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February 9, 1997 No. 6 (433)

Voice - Viewpoint



Maintaining a Great Legacy

It is very favorable for Poland's image and raison d'etat that the commissions preparing the bill on the state's relationship with Jewish communities in Poland approved it unanimously. This indicates that the will of Polish authorities, who intend to regulate Polish-Jewish relations, has not been undermined by any larger political group represented in parliament.

The object of dispute is merely the problem of creating legal and factual guarantees when it comes to the restitution of Jewish property. The point is that, under the bill, the Polish government's partner is the union of Jewish communities in Poland. Today, this organization has relatively few members-at least, compared with the number of Jews living in Poland until 1968. In the opinion of many organizations of Polish Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, this group is too weak numerically.

The bill, therefore, provides for the establishment of a foundation in which Jews of Polish extraction will be represented-which is rather exceptional, but so is the situation. The foundation would not be set up so that it can take some part of the assets away, but to ensure that the process of restitution will be carried out to completion and that the funds necessary to maintain such a great legacy will not be wasted.

I am certain that the law approved by the Sejm and Senate and signed by the president will remove one of the biggest problems in Polish-Jewish relations-a problem that arouses the concern of democratic governments in Europe, the United States and Israel. From the point of view of Poland's image as a democratic country in which human rights are respected, as well as the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, it has enormous significance-not only politically and practically, but also morally. It will remove a kind of suspicion that the Polish government and Poles somehow want to derive material benefits from the tragedy suffered by some of the country's citizens.

Krzysztof Sliwiñski, Ministry of Foreign Affairs' representative for contacts with the Jewish Diaspora
Wprost, Feb. 2