Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (Polish acronym PiS) announced last month that it would be demanding 6.2 trillion zlotys ($1.3 trillion US) from Germany to reimburse the Eastern European country for damages incurred during the Nazi invasion and occupation during World War II.
Berlin considers the matter closed.
Poland’s foreign minister has officially signed and dispatched a note to Berlin demanding reparations for World War II.
“The diplomatic note that I have just signed will be forwarded to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It expresses the conviction that the parties should take immediate steps aimed at ensuring a permanent and final, legal and material settlement on the issue of the consequences of the German aggression and occupation of 1939-1945,” Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said Monday.
Rau said the note includes a demand for German payment of compensation for material and non-material damage incurred by the Polish state, the systematic liquidation of Polish cultural values and the return of stolen wealth and assets of Polish state banks.
PiS president Jaroslaw Kaczynski tabled the demand for compensation on September 1 and the 83rd anniversary of the beginning of the conflict.
German officials politely balked at the demands, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Christopher Burger saying that the matter was “closed from the point of view of the federal government.”
“Poland long ago, in 1953, waived further reparations and has repeatedly confirmed this waiver. This is a significant basis for today’s European order. Germany stands by its responsibility for World War II politically and morally,” Burger said.
The PiS government has rejected the terms of the 1953 waiver, suggesting Poland’s post-war communist government was pressured into abandoning the reparations demands by Moscow.
Notwithstanding the waiver, Germany and Austria have already paid out billions of euros-worth of compensation to Polish survivors of Nazi medical experiments, victims of slave labor and certain categories of pensioners, with most of these funds paid out in the 1990s and 2000s.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is expected to visit Warsaw on Tuesday, where the issue of reparations will be raised. Baerbock commented on the “immeasurable suffering that Germany brought to the people of Poland” during World War II in a speech on Monday, but did not touch on the reparations issue directly.
Tensions between Germany and Poland escalated last month after Chancellor Olaf Scholz emphasized the importance of the German-Polish normalization of relations agreements reached under former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt in the 1970s in a speech alongside former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk. “And I would not like to see some people rummage through history books to introduce revisionist border changes,” Scholz said.
Polish officials and media interpreted Scholz’s comments as a “threat,” and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attacked the chancellor on Twitter as a “devil [who] has dressed himself in vestments and is ringing for Mass.”
Along with Germany, Warsaw has also threatened to demand reparations from Russia. Russian officials have dismissed these claims full stop, recalling the Red Army’s role in liberating Poland from the Nazis, and Moscow’s efforts to endow the country with its present borders with Germany.
Opponents of the reparations demands against Germany have questioned the logic of Warsaw’s request. Last month, Polish-born Holocaust researcher and University of Ottawa professor Jan Grabowski told Israeli media that the compensation being sought by Warsaw includes damages for Polish Jews who were murdered by ethnic Poles, without German involvement.