As Polish gov’t sells off businesses to American companies, heirs of Shoah victims want value of their stock shares.
Stewart Ain – Staff Writer

As one of his last acts in 1943 before he was forced into Majdanek, the Nazi extermination camp near the Polish city of Lublin, Joseph Sapir, a wealthy Jewish banker, placed all of his bonds, stock certificates and cash into a small suitcase and sent it to France for safekeeping by his son, Yehuda.

Yehuda, who kept the suitcase at his home in Paris, died in 1983. After communist rule ended in 1989, his widow, Esther, tried unsuccessfully to cash in the certificates and exchange the cash for the local currency.

“The Polish government made everyone believe this was worthless paper,” Edward Fagan, Esther Sapir’s lawyer, said of the cash and certificates.

But Fagan, in a lawsuit to be filed this week in Manhattan Federal Court, said many of the stock certificates Sapir holds are for companies that the Polish government is now selling to large companies and then pocketing the money. Most of the companies buying the Polish businesses are American, including Credit Suisse First Boston, which in 2004 bought 30 percent of Opoczno, a ceramics company, for $1.7 million, Fagan said. Sapir owned approximately 1 percent of Opoczno, Fagan said. Several calls to Credit Suisse were not returned.