Israel-Poland relations in crisis over law on Holocaust property issues

Polish Bill aims to provide greater certainty for property owners against historical claims

A crisis in relations between Israel and Poland escalated further on Monday when Israel's charge d'affaires in Warsaw, Tal Ben-Ari, was rebuked at the Polish foreign ministry over Israel's criticism of the Polish parliament's decision to limit second World War property restitution claims.

Some experts believe that the legislation, passed unanimously by the Polish parliament’s lower house last week, will adversely impact 90 per cent of the applications to restore property owned by Holocaust survivors and their descendants. The Bill is intended to provide greater legal certainty for property owners against historical claims dating from the Nazi occupation.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki endorsed the new law.

“Poland is definitely not going to pay for the Germans’ crimes – not a zloty, not a euro and not a dollar,” he declared.


Six million Poles, half of them Jewish, were killed during Nazi Germany’s 1939-1945 occupation of Poland during the second World War.

Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid called the law a disgrace and said it was not the first time that the Poles had tried to deny what had happened in their country during the Holocaust.

“The Polish prime minister ought to check his facts again. Millions of Jews were murdered on Polish soil, and no legislation is going to obliterate their memory,” Mr Lapid said. “We aren’t interested in Polish money, and the very insinuation is anti-Semitic. We are fighting for the memory of the people who perished in the Holocaust and we won’t let any parliament pass laws whose purpose is to deny the Holocaust.”

Dressed down

Ms Ben-Ari was told that Mr Lapid’s remarks damaged bilateral relations and that the style was “out of place”. The Israeli envoy was told that Poland was ready to hold a dialogue that was based on “mutual respect and on facts but would not permit interference in internal legislative processes”.

The summoning of the Israeli charge d'affaires followed Israel's summoning of Polish ambassador Marek Magierowski to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem on Sunday for a diplomatic dressing-down, during which he was told that Israel was very disappointed by the law.

Alon Bar, the foreign ministry’s diplomatic director, stressed that it was not too late for Poland to put the legislative process on hold.

“This is not a historic dialogue about responsibility for the Holocaust; rather, it is a moral duty of Poland towards its former citizens, whose property was confiscated,” he said.

Holocaust-related issues have repeatedly strained Israeli-Polish ties. In 2018 Warsaw passed a law that made it illegal to accuse the Polish nation of complicity in German war crimes.

The move sparked an outcry from Israel, and Holocaust researchers noted many cases where Polish citizens had collaborated with the Nazi occupiers.