Post-'68 Polish Israelis eligible to become poles again
By MATTHEW WAGNER
March 15, 2008
Beginning this week, Jews who left Poland for Israel in the wake of the March 1968 "anti-Zionist" disturbances will be allowed to reclaim their Polish citizenship.
Polish Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration Grzegorz Schetyna announced Monday that all Poles who were forced to leave Poland after 1968 would have their citizenship recognized automatically.
Most of those forced to leave the country were Jewish.
The Soviet-led "anti-Zionist" campaign, which was the backlash of a student uprising demanding human rights, forced about 15,000 Jews to leave Poland in the late 1960s and early '70s. As many as 5,000 of these Jews came to Israel.
Although none of these Jews gave up their Polish citizenship, Poland has refused to recognize them as Polish citizens. Polish laws stipulated that any Pole who left the country for Israel automatically lost Polish citizenship. The singling-out of Israel by Poland was seen as motivated by anti-Semitism and the fervently anti-Israel position taken by the Soviets after the Six Day War.
In a phone interview from Warsaw, Peter Kadlcik, president of the Jewish Communities of Poland, told The Jerusalem Post that the new decision had been made as a result of "growing inertia" and did not rule out the possibility that it had to do with the resurgence of the Polish Jewish community in recent years.
"This decision will help to right an injustice dating back to the Soviet era," said Kadlcik. "It will also give all Polish citizens to option of moving to the EU, since Poland is a member."
Kadlcik added that he "warmly welcomed" any Polish Jew who was interested in returning to Poland.
Just last week, the Polish Jewish community reinstated its Orthodox Rabbinic Council for the first time since the Holocaust. And an organization called Shavei Israel has helped discover thousands of "hidden Jews" who had assimilated and lost ties with the Jewish community.
A spokesman for the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland and the Open Republic - Association Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia said that Schetyna backed the move. In a letter to the organizations, Schetyna wrote that every one of Poland's 16 counties or "voivodes" were ordered to confirm the citizenship of Jews who were forced to leave after March 1968.
Schetyna said that once revoked, Polish citizenship could not be recovered. However, in the case of the Jews who left for Israel after 1968, citizenship was never lost. Therefore, the voivodes could issue a confirmation of citizenship.
Mark Skulimowski, press attaché at the Polish Embassy in Israel, said there were about 1,000 Poles living in Israel who were eligible to have their citizenship recognized. He said the children of citizens were also eligible to receive citizenship and that once these children had obtained it, they could pass it on to their children.
According to Skulimowski, there were 350 requests in 2006 for recognition of Polish citizenship and 285 in 2007.