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Poland to Demand €1.3 Trillion of Reparations From Germany by David Boos

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Poland to Demand €1.3 Trillion of Reparations From Germany

On September 1st, Poland commemorated the 83rd anniversary of Germany’s attack on Poland, commonly considered to be the outbreak of World War II. The head of the reigning PiS party, Jaroslav Kaczynski, used the occasion to announce plans to demand reparations from Germany for the damage sustained during Nazi occupation. 

According to calculations in a new report using the “most limited, conservative method,” the sum in question amounts to €1.3 trillion, a significant increase from earlier calculations in 2019 which amounted to €850 billion. 

The German government reacted by saying it considers reparations to have been settled many years ago.

Kaczynski announced that the Polish government would officially demand reparations, but did not hint at a timeline, only adding that the process would be “long and difficult.” He pointed to the enormous cruelty of the occupation of Poland while expressing confidence that the German economy would be capable of carrying the burden of reparations over several decades.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki supported Kaczynski’s demands in a tweet, claiming that this wasn’t “only a settling of the past, but above all compensation for crippling Poland’s future.” Dietmar Nietan, Germany’s official for German-Polish cooperation, acknowledged German guilt, but referred to the reconciliation offered by the Poles as “the basis on which we can look toward the future together in a united Europe.”

The German government released a statement stressing that it considered the matter of reparations closed, referring to a declaration from 1953 in which Polish leadership of the time agreed to abstain from further claims from Germany. A spokesperson of the German Foreign Ministry said that “the position of the German government remains unchanged, the question of reparations has been settled.” He pointed out that several Polish governments had repeatedly confirmed the abstention of 1953, a fact that is “a significant basis of the current order of Europe,” adding that “Germany takes political and moral responsibility for the Second World War.”

The current Polish government however rejects this agreement as the result of pressure from the Soviet Union at the time. 

In Poland, political opposition suspects the challenge as a distraction maneuver. Grzegorz Schetyna, a lawmaker of the Polish opposition, called the report a “game in internal politics,” a notion supported by the opposition leader Donald Tusk, who claimed the call for reparations was mostly about “rebuilding support for the ruling party.”

Poland isn’t the only country raising hopes for further reparations. Greece recently estimated the war damage at €289 billion and may consider demanding reparations. Such claims are supported by the German historian Karl Roth, who suggests that Poland will succeed in their demand “if it joins forces on the issue of reparations with all other countries whose compensation claims have so far been satisfied to a low extent.” Besides Poland and Greece, that would include the states of former Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Belarus, and “other occupied territories of the former USSR.”

David Boos is an organist, documentary filmmaker, and writer for The European Conservative and other publications.

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