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Marek Chodakiewicz comments on property restitution in Poland and Iraq

The piece below is a response by Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz to an August 8, 2017 article in the Washington Post entitled “Property stolen during the Holocaust made some communities richer, even 70 years later.”

Property restitution is generally a good idea but not when its advocacy rests upon a false metrics and a spurious link between Iraq and Poland as touted in a deeply flawed study by Volkha Charnysh and Evgeny Finkel (Washington Post, 8 August).

They claim that “Jewish gold” from the death camp at Treblinka enriched Christian scavengers so much that its impact endures into the present times. As their “proof,” and an alleged sign of affluence of the local farmers, the writers wheel out a 1988 study of sheet roofing in villages around Treblinka. They find such roofs ubiquitous in most hamlets. In fact, sheet roofing is the second cheapest method of house covering after straw. The most expensive are wood shingles and bitumen covers.

Obviously, sheet roofs do not indicate affluence. Further, the authors fail to include in their convoluted calculations the impact of American relatives who routinely sent funds for decades to help their Polish relatives out because of the penury and misery of life under Communism. Even stolen gold runs out pretty fast under totalitarianism because one cannot invest it. Since both pundits seem to hail from the old Soviet Union, they should know better.

Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz holds the Kosciuszko Chair and heads the Center for Intermarium Studies at The Institute of World Politics. Among other things, he co-edited a study of rescue and scavenging, during and after the Holocaust, including around Treblinka: Golden Harvest or Hearts of Gold?: Studies on the Wartime Fate of Poles and Jews (2012).