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Poland’s WWII reparations demands rebuffed by Germany

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Poland/Germany – On 3 October 2022, Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, in a diplomatic note sent to the German government, formalised the long-discussed Polish request to reopen the question of German reparations to Poland for the damage caused by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, the value of which Poland estimates at 6.2 trillion zlotys (1.3 trillion euros). The German government has just responded with a flat no.

According to a statement from the Polish foreign ministry,

“the German government [considers] the issue of reparations and compensation for war losses to be closed, and […] does not intend to negotiate on this matter.

Mateusz Morawiecki’s government, which prefers to talk about compensation rather than reparations, is also sticking to its position and “will continue its efforts to settle the claims resulting from the German aggression and occupation in the years 1939–1945”. In Berlin, the foreign ministry has confirmed that it has replied to Poland, while refusing to comment further. In the meantime in Warsaw, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk said in an interview for the PAP Polish press agency on 3 January that

this answer shows an absolutely disrespectful attitude towards Poland and Poles, (…) Germany does not pursue a friendly policy towards Poland, it wants to build its sphere of influence here and treats Poland as a vassal state.

(…) We will, however, consistently and intensively continue our actions in favour of compensation. (…) We have many months of hard work before us. I am convinced that, sooner or later, Germany will be made to change its position under the pressure of international and also domestic public opinion as we are going to launch an information campaign in Germany.

On 4 October, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had said: “Germany upholds its historical responsibility unequivocally. It’s our eternal duty to remember the suffering Germany brutally inflicted upon millions of Polish people. (…) Nevertheless,

from the point of view of the German government, the issue of reparations is, as you know, closed.

Anticipating the negative response from Berlin, the Polish authorities have already undertaken to take the issue to the international stage, asking for support from the Council of Europe’s Secretary General and Committee of Ministers as well as from the United Nations.

Some six million Polish citizens, including three million Polish Jews, were killed during World War II. Poland’s capital, Warsaw, was literally razed to the ground by the Germans in 1944. In 1953, under pressure from Moscow, in an official note sent only to the East German (GDR) government, the Polish communist government renounced its right to demand reparations from Germany. Today’s Polish government considers, however, that the decision was not taken freely, and that it therefore has no validity.