Fact Sheet: Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017

Why does the United States care about property restitution?     

  • The United States’ concerns about restitution are related to fairness and equality for all victims, regardless of citizenship, religion, or ethnic background.   
  • We believe it is important to settle the issue of World War II-era property restitution.  The Polish government’s leadership in resolving these challenges, which have lingered for decades, would underscore Poland’s role as an EU and global leader. 
  • A comprehensive private property restitution law would benefit many Polish citizens, as well as people who were forced to leave Poland during and after World War II and subsequently became naturalized citizens of other countries. 
  • This is an opportunity for Poland once again to demonstrate leadership in resolving complex, difficult, and painful historical matters. 
  • Addressing this issue becomes more urgent as the remaining survivors of World War II and the Holocaust reach advanced ages.

What is the JUST Act Report?   

  • President Trump signed the JUST Act into law in May 2018, requiring the State Department to report to Congress on what the countries that endorsed the Terezin Declaration at the 2009 Prague Holocaust Era Assets Conference have done to implement the Declaration’s goals and objectives. 
  • The Report consists of an Executive Summary, followed by 46 country-specific chapters.   
  • The country chapters provide a brief historical overview and then review the country’s progress on each of the Terezin Declaration commitments.  The length of chapters varies depending upon the country’s experience during World War II, the complexity of its restitution practices, and available information.  
  • The JUST Act report does not ask Poland to pay for Nazi crimes against humanity.  Property restitution  the effort to return property to its legal owners  and compensation for confiscated/nationalized property is unrelated to reparations, which are payments to cover damage or injury inflicted during war.   
  • Neither the JUST Act nor the JUST Act Report in any way accuses Poland of complicity for Nazi crimes in World War II.  The report focuses on progress toward the return of or compensation for property physically located in Poland to its legal owners, the overwhelming majority of whom are Polish citizens or of Polish descent, or their heirs.   
  • The JUST Act does not require any country to pay money to individuals, foreign governments, or international organizations to resolve property restitution issues.   
  • It is up to individual countries to determine how they will honor their Terezin Declaration commitments.   
  • What is most important to the United States is that all Terezin Declaration-endorsing countries continue to make good-faith efforts to meet the commitments they undertook in 2009.

What does the report say about Poland?   

  • The JUST Act Report notes that Poland has made a serious commitment to Holocaust commemoration.  
  • What Poland is doing to commemorate the Holocaust is important.  If we are to prevent another such atrocity, we must remember the lessons of the Holocaust, combat historical revisionism, and promote tolerance and understanding.  
  • The JUST Act Report also notes that Poland provides financial support to Holocaust survivors from Poland, wherever they reside, in the form of a monthly pension equivalent to the amount the government provides to pensioners resident in Poland.  This also sets an example for other countries.  
  • The Report concludes that, 10 years after the 2009 Terezin Declaration and 75 years after the end of World War II, there remain gaps in how Poland has implemented the Terezin Declaration’s recommendations, particularly on restitution or compensation for real, immovable, and movable property, art, and cultural items. 
  • Poland is the only European Union member state with significant Holocaust-era property issues that has not passed a national comprehensive private property restitution law.   
  • Only Poland is in a position to make determinations about property located in Poland.   We believe it is in Poland’s interest to resolve this issue, once and for all.

Who was covered by the 1960 claims settlement agreement between Poland and the United States?  

  • The claims settlement agreement which the United States signed with Poland in July 1960 only allowed those people who were U.S. nationals at the time their property was nationalized in Poland to make claims.     
  • Therefore, very few American citizens were eligible to make claims under the 1960 agreement.    
  • Polish citizens whose property was seized during the World War II and communist eras, and who later immigrated to the United States and became U.S. citizens, or whose descendants became U.S. citizens, were not covered by the 1960 agreement.  
  • The 1960 agreement never prevented or precluded U.S. nationals not covered by the agreement from seeking restitution – a point that was understood by both Poland and the United States when the agreement was signed.