Poland demands $1.3 trillion in war reparations from Germany
Warsaw, Poland — Poland’s top politician said on Thursday the government would seek the equivalent of some $1.3 trillion in reparations from Germany for the Nazis’ invasion and occupation of his country during World War II.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice party, announced the huge claim when releasing a long-awaited report on the cost to the country of years of Nazi German occupation as it marks 83 years since the start of the Second World War.
“We not only prepared the report, but we also made the decision on the next steps,” Kaczynski said during the presentation of the report.
“We will look to Germany to open reparations negotiations,” Kaczynski said, adding that it will be “a long and not easy road” but “one day will bring success.”
He insisted the move would serve “a genuine Polish-German reconciliation” that would be based on the “truth”.
He claimed that the German economy is capable of footing the bill.
Germany argues compensation was paid to Eastern bloc nations in the years after the war, while territories Poland lost in the east when borders were redrawn were compensated by some of the pre-war German lands. Berlin calls the matter closed.
Poland’s right-wing government argues that the country that was the first victim of the war has not been fully compensated by neighboring Germany, which is now one of its main partners in the European Union.
“Germany has never really been accountable for its crimes against Poland,” Kaczynski said, saying many Germans who committed war crimes lived with impunity in Germany after the war.
Senior leaders including Kaczynski, who is Poland’s top policymaker, and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attended the report’s release ceremony at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, rebuilt from wartime ruins.
The publication of the three-volume report was central to national celebrations of the anniversary of the war that began on September 1, 1939, with the bombardment and invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, followed by more than five years of brutal occupation.
The report’s team leader, lawmaker Arkadiusz Mularczyk, said it was impossible to put a financial value on the loss of some 5.2 million lives he attributed to the German occupation.
He listed losses to infrastructure, industry, agriculture, culture, deportations to Germany for forced labor and efforts to turn Polish children into Germans.
A team of more than 30 economists, historians and other experts have worked on the report since 2017. The issue has created bilateral tensions.
The war was ‘one of the most terrible tragedies in our history’, President Andrzej Duda said during morning celebrations on the Westerplatte peninsula near Gdansk, one of the first places to be attacked during the invasion nazi.
“Not only because it took away our freedom, not only because it took away our state, but also because this war caused millions of victims among Polish citizens and irreparable losses for our homeland and our nation,” Duda said.
In Germany, the government official for German-Polish cooperation, Dietmar Nietan, said in a statement that September 1 “remains a day of guilt and shame for Germany which repeatedly reminds us not to forget the crimes committed by Germany”. are the “darkest chapter in our history” and still affect bilateral relations.
The reconciliation proposed by the Poles is “the basis on which we can together look to the future in a united Europe”, Nietan said.
The Polish government rejects a 1953 statement by the country’s then communist leaders, under pressure from the Soviet Union, agreeing to no longer claim Germany.
An opposition MP, Grzegorz Schetyna, said the report was just a “game of domestic politics” and insisted that Poland needed to establish good relations with Berlin.
Some 6 million Polish citizens, including 3 million Jews, were killed during the war. Some of them fell victim to the Soviet Red Army which invaded from the east.
AP writer Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed.