Searching for Lost Jewish Property in Poland, and Finding Confusion

July 13 2021

In Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure, Menachem Kaiser recounts his attempts to press a legal claim to an apartment building in Poland once owned by his great-great-grandparents, who perished in the Holocaust. Grace Linden writes in her review:

The bureaucratic, Sisyphean struggle warps reality, and Kaiser’s story resists a straightforward, linear telling. He begins by telling it chronologically, but quickly the narrative overlaps and doubles back, owing in part to his incorporation of diary entries, poetry, and theoretical conversations and encounters.

Kaiser spent most of his life oblivious to this building’s existence. While his family is entitled to what was stolen, the people who live in the apartments are also entitled to their lives. What seems a straightforward decision—go to Poland, file a claim—is far from simple, and Plunder is really about moral complexity any of making such a claim.

[Moreover], the story of “the grandchild trekking back to the alte heym on his fraught memory-mission,” is one that Kaiser finds suspect, and rightfully so, even if it is also his story. His grandfather, whom he never met, rarely discussed the war; neither did his parents. To go digging may lead to answers, but it also is an intrusion; few who do so ask if it is a mistake.

Kaiser had hoped this process would bring him closer to understanding his grandfather. Instead, he writes, “at every step [his] legacy seemed to retreat.”

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Holocaust restitution, Poland, Polish Jewry

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy