Thursday, January 18, 2007

Your rent is due in Shekels!

I have been emailing with Michal in Israel. A thirty-something technologist working for a hi-tech start-up in Tel Aviv, Michal may well be the only Jewish property owner in Przemysl. Here are some excerpts from her email [my comments in brackets]:
As to the building, it's a 3 story structure just next to the synagogue, [the Scheinbach Synagogue on Słowackiego] My grandmother grew up there. It was in the possession of her grandmother, the David family, from, well, ever.

You need to know a bit about my parent's history. My parents were deported from Poland in 1969 and stripped of their Polish citizenship by the communist's government . After wandering in Europe for a year, the Jewish Agency converted my mother and they made Aliya to Israel.

In 2000 my parents and my brother received their Polish citizenship back and then I received mine. In the same year the Polish government said that Jewish family's that lived in Poland during the war and had their property confiscated by the government could bring proof of that and receive the property back.

So we did it. We went to the city council of Przemysl and found all the necessary pre-war documents. I'm now corresponding with a notary in Przemysl in order to transfer the ownership on my building from my father (who lives in Poland) to me. Since I have a Polish citizenship it's suppose to be quite easy - at list I hope so. [beware: the Communists are gone, not the bureaucrats]

The government divided the building into 12 (!) small apartments and the residents that live there have the special legal position of protected tenants. Well see what we're going to do about that... the Jews are back in town!!! [Put a mezuzah on the entry door!]

It's always a surprise to my friends in Israel that I have a non-Jewish side; it's not always popular here. I still have a large family all over Poland from my mothers side - good Catholics that I love. I even have family that lived in Germany and served in the Army during WWII. We have a very warm and loving on-going relationship.

Dr. Bethauer, a prominent Przemysl attorney, was murdered along with hundreds of others in the first wave of atrocities carried out by the Nazis during September, 1939. He is noted in the Sefer Przemysl.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I pleased that Michal had his building rightfully returned to him, however I am not sure I appreciate the tone in this sentence:

The government divided the building into 12 (!) small apartments and the residents that live there have the special legal position of protected tenants. Well see what we're going to do about that...

It does rather imply he'd be happy to turn them out on to the street. It's not those people's fault they're living in the building any more than its Michal's family's fault that it was taken away from them in the first place. Put the blame the communist authorities for that, but don't penalise the destitute as an act of revenge. They probably have nowhere else to go, whereas I suspect that Michal has quite a nice home.

5:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, I put he and his instead of she and her... forgive me!

6:05 AM  
Anonymous DRS said...

Philipek –

David here, author of the Jewish Przemysl blog.

I have come to know Michal since she told me her family story and I will tell you she is anything but a rich land-baron and has no interest in revenge against her new tenants in the least.

The parties involved here are her and the current Polish government. While I have not talked whit her about this, I think that her meaning with regards to “Well see what we’re…” relates to the authorities potentially hiding behind the tenants – using them as pawns to potentially deny her family’s property rights, again.

My opinion is that if the building is hers, and the government is occupying it, then the government has the obligation to either pay her a “market” rent or to relocate the tenants. That’s what would happen here. (Non-Communist) Governments exist to enforce the laws, including property ownership. Her family has be wronged. It is up to the government (not the tenants!) to make it right.

On the other hand, I live half a world away and have only been to your city once for 2 days (in 2003) so my understanding of the broader context of this issue, and Polish law, is quite limited. I welcome your viewpoint on all this.

Thanks for commenting!



3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I hope I didn't come across as some insensitive a**shole who denies her the right to the property, far from it! It's her ancestral home, end of story!

On the other hand, there are people living there who really, have nowhere else to go. It's a complicated moral minefield, it really is. Just goes to show what a mess those dark years left - and how much is left to fix.

Anyway, Polish law - now, there's another (actual) minefield. The law, as far as I know, states that to move people from such an apartment you have to offer another premises of equal size and standard. Now, I doubt the place has been renovated since forever, so quality shouldn't be an issue - but size? However small those apartments might be, real estate costs - and the local government isn't going to invent in new housing. My own street has similar issues in many of the buildings.

What to do? I am damned if I know. You can't (nor, imho shouldn't) throw the residents out on the street. I guess the only viable alternative is to find them somewhere else, or encourage the authorities to do the same

6:01 PM  
Anonymous DRS said...

Phillipek -

No, no... I think we agree on this. War and genocide end but the pain and injustice linger on forever.

I can easily imagine far more difficult situations where a Polish family in 1946, unknowingly, buys/is given a home. Then the grandchildren find out it was taken from a murdered Jew whose own grandchildren now, rightfully, demand it back.

Certainly this has happened. What is the official position?

Time will fade the horrors of 1939-45. As it does, we must all resolve: never again.


7:18 PM  

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