Germany responds to Poland’s $1.3 trillion reparations demand for WWII occupation

An estimated 6 million Poles were killed in Poland during WWII, but Germany argues that the matter of reparations is closed

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: DGP
A young Polish boy returns to what was his home and squats among the ruins during a pause in the German air raids on Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 1939, World War II. (AP Photo/Julien Bryan)

Germany has already indicated it has no intention of paying a $1.3 trillion reparations demand delivered yesterday for Nazi Germany’s Second World War occupation of Poland, with Germany’s foreign ministry stating that the entire matter of reparations was “concluded” long ago. Germany insists that compensation was already paid to Eastern bloc nations like Poland following the years after the war.

On Thursday, Poland released a report detailing $1.3 trillion (6.2 trillion PLN) worth of damages suffered by Poland as a result of the German invasion and occupation during the Second World War, which was unveiled at Warsaw Castle on Thursday on the anniversary of the outbreak of war in 1939.

The leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS), Jarosław Kaczyński, announced that Poland will file for reparations from Germany for the damages suffered.

However, Germany points to the 1953 agreement with Poland’s then communist rulers, who reliquinshed all reparation demands due to pressure from the Soviet Union, which wanted to free East Germany from liabilities. However, Poland contends that the agreement is invalid because Poland never received fair compensation, and it was made under duress.

Kaczyński acknowledged that Germany’s response was unlikely to be positive, but he added that “sometimes you have to fight for such causes for many years. We can’t promise speedy resolution of the matter. All we are saying is that this is our duty to Poland to put right something that should have been done a long time ago.”

The ruling party leader said that the sum of the reparations to be claimed from Germany — is $1.3 trillion — was arrived at using “the most conservative estimates.” He called the sum “serious” but one which Germany could manage over a period of time. He noted that Germany ceased its reparation payments for the First World War to France only 10 years ago.

Kaczyński confirmed that the claim did not include any damages incurred from Soviet Russia, but it certainly did include the over 5 million Poles who lost their lives as a result of the German invasion and occupation. 

Many of those who lost their lives were Polish citizens of Jewish origin and Kaczyński said that Poland would welcome cooperation from Israel in pursuing the claim against Germany. 

Poland’s main ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski attends a wreath laying ceremony marking national observances of the anniversary of World War II in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk)

The leader of Poland’s ruling party believes that “Germany has never really taken responsibility and been held to account for their crimes against Poland. He argued that in many ways there had been an amnesty in Germany to thousands of those who perpetrated crimes in Poland.

It was also noticeable how the German historical narrative has not laid emphasis on the crimes committed against Poland and therefore it did not become part of German consciousness with regard to remembering the Second World War. One of the objectives of the reparations claim would be to ensure that this changes and that it is never allowed to happen again. 

The report on the damages to Poland has been in preparation over the last five years under the auspices of a parliamentary group. It was prepared by 30 economists, historians, surveyors, and reviewed by ten experts.

As Kaczyński predicted, the response of the German response was negative. The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that Poland had long since waived its reparations claim in the 1953 decision According to the ministry “this is part of the European order. Germany accepts political and moral responsibility for the Second World War”.

An estimated 6 million Poles, including three million Polish Jews, were killed during the war and Warsaw, the capital, was destroyed after an uprising in 1944, where almost 200,000 civilians died.

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