STOP H.R.1226


Join our efforts to stop the unjust bill making its way through the United States Congress under the name
Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today
(JUST) Act of 2017

S.447 Bill sponsored in the Senate by senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
Passed in the Senate on 12/17/2017. Cosponsors, full text and all-actions.

Both the Senate version (S.447) and the House of Representatives version (H.R. 1226) of the bill were introduced in their respective chambers on 2/27/2017. By unanimous consent, S.447 has already passed the Senate, while H.R.1226 awaits now evaluation in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

H.R.1226 Bill sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY-14).
Cosponsors, full text and all-actions.

After H.R.1226 passes the House and gets the president’s signature, the “JUST” act will become the U.S. Law. But despite its reassuring name, this law will be grossly unjust to Poland – always the loyal ally of the United States and country that suffered the most horrific devastation in the World War II (see the video ending this post).

If enacted, the law will use the power of U.S. government to “monitor” the “identification, return, or restitution of wrongfully seized or transferred Holocaust era assets and compliance with the goals of the Terezin Declarationin countries that signed it in conclusion of the 2009 Holocaust Era Assets Conference.

This wording appears to be high-minded at first but the bill actually represents an effort to circumvent or overwrite national laws existing in sovereign states with purpose of legitimizing compensation demands that cannot be substantiated under legal procedures and requirements already in effect and creating a new mechanism for exerting political pressure to achieve these goals.

As argued in related appeals, letters and other documents (see the box to the left), the bill is logically and legally misguided. Its application to Poland is also particularly insensitive given a variety of historical, political and moral considerations. Here is a summary of main points articulated in reactions to the pending legislation:

…..1. In compliance with the 1960 Bilateral Agreement with the United States, Poland has already compensated all claims submitted by U.S. citizens (and their heirs) who owned property in Poland before the WWII. Based on this agreement, Poland also received indemnity from the United States protecting it from any further private property claims. Poland has also paid nearly four times the amount it originally agreed (see the Final Report of the Polish Claims Program). In contrast, some countries paid only partial restitution amounts (e.g. only 10% in Hungary or Slovakia) while some have never made any payments of this type (e.g. Denmark or Norway). Additionally, with new laws enacted in 1989 and later, any person with legitimate claims can pursue them in Polish courts that decide them on case by case basis.

…..2. The “JUST” bill names “uncompensated survivors” in its title, but one of its provisions refers to the “restitution of heirless property,” which obviously cannot be restituted to its rightful owners. The solution used under the common law in most countries, including Poland and the United States, heirless property automatically transfers to the state – in this case to Poland because regardless of their ethnicity, the heirless owners were Polish citizens. The “hairless survivors” provision also specifies that in addition to assisting Holocaust survivors, restitutions can be used “for other purposes.” This means that the bill seeks to robe Polish people – who also suffered monstrous devastation perpetrated by German occupiers (Poland lost in the war about 3 millions of ethnic Jews and almost 3 millions of ethnic Poles) – in and use proceeds for purposes totally unrelated to Holocaust

…..3. For Poland in particular, this bill constitutes an existential threat because over 20% of property that could be potentially claimed under the “JUST” law is located within Polish borders. Using figures quoted in related materials, even the lowest estimate of potential claim easily exceed Poland’s annual budget and paying them would destroy Polish economy and utterly harm its population

YOUR VOICE IN NEEDED TO STOP THIS UNJUST BILL

To stop its enactment, or to exclude Poland from its scope, members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs need to know how strongly we oppose H.R.1226. The bill is in their hands now and voicing our opposition can prevent it from ever reaching the House floor. Sponsors & cosponsors of S.447 should also become aware of the outrage drawn by their role in the bill’s passage and hear strong reasons for withdrawing their support to the bill.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE LEAFLET WITH ADDRESSES AND OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION

THE CITY OF RUINS: Warsaw 1945 from the “Liberator” 1536 Polish Special Regiment, stationed in Brindisi (Italy). Warsaw had 1,300,000 inhabitants as of September 1, 1939. About one third of them were Jews. After the fall of Warsaw Uprising War (10/2/1944), only about 1,000 people remained in the ruins. Germans deliberately destroyed about 85% of the city.

Saturday, March 10th, 2018 Newsletter No Comments

The Centennial of Polish Independence

Author: Irena Fraczek
In the Jubilee Year of Polish Independence…

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty, the Sejm of the Republic of Poland (the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament) declared 2018 to be the Jubilee Year of Poland’s Independence. In two separate resolutions, the Sejm proclaimed 2018 to be also the year of Zbigniew Herbert, Irena Sendler, Ignacy Tokarczuk and the Bar Confederation. In December 2017, the Polish Senat (the upper house of the Polish Parliament) added to this list the Polish Scouting, Women’s Rights and the Greater Poland Uprising (1918-1919).

Józef Piłsudski (Chief of State) and
Ignacy Paderewski (Prime Minister)
arriving at the Polish Parliament (1919)

Image adopted from Wikimedia Commons

November 11, 2018 marks the centennial of Poland regaining independence after 123 years of partitions by Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian empires. On that day in 1918, Józef Piłsudski became the head of Polish Army and de facto chief of the sovereign state known as the Second Polish Republic. The Sejm resolution pays tribute to the generations of Poles fighting for the dream of free Poland and working to preserve the “spiritual and material substance of the nation.” Among the “Fathers of Independence” mentioned in the motion is Ignacy Paderewski, cherished in the United States for his piano virtuosity. Using his worldwide fame to promote the idea of independent Poland, he is widely credited for his role in the U.S president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Woodrow Wilson, including the creation of Polish sovereign state as one of prerequisite peace conditions for ending the World War I. Presented to the U.S. Congress on January 8, 1918 as point XIII of his famous “Fourteen Points,” this declaration remains the most remembered contribution of the United States into the rebirth of independent Poland.

