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US senators want Poland to pay Jews for Nazi property thefts

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, pictured (left) with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was condemned by Jewish groups when he said holding Poland liable for restitution would hand a "posthumous victory" to Adolf Hitler
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, pictured (left) with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was condemned by Jewish groups when he said holding Poland liable for restitution would hand a "posthumous victory" to Adolf Hitler AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

US senators are urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to encourage Poland to pay victims of Nazi property thefts, a move that earned praise from Jewish groups but risked antagonizing Poland's pro-American administration.

Eighty-eight out of the chamber's 100 lawmakers asked the top American diplomat in a letter Monday to "act boldly" to help Poland resolve the issue that has lingered for decades.

"In the decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Jewish Holocaust survivors of Polish origin and their families as well as others have found it nearly impossible to reclaim or seek compensation for the property that was nationalized by the Polish Communist regime" after being confiscated by war-era Nazis, they wrote.

"Now is the time, while the last Holocaust survivors are still alive, to back up our words with meaningful action," the senators added, referring to Pompeo's February speech in Warsaw where he called on Poland to take meaningful steps to restitute the property.

"We encourage you to pursue bold initiatives to help Poland to resolve this issue as quickly as possible."

Among the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis, three million were from Poland -- about 90 percent of the country's Jewish population.

A joint statement by Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin that highlighted the letter quoted rights groups as well as Holocaust survivors who applauded the message.

Warsaw and Washington have cooperated closely on security issues, but the longstanding allies remain at odds over restitution.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was condemned by Jewish groups in May when he said that holding Poland liable for the restitution would hand a "posthumous victory" to Adolf Hitler.

Poland has insisted that the restitution issue is closed and that a 2017 US law requiring State Department monitoring of Poland's progress on the matter will have no impact at home.

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