Three British sisters have pledged to “continue the fight” started by their late father after a property tribunal ruling in Poland upheld a decision by the Polish government to limit the family’s restitution claim.
The three siblings are continuing the battle with the Polish authorities over their claim to their historic family properties in Warsaw constituting two apartment blocks said to be worth around £5 million.
Their late father, Maurice Tabaksman, had campaigned for the return of his family’s property for half his life, before he died in 2013 at the age of 94. Even after enlisting help and getting the support of Baroness Ruth Deech and TV personality David Baddiel, he was unsuccessful.
Following the disappointing tribunal ruling, his daughters Sharon Waters and her sisters Anna and Fiona have vowed to carry on the fight. Ms Waters told Jewish News Online:
“It’s very disappointing. It is as if his inheritance has now been stolen three times, first by the Nazis, then by the Soviets, and now by the Poles. But we will continue my father’s fight for justice.”
Mr Tabaksman, who was born in Warsaw, left the country to study and was then unable to return because Poland had by then been invaded by the Nazis at the outbreak of war. His parents and his sister were among 350,000 others Jews removed from the city to the Warsaw Ghetto. He never saw them again as they did not survive the war. Mr Tabaksman later moved to the UK where he made a new life and home.
“We don’t know if he lodged a claim under the Warsaw Degree,” Sharon Waters says. This is a process under which the Soviet authorities, in a half-heart show of humanity, requested claims from dispossessed owners, but they apparently ignored many of them.
Some years later, Waters says, Mr Tabaksman was offered an apartment in the city, but it was on condition that he stayed and lived in it, not something he was able to do as he had a family in London by that time. So the offer was never taken up.
In 2007 a TV documentary was made by Baddiel featuring MR Tabaksman’s two apartments, which at the time were said to be worth $7 million. He found during the course of his research for the programme that the family still had the records from the Warshaw Land Registry showing ownership.
“It’s not about the money, although that would be very nice,” Waters told the Jewish News Online this week. “It’s the injustice of it all, and the insult to dead people. The Nazis deprived myself and sisters of grandparents and a wider family now the Poles are depriving us of our rightful inheritance.”
Canadian filmmaker Eric Scott believes that the Polish state has not merely failed to address the question of restitution; it is effectively covering up the seizure of Jewish property by past Polish governments – a position that will undoubtedly raise hackles.
“Poland’s non-action is tantamount to disavowing Polish participation in the plundering of Jewish property during the Holocaust, continuing up to the end of Communist rule in 1989. More than two decades after the restoration of democracy in Poland, Polish Jewish survivors and their heirs are still seeking reparations for property that was taken from them either by Polish individuals or by the Polish State, but to no avail says Scott. As recently as February 2011, the government of Poland suspended work on legislation to this effect,” he says.
“My film will attempt to find out why. We will follow restitution claimants back to Poland. We’ll knock on the doors of their former homes and see who is living there now. We will film these conversations with the current occupants or owners. We will go to city hall, accompanied by US lawyers specializing in restitution issues, in an attempt to uncover the paper trail of the transfer of Jewish property to Polish ownership”.
Sisters pledge to ‘fight’ Polish property ruling https://t.co/Yb0Fum6Xh6
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) August 15, 2016