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IWP Professor addresses problems of property restitution

US Helsinki Commission has issued a call for Poland to restore private property to the rightful owners. Below, IWP’s Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz discusses the implications of this ongoing controversy.

Please click here to read comments from members of the US Helsinki Commission. 

The problem of property restitution in societies once ruled by regimes hostile to the concept of private property rights is a complex one.

The case of Poland – addressed by IWP Kościuszko Chair Professor Marek Jan Chodakiewicz – may serve as a prime example. The Central European country was occupied by two such totalitarian regimes: the German National Socialists (Nazis) and the Soviet International Socialists (Communists). Both, in congruence with the socialist dogma, were hostile to private property. However, the Communists rejected private property en toto as the root of all evil. The Nazis frowned upon private property, while allowing “Aryans” to serve as stewards of their own property under state supervision. However, Jews, and other racial “undesirables,” were to be deprived of their property.

Following the launching of the Second World War by Hitler and Stalin, the Soviet and German occupiers confiscated both Jewish and Polish Christian properties, which now came under the ownership of the Third Reich and the USSR, respectively. Following the imposition of communism on Poland by Hitler’s erstwhile Soviet allies, this property was appropriated by the new communist puppet state, which further gorged itself on the estates, businesses, and homes of millions of Christian Poles. Further complicating matters, choice bits of state property became appropriated by communist apparatchiks as communism crumbled during the late 1980s.

After the implosion of the Soviet bloc, many former property owners, or their descendants, demanded justice. Post-communist governments, including the ones in Warsaw, were slow in responding, usually citing various difficulties, such as the fact that properties changed hands many times. In the article co-authored along with Dan Currell, J.D.,  Prof. Chodakiewicz analyzes the problems posed by property restitution in Poland and offers solutions to overcome these complications.

The article is part of Poland’s Transformation: A Work in Progress:

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, John Radzilowski, and Dariusz Tolczyk, eds., Poland’s Transformation: A Work in
Progress (Charlottesville, VA: Leopolis Press, 2003), 157-193.

To read the entire article, please see:

To download the article from the IWP website, please click here: Download file RESTYTUCJA: The Problems of Property Restitution in Poland (1939-2001)