U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen Pence attend a ceremony at the Auschwitz death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, on February 15. File Photo by Andrzej Grygie/EPA-EFE
May 13 (UPI) -- Poland abruptly canceled a visit from Israeli officials Monday that was intended to discuss the restitution of property seized from Polish Jews during the Holocaust and World War II.
The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said late Sunday last-minute changes to the Israeli delegation suggested the talks would focus on property restitution. A day earlier, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country will not pay compensation for property lost in World War II, and referred to Poland as a victim of the Nazis.
The prime minister's remarks were reinforced by thousands of Polish demonstrators in Warsaw and other Polish cities over the weekend. They said no compensation should be given to those whose property was confiscated by the Nazis or the Communists. In Warsaw, activists marched to the U.S. Embassy to protest the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today Act, signed into law in 2017 by U.S. President Donald Trump. The law requires the U.S. State Department to investigate, in dozens of countries, the state of restitution of property taken during World War II. In February, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Poland to pass restitution laws.
Poland is the only former Communist nation without comprehensive legislation regarding property claims. Monday's cancellation comes as the two sides dispute Poland's role in the Holocaust. Morawiecki canceled a trip in February to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the Israeli leader accused Poland of collaborating with Nazi occupiers decades ago.
Poland's ruling Law & Justice Party passed a law in 2018 outlawing all suggestions that Poland was responsible for the killings of Jews during the war. The law outraged Israel, which regarded it as an attempt to whitewash history.
The question of restitution is a major issue in Polish general elections, which are set to take place by November, and European Union elections this month.