Germany should at least consider Poland’s claim for war reparations, says top SPD politician

German Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician, Dietmar Nietan, left, and party leader Olaf Scholz at the party headquarters in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, March 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
4 Min Read

The German federal government’s decision to dismiss out of hand Poland’s request for World War II reparations was arrogant and should be reviewed, a long-serving lawmaker for the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Germany has claimed.

Dietmar Nietan, an MP and the coordinator for Polish-German affairs in the German government, told Polish news outlet that he doesn’t think the claim for reparations is a hopeless cause.

He said that he believes politicians from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland understand that formally Germany will not grant Poland reparations, but that the matter performs another function. That function, according to Dietmar Nietan, is to justify a negative narrative with regard to Germany and to put pressure on the Polish opposition who will not want to seem unpatriotic by failing to back the claim. 

Nietan explained the stance taken by the German government is legalistic. In these narrow legal terms, the German government may be correct, but Nietan asserted that Germany should look at the Polish claim in a broader context not for reparations but for compensation for past wrongs. He proposed that Germany create a multi-billion euro fund for the recovery of heritage that Germany destroyed, adding that such an instrument could also help finance modern air defenses for Central and Eastern Europe. Nietan said that he thinks the current German stance of dismissing the Polish reparations claim out of hand is “arrogant.”

Pressed on why there is no progress on symbolic matters such as the construction of a memorial in Germany to the Polish victims of World War II, Nietan expressed his regret that there has been little progress on the matter. He also voiced his displeasure at the fact that the German Ministry of Education has not implemented a decision of the Bundestag to dedicate resources to the teaching of Polish as a mother tongue. 

The SDP MP also claimed that Paris and Berlin were wrong to ignore Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in designing European policy toward Russia and the east. “This was always a mistake even before the Russian aggression of 2014 and 2022,” he told the Polish news outlet.

He explained that this is the reason why his party is now calling for a new eastern policy of the whole EU that should be one agreed upon by the countries of the CEE region. 

Asked about the negative way Germany is portrayed by some Polish politicians in Poland’s election year, Nietan said that the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) has been doing this for domestic reasons and that this should not affect Polish-German cooperation after the election is over. He believes that Germany and Poland have to work together to assist Ukraine as well as inside the EU, and failure to do so would impact the future of Europe negatively.

Nietan also said he understands how disappointed Poles and other nations in the region feel with regard to past German policies on Russia, but hoped that justified criticism of the German stance will not prevent Polish-German cooperation to meet the challenges facing Europe, such as that of Russian imperialism. 

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