February 1, 2018 brings the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ignacy Tokarczuk (1918-2012), one of the spiritual leaders of the Pole’s peaceful struggle for freedom in the dark years of communist rule. During his tenure as Bishop (1966) and then Archbishop of Przemyśl (1992), he tirelessly defended the rights of the faithful against the governmental repressions (earning him the name of “The Unwavering Bishop”) and his curia served as meeting grounds for the democratic and pro-independence opposition. A staunch proponent of the Solidarity movement, he was active in providing aid to those interned during the martial law (1981) and their families, supported the underground opposition activities and fostered initiatives to popularize the true history of Poland and its independent culture.

Casimir Pulaski in Częstochowa
Painting by Juliusz Kossak (1824-1899)

February 19, 2018 highlights the 250 anniversary of the Bar Confederation, an alliance of Polish nobles (szlachta) formed in 1768 at the Polish fortress of Bar (currently in Ukraine) and aiming to protect the Catholic faith and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth against the Russian influence. Its defeat precipitated the First Partition of Poland (1772). An estimated 5,000 confederates were taken prisoners by Russians and deported to Siberia (often with their families), forming the first major group of Poles exiled to Siberia. Along with the Constitution of May 3, 1791 and the Kościuszko Uprising, the Bar confederation became a part of the fight for freedom lore cultivated during the Partitions of Poland. Among the most famous Bar confederates was Casimir Pulaski, who became a Polish-American hero after arriving to the United States in 1777 on the Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin‘s invitation to join the American Revolutionary War.

2018-Sendler-1942 May 12, 2018 brings us back to the XX century and the 10th anniversary of the death of Irena Sendler (1910-2008), a Polish nurse known for saving around 2,500 Jewish children from the Holocaust. As a head of children’s department of Żegota, an underground organization of Polish resistance in German-occupied Poland, she was instrumental in smuggling Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto and finding for them shelter in Polish foster homes, convents and social care facilities. For these extraordinarily heroic acts (concealing Jews by Poles was then punishable by death and in fact, she narrowly escaped execution after Germans discovered her activities), Irena Sendler received numerous awards and tokens of recognition, while Yad Vashem recognized her as Righteous Among the Nations in 1965.

July 28, 2018 turns focus to the 20th anniversary of the death of Zbigniew Herbert (1924-1998), one of the greatest and most translated Polish and European writers of poems, essays and drama of the XX century. Publication of his work translations in the United States helped him to become one of the most popular Polish poets in the English literary circles. The Polish Sejm pays tribute to him as a champion of the canons of beauty and craftsmanship in the arts and in life, the ethical codes clearly differentiating between the good and evil. His experience of living through the horrors of Nazism and Communism provided him with inspiration to explore and resist the evil mechanisms of power and ideology – as well as to reconciling beauty with the reality of human suffering – in both his literary work and real life.

2018-harcerze

Polish Scouts, 8th Central Euro Jamboree
By Azymut via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

November 11, 2018 doubles as a salute to Polish scouting (harcerstwo) with the 100th anniversary of the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association, currently the largest organization of scouts in Poland. Beginnings of the movement go back to 1910 and the city of Lwów, where its legendary founder, Andrzej Małkowski, distinguished Polish “harcerstwo” from its more traditional forms in other countries as “scouting plus independence.” True to this definition, several generations of Polish scouts (called in Polish “harcerze”) become the epic defenders of Lwów against Ukrainians in 1918 (the Lwów Eaglets) as well as the heroic fighters in the Greater Poland Uprising, the Polish-Soviet War, Silesian Uprisings, and the World War II (the Grey Ranks). The Senat resolution pays tribute also to the ethos of scout organizations opposing the communist rulers and soviet occupiers after the World War II.

Manifestation of Polish suffragettes
on Women’s Day in Kraków (1911)

By Nowości Ilustrowane, via Wikimedia Commons

November 28 brings to the fore the 100 anniversary of Polish women gaining full voting rights shortly after the Polish state was officially reborn (by comparison, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees such right to American women since 1920). The Election Regulation Decree signed by Józef Piłsudski on November 28, 1918 stipulated also that regardless of gender, every eligible voter could also be elected to both houses of the Polish parliament. Based on this decree, eight women representing the full political spectrum made history after being elected in parliamentary elections held on January 26, 1919. It is in tribute to those eight women that Polish Sejm declared 2018 to be the Year of Women’s Rights.

Polish children pay homage to Ignacy Paderewski
in Poznań’s Hotel Bazar on December 27, 1918.
(Painting by Leon Prauziński, executed by Germans in 1940 for painting scenes from the Wielkopolska Uprising)

December 27 calls attention to the Greater Poland Uprising (Powstanie Wielkopolskie) of 1918-1919, one of the very few Polish insurgences that ended in a victory. Its aim was to return Wielkopolska, at the time under the Prussian rule, to the newly formed Polish state. The revolt erupted as Ignacy Paderewski stopped in Poznań on his way back to Poland (December 26, 1918). Thanks to the heroic and determined efforts of the people of Wielkopolska, and high toll of their blood (continued during the World War II, when German occupiers publicly executed any surviving Wielkopolska insurgents they could hunt down), nearly all of the traditionally Polish land (known as the “cradle of Poland”) ended within the boundaries of the Second Polish Republic.

Irena Frączek (last edits on January 13, 2017)

Sunday, January 7th, 2018 Newsletter No Comments