NYLAG Decries European High Court Decision Denying Claims Against Poland Brought by Holocaust Survivor

Henryk Pikielny, pictured in front of his grandfather’s factory in Poland in 1946. After seven years, the European Court on Human Rights denied the Pikielny family and other Holocaust survivors compensation for their nationalized properties and businesses. While the European Court advised survivors to seek remedies in Polish courts, Pikielny and others have already unsuccessfully pursued their cases in Poland over many decades.

The European Court of Human Rights today handed down a decision denying claims that the government of Poland is required to provide compensation to Holocaust survivors or their heirs whose property was stolen by the Nazis and confiscated by the Polish government in the years during and following World War II. The court’s failure to find for the plaintiffs perpetuates Poland’s status as the only major European country to refuse to make restitution to victims and their heirs seeking property or financial compensation.3.2 million Polish Jews died during the Holocaust and it is estimated that over 170,000 private properties owned by Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Poland were seized by the Nazis.

“We are dismayed and appalled that after so many years, in spite of an international outcry that justice be done and the clear violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, Poland remains the only nation that refuses to live up to its legal and moral obligations to compensate victims and their families for property seized during the Holocaust. We intend to actively pursue other legal courses against the government of Poland to obtain compensation for Polish Holocaust survivors and their heirs whose property was wrongly nationalized both during and after World War II,” said NYLAG President, Yisroel Schulman.

“The European Court of Human Rights ruling is unconscionable. The court waited seven years to throw out claims of Polish Holocaust survivors solely on the basis of failing to go through a meaningless Polish administrative process, after the survivors have already spent 12 years litigating their case in Polish judicial courts. All of this happened despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights promised expedited processing and resolution of this case because of the advanced age of the Holocaust survivor community.”

The main suit was filed by NYLAG early in 2005 on behalf of Henryk Pikielny and other family members after 12 years of litigation in Poland yielded no relief under Polish law. Mr. Pikielny’ s grandfather had founded a women’s clothing factory in Lodz, Poland in 1889. The factory was seized by the Nazis during World War II and continued to be held by the state after the war under a Communist government-appointed authority. Mr. Pikielny and his family first began efforts to reclaim their property in 1990, following the collapse of communism in Poland. Tragically, Mr. Pikielny died in 2010, and the case has been continued by his wife and children.

NYLAG brought this case to challenge the Polish government’s decades of delays and unfulfilled promises of action. It definitively demonstrated that Poland has been in direct violation of specific provisions of the European Convention for Human Rights related to the rights of property.

Since 1999 NYLAG’s Holocaust Compensation Assistance Project has assisted over 60,000 Holocaust survivors or the heirs of survivors. For more information on ths work of this project, please visit www.nylag.org/hcap.