search

WWII: Poland officially seeks $1.3t from Germany, including for Jews killed by Poles

Formal demand for reparations over Nazi German occupation signed by Warsaw’s foreign minister; Berlin has said it considers the matter settled

German soldiers try to dislodge snipers in Warsaw during the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939 in World War II.  (AP Photo)
German soldiers try to dislodge snipers in Warsaw during the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939 in World War II. (AP Photo)

WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s foreign minister on Monday signed an official note to Germany requesting the payment of some $1.3 trillion in reparations for the damage inflicted by occupying Nazi Germans during World War II. Poland’s reparations demand includes cases of Jews killed by Poles during the Holocaust.

Zbigniew Rau said the note will be handed to Germany’s Foreign Ministry. The signing comes on the eve of Rau’s meeting in Warsaw with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who will attend a security conference.

Rau said the note expresses his view that the two sides should take action “without delay” to address the effects of Germany’s 1939-45 occupation in a “lasting and complex, legally binding as well as material way.”

He said that would include German reparations as well as solving the issue of looted artworks, archives and bank deposits. He said Berlin should make efforts to inform German society about the “true” picture of the war and its disastrous effects on Poland.

Warsaw says that payment of reparations would strengthen bilateral relations through truth and justice and would close painful chapters from the past. Germany says the matter was closed decades ago.

Baerbock said in Berlin before departing for Poland that the two European neighbors and partners have a “responsibility to preserve the trust we have built together over the past 30 years.”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock 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 “this includes that coming to terms with and remembering the immeasurable suffering that Germany brought upon the people of Poland.”

“There cannot and will not be a line drawn here,” Baerbock said.

Poland’s right-wing government argues that the country hasn’t been fully compensated by neighboring Germany, which is now one of its major partners within the European Union.

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

Poland’s government 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.

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)

Germany argues compensation was paid to Eastern Bloc nations in the years after the war, while territories that Poland lost in the east as borders were redrawn were compensated with some of Germany’s prewar lands. Berlin calls the matter closed. It was Moscow that decided Poland would receive only a small fraction of the compensation.

In the 1990s Germany paid one-time compensation to former inmates of Nazi concentration camps and to victims of forced labor, including many Poles.

Despite good bilateral relations, Poland’s most powerful politician, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has recently made increasingly hostile remarks about Germany, recalling its wartime guilt and alleging that it is dominating the European Union.

Critics see that as tactics aimed at rallying backing ahead of general elections scheduled next fall. Opinion polls suggest the ruling Law and Justice party and its allies will lose the narrow majority that now allows them to pass legislation without negotiating with other parties.

Senate Speaker Tomasz Grodzki, a member of the opposition, said anti-German rhetoric was shaping up to be the ruling party’s mantra for the upcoming election — that voting against the ruling party was voting against Poland’s interests.

“This is evident nonsense; it’s untrue. It’s a desperate attempt at defense against surveys that show falling support,” Grodzki said.

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

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.

Jews from Poland and abroad gather for commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of a massacre of Jews in Jedwabne, Poland, on July 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Michal Kosc)

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.

“Due to Germany’s aggression, the Third Reich & the USSR occupied Polish lands. International conventions state occupiers are responsible for the population’s safety, lives & property. Jedwabne was under USSR & Third Reich occupation, killing the citizens of the Second Republic,” wrote Arkadiusz Mularczyk in a tweet.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed