as "disappointing and unfair", adding: "We can't delay a fair agreement any longer. We must help old people, particularly Holocaust survivors.

    He expressed his regret that the issue of restitution of Jewish property had taken so long. "Every time it seems the problem is solved, there is a change of government in Poland and we have to start again".

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