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2005 blog


Suit to force Polish restitution to Shoah victims
filed in European Court of Human Rights
,  Feb. 9, 2005

Holocaust file

Yisroel Schulman, executive director of the New York Legal Assistance Group, announced in Strasbourg, France, today (Feb. 9) the filing of a case at the headquarters of  the European Court of Human Rights to compel Poland to pay restitution to Holocaust victims whose properties were confiscated by the post-World War II Polish government.

Lead plaintiff in the case is Henryk Pikielny, whose grandfather was the founder in 1889 in Lodz of the Pikielny textile factory—a manufacturer of fabrics for women's clothes that was seized by the Nazis during World War II and later operated under a Communist-appointed authority, according to Schulman.

After the collapse of the Communist regime in 1990, Pikielny attempted to reclaim his family's properties or receive compensation, but was denied by Polish courts after a 14-year-legal battle.  He now will seek redress from the European Court of Human Rights, which was created by an agreement to which Poland is a signatory.

"There are literally thousands like the Pikielny family who have been unable to receive fair treatment within the Polish legal system," according to Phyllis Brochstein, a NYLAG attorney.  "For many of these survivors, bringing this case before the ECHR is a last chance for urgently needed resolution."

Yehuda Evron, president of the U.S. Division of the Holocaust Restitution Committee, an organization representing some 3,000 Polish Holocaust survivors, commented in conjunction with the filing of the suit: "The atrocities of the Holocaust can never be measured in terms of dollars. After so many years of being ignored by successive Polish governments, we are simply seeking some small measure of justice."

Shulman said that "while many other European countries have acknowledged their role in the Holocaust by enacting legislation or adopting other measures, Poland has yet to address this issue.  For elderly Holocaust survivors who have waited decades for their cases to be fairly heard by the Polish legal system, justice delayed is truly justice denied.   —Donald H. Harrison