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Poland to enact restitution legislation

According to media reports, the government of Poland is committing itself to introducing property restitution legislation by the end of 2008. Although reports refer to property restitution, it is thought that the bill would provide compensation of 20 percent of a property’s value to former owners, both Jewish and non-Jewish. The law would apply to properties seized during the Second World War.

Precise details of the law have not yet been disclosed and it is also not clear whether the legislation will make provision for properties in the Galicia region, now located outside the boundaries of present-day Poland in Ukraine.

Although a 1997 agreement provides for the return of public property in Poland and some claimants have secured restitution for their properties by bringing private cases direct to Polish courts, it is estimated that the total value of seized property is around €16 - €18 billion (approximately £12.5 - £14 billion).

Alongside the efforts of the Claims Conference and the World Jewish Restitution Organisation representing Holocaust survivors and their families, Poland has also been lobbied by non-Jewish Polish nobility whose extensive assets were confiscated.