The recent discovery by two men of a Nazi gold train carrying valuable property said to have been looted in World War II has prompted a debate over who has a legal claim to ownership. Now the EU has been pulled into the matter with calls for the European Commission to intervene.
With a senior member of the Polish government adding credibility to the Nazi gold train claim, the question of ownership has gained importance. The gold, gemstones and other valuable property thought to be hidden in a tunnel beneath Ksiaz Castle (pictured right), near the south-western Polish town of Walbrzych, may have been looted by Nazis. Polish Jews would be the likely victims of such theft.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has already raised the issue. The Jerusalem Post reports WJC head Robert Singer saying: “To the extent that any items now being discovered in Poland may have been stolen from Jews before they were sent to death…it is essential that every measure is taken to return the property to its rightful owners or to their heirs.
“We very much hope that the Polish authorities will take the appropriate action in that respect.”
Other suggestions for the treasure looted by officers of the Third Reich include registering it and making it available to EU Member States who fought for the Allies during World War II or, where historic ownership cannot be proved, applying it to the benefit of other Polish Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust.
On the other hand the Kremlin has suggested Russia deserves the treasure, to the extent it was taken from territory within the old Soviet Union, as compensation for Second World War. For its part, the Polish State has already stated its claim that the precious cargo will be owned by the State Treasury.
Now an Italian Forza Italia MEP who chairs the European Parliament delegation for relations with Israel has called on the European Commission to intervene, reports the European Jewish Press.
Fulvio Martusciello has asked Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, whether she “would intend to enforce the legitimate right of succession according to the principle that the Jewish community should be compensated for the losses of various nature as a consequence of the Holocaust.”
Furthermore, he has asked her to consider how “to intervene to protect the legitimate claim of the Jewish families who in all Europe did not receive a proper compensation?”
The fate of the Nazi gold train’s precious load is unlikely to be settled any time soon, and with players as diverse as the Polish State Treasury, the Kremlin, the European Commission, the World Jewish Congress and the treasure hunters who located it, the outcome will inevitably leave some parties unsatisfied.