Amid growing pressure on Poland and other Eastern European countries to offer full restitution for plundered Jewish property, the European Parliament’s president reiterated his support for such moves.
Martin Schulz, whose European Parliament has passed two resolutions in the 1990s calling for restitution, spoke about the issue in a letter he sent last month to Gunnar Hökmark, a lawmaker from Sweden and chair of the European Alliance for Holocaust Survivors.
“I personally acknowledge the importance of the restitution of and compensation for immovable property, Jewish art heritage and other cultural assets pillaged during the Holocaust and its aftermath,” Schulz wrote last week. “I therefore fully endorse implementation of the European Parliament resolutions on the Return of Plundered Property to Jewish Communities and the Restitution of the Possessions of Holocaust Victims.”
The World Jewish Restitution Organization, or WJRO, praised Schulz’s statement. In a statement Thursday, its chair of operations, Gideon Taylor, called it “a major step forward to address with compassion and justice the care of aging Holocaust survivors, and the return of property unjustly taken during the Holocaust and its aftermath.”
Several countries in Eastern Europe with confiscated Jewish property worth billions of dollars have resisted offering compensation, at times despite committing to do so in legislation and international documents.
Poland, where 3 million Jews lived before the Holocaust, was among 46 nations that signed a 2009 declaration committing to restitution legislation for Holocaust-era property seized by the Nazis. But it has not passed any restitution laws for private property, making it one of only a handful of former Communist countries without such legislation.
In 1997, Poland passed a law for restitution on communal-owned properties but more than 15 years after the claim filing deadline, a majority of more than 5,000 claims for such property has still not been resolved and most of the resolved claims have not led to restitution or compensation, the WJRO said.
Polish courts have awarded compensation and restitution to several Jewish claimants in recent years, but on an unknown scope and only on a per-case basis.
In 2014, a group of British parliamentarians pressed Poland’s government to follow through on its restitution pledges.
“Unfortunately, Poland stands out in its failure to fulfill — or even recognize — its responsibility to victims,” said a letter sent to Polish officials by 15 British members of Parliament and 35 lords and baronesses.
The primary signatory was Ruth Deech, a Jewish member of the House of Lords who had grandparents on both sides of her family with substantial property in Poland.
Jewish activist says she was shot by rubber bullet at peaceful Standing Rock protest
Erin Schrode, a self-described citizen activist and journalist, appeared to be shot by a rubber bullet while conducting an interview with a Native American man on the sideline of the protests at Standing Rock.
The Native American-led protest is over an oil pipeline that would run near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation on the border of North Dakota and South Dakota. Thousands of pipeline resistance supporters have gathered at the reservation since mid-September.
Schrode, 25, who had been filming her interview, posted a video Nov. 3 on Facebook that shows her in the middle of her interview the day before crying out in pain and falling to the ground following a loud popping noise. People can be seen rushing to her aid. Schrode, who is Jewish, wrote that police shot her in the lower back with a rubber bullet, though it is not seen on the video.
She described the incident in detail in a Facebook post.
“I was just shot. Militarized police fired at me from point blank range with a rubber bullet on the front lines of Standing Rock,” she wrote.
“My body will be okay, but I am hurting, I am incensed, I am weeping, I am scared. Peaceful, prayerful, unarmed, nonviolent people on one side of a river; militarized police with armed vehicles and assault weapons occupying treaty land on the other, where sacred burial grounds have already been destroyed. What is happening here in North Dakota is like nothing I have ever seen in my life, anywhere in the world.”
On Sunday, Schrode said in a Facebook post that police claim she was not shot, despite what she describes as dozens of witnesses, as well as the video taken from her cellphone.
“If police are actually unaware that a rubber bullet was discharged and struck an individual, that is a massive issue in and of itself,” she wrote, adding: “I will continue to stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters at Standing Rock, though the thought of being within striking distance of police brings on a wave of terror in a way that it never did prior to Wednesday.”
In June, Schrode lost to incumbent Jared Huffman in the Democratic primary for a House of Representatives seat from Northern California’s 2nd District. Days before the election, Schrode was flooded with anti-Semitic social media and cellphone messages.