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German minister tells Poland no chance for WWII reparations as Warsaw seeks $1.3t

Poland’s demand includes cases of Jews killed by Poles during the Holocaust; Germany says matter is closed

German soldiers search rubble in Westerplatte for Polish survivors in Danzig, Poland on September 2, 1939. (AP Photo)
German soldiers search rubble in Westerplatte for Polish survivors in Danzig, Poland on September 2, 1939. (AP Photo)

WARSAW, Poland — Germany’s foreign minister told her Polish counterpart Tuesday there will be no more World War II reparations because Berlin considers the matter closed.

Annalena Baerbock directly addressed Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau at a news conference in Warsaw following their talks on subjects that included Poland’s request for reparations.

“The question of reparations is, as you know, concluded from the German government’s point of view,” she said.

On Monday, Rau signed and expedited a note to Germany demanding some $1.3 trillion in reparations for material and other damages and losses Poland claims were caused by Nazi Germany’s wartime occupation from 1939-45. Poland’s reparations demand includes cases of Jews killed by Poles during the Holocaust.

Poland’s right-wing government argues that the country hasn’t been fully compensated by Germany, which is now one of its major partners within the European Union. Warsaw rejects a 1953 declaration by the country’s then communist leaders, under pressure from the Soviet Union, that Poland wouldn’t make any further claims on Germany.

On the war’s 83rd anniversary, September 1, the Polish government presented an extensive report on the damages, estimating it at the $1.3 trillion figure.

Annalena Baerbock, German Foreign Minister, delivers a speech on the National Security Strategy at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Germany, on March 18, 2022. (Annegret Hilse/Pool Photo via AP)

As the Times of Israel reported last month, included in the list of atrocities are villages that were the sites of Polish pogroms against Jews — perhaps most infamously the village of Jedwabne, where over 300 Jews were burned alive by ethnic Poles — as well as other Jewish deaths that can be tied to Polish citizens.

The author of the report setting out the demand justified it by arguing that Poland’s Nazi and other occupiers should have prevented those killings.

At the news conference on Tuesday, Baerbock firmly restated Berlin’s stance that, while Germany recognizes its historical responsibility, the matter is closed.

Rau said he believes that position may change in the course of negotiations in which he hopes Germany will engage.

Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau speaks during a high level Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Baerbock stressed that today the two neighbors share the responsibility for keeping Europe united in the face of outside threats, like Russia’s war in Ukraine. She also stressed the importance of the 1990 and 1991 bilateral treaties that confirmed Poland’s postwar border with Germany and good neighborly cooperation.

Border security is of tantamount significance to the Poles, due to centuries of turbulent history.

In the years after the war, Germany paid compensation to Eastern Bloc nations, but — by Moscow’s decision — only a small portion of it went to Poland, which was the war’s first and hardest-hit victim. The one-time compensation went to former inmates of Nazi concentration camps and to victims of forced labor, including many Poles.

Also Tuesday, Polish lawmaker Arkadiusz Mularczyk, who spearheaded the efforts to reevaluate the amount of damages Germany owed, said a similar assessment should be made of wartime damages caused by the Soviet Red Army, which also invaded Poland in 1939 and later battled the Germans on Polish territory to drive them out.

Around six million of Poland’s citizens, including three million Jews, were killed in the war. Some of them were victims of the Soviet Red Army that invaded from the east.

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