Over three-quarters of a century — 79 years almost to the day — after German Chancellor-turned dictator Adolf Hitler ordered his military forces to march on the neighboring country of Poland, Polish legislators are moving forward with calls for restitution. The preliminary numbers presented by experts, tallying the loss in human and financial capital resulting from the Nazi occupation, are truly staggering.
According to the most recent figures provided to a parliamentary commission, Poland lost over 5.1 million citizens between 1939 and 1945. That number includes 90 percent of the country’s Jewish population, which at the time was close to 3.5 million.
The same experts estimated that the Nazi occupation cost Poland another $54 billion (over $46 billion euros). A full report is expected in 2019.
Poland’s bill to provide restitution and return confiscated private property is complicated — in spite of the fact that Germany has made reparations to many Holocaust victims in a number of nations — beginning with a law passed in Berlin in 1957. Poland was under the control of the Soviet Union and was thus unable to take part.
The bill has also been challenged by a number of American lawmakers, who believe that it discriminates against Polish survivors who are no longer Polish citizens. A bipartisan letter, coauthored by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, reads in part:
We are deeply concerned that the bill, in its current form, would discriminate against virtually all American survivors and heirs on the basis that they are not currently citizens of Poland and that they were not residents of Poland when their property was nationalized.
Although the push for restitution has been largely quiet, advocates have become more vocal as time passes, arguing that after 79 years, it is likely that many survivors will not live to see their property restored.
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