Are Jews afraid of the Trump presidency?
Reparations and restitution to former Jewish owners : The fear of Trump's vice and the E-word
Shortly before the joint commemoration of the beginning of the war 80 years ago, Germany and Poland share a common concern: concern about Donald Trump and his unpleasant surprises when making speeches. It is true that the US President canceled his participation in the ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Pilsudski Square in the heart of Warsaw on Sunday afternoon because of the "Dorian" hurricane. But he sends his Vice Mike Pence - and he usually follows the instructions of his boss.
The question of what Pence will say - and what should not deviate significantly from what Trump wanted to say - preoccupies the advisers to the heads of state of Poland and Germany, Andrzej Duda and Frank Walter Steinmeier. The "E" word triggers special adrenaline rushes: Will Pence comment on the dispute over compensation on Trump's behalf?
Pence should speak as third, after host Duda and after Steinmeier. Which gets both of them in a mess that they can't respond to what Pence says in their speeches. For Steinmeier, the challenge lies in whether and how he should respond to the Polish demands for compensation in the hundreds of billions for the atrocities and destruction caused by the Wehrmacht, the SS and the terror of the occupation in Poland.
According to the official position of the Federal Government, the question of reparations is legally closed. There are no longer any legal claims. Morally and politically it is not that simple. Steinmeier can only ask the Poles - like the Italians recently - to look more forward to the common European future and less back to the oppressive past.
But what if Pence accepted the Polish demand? In the past, US ambassadors in Warsaw advised Poland not to open this chapter again. Poland also has no support from its neighbors, whether they are Czechs, Balts or Ukrainians. But: with the Trump administration, you never know.
The US is demanding that Poland compensate former Jewish owners
Compensation claims are delicate for Poland too, albeit completely different. Trump sees himself as a representative of Jewish interests. Pence also follows the default. The previous Polish-Jewish owners of real estate and other private property in Poland did not get their property back. Trump's ambassador in Warsaw, Georgette Mosbacher, previously a successful businesswoman in the cosmetics industry, has been promoting the topic since taking office in August 2018.
The US Congress passed the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today Act in 2017 ”. This “Just Act” demands restitution or compensation for all those who were expropriated without compensation by the Nazi dictatorship or the communist dictatorship. Before the war, 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland, around eleven percent of the population. About 369,000 survived. After the war, the socialist governments nationalized urban real estate. To date, Poland has not passed a comprehensive restitution and privatization law - partly because of the complications of old Jewish property.
Conditions for "Fort Trump"
A congressional delegation that visited Warsaw in the spring made a compensation solution a condition for the US to move troops to Poland. Conversely, Poland's President and Trump administration are trying to make the troop relocation more palatable by promising to build a base for them called "Fort Trump".
If Pence addresses the issue of compensation for Jews in his commemorative speech, it would cast a shadow over the image preferred by the PiS government that Poland is an ideal ally of the US and that there are actually no bilateral issues.
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