Sens. Rosen, Lankford push Polish president on Holocaust restitution

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Rosen told JI she was ‘alarmed that the recent presidential campaign in Poland displayed shocking antisemitic rhetoric'

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Sen. Jacky Rosen

Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) are calling on Poland to enact comprehensive Holocaust restitution legislation following an uptick in antisemitic activity in the country.

In a letter sent to Polish President Andrzej Duda and shared with Jewish Insider, Rosen and Lankford, co-chairs of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, note a series of controversial comments regarding restitution made by Duda, members of the governing Law and Justice Party and journalists reporting for state-run outlets.

Rosen told JI that Warsaw’s reluctance to move forward on restitution was concerning given Poland’s status as a U.S. ally.

“Poland is a strategic partner for the United States — which is why I was alarmed that the recent presidential campaign in Poland displayed shocking antisemitic rhetoric and exploitation of the Holocaust restitution issue, including from President Duda and his allies,” Rosen said in a statement to JI. 

In the letter, Rosen and Lankford said such statements endanger Poland’s Jewish community.

“Senator Lankford and I are committed to fighting antisemitism wherever it rears its ugly head, including speaking tough truths to our allies,” Rosen told JI.

Lankford echoed this sentiment. “There are several public comments that have been made by political leaders there or newscasters that read [as] very antisemitic, and we want them to be able to clarify that and say, ‘is this really the direction the country’s going to continue to go?’” he told JI.

Rosen and Lankford cite a July report from the State Department that found that Poland is the only European Union nation with significant WWII-era property issues not to have enacted legislation regarding restitution.

They also claim the country’s refusal to enact a restitution law violates its obligations under the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, in which the country pledged to support national laws to help Holocaust survivors reclaim their property.

Duda has been vocally opposed to adopting the legislation pushed by the two U.S. lawmakers.

“There won’t be any damages paid for heir-less property,” Duda said on state television in July. “I will never sign a law that will privilege any ethnic group vis-a-vis others. Damages should be paid by the one that started the war.”

The Polish government in recent years has taken steps to distance the country from its Holocaust legacy. The country made it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison to accuse “the Polish nation” of being complicit in Nazi atrocities in 2018, but later walked back the law’s criminal provisions following international outcry.

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