Poland demands €1.3 trillion Second World War reparations from Germany

Warsaw says there cannot be normal relations between the two countries unless compensation is paid

Matthew 1 September 2022 •

Poland has ordered the German government to pay €1.3 trillion in reparations for the destruction inflicted during the Second World War.

Warsaw said that without compensation, there can be no normal relations between the two countries.

The demand for compensation came during the presentation of a three-volume report detailing Poland’s material and human losses suffered at the hands of German forces during the war.

Its publication coincided with the 83rd anniversary of the start of the Second World War.

“Ordinary Germans – if one can use this term when speaking about criminals, bandits, robbers and rapists – looted on their own accord, and the German state plundered systematically,” said Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, at the presentation.

“Without truth, without compensation, there can be no normal relationships between people, much less between states and nations. Pretending that nothing has happened, or that little has happened, takes you nowhere.”

Members of the Polish Navy outside the Monument to the Defenders of Westerplatte, Gdansk, on Thursday
Members of the Polish Navy outside the Monument to the Defenders of Westerplatte, Gdansk, on Thursday CREDIT: Artur Widak/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

On Thursday, the German government rejected the Polish call. 

“The German government’s position is unchanged, the reparations issue is closed,” said a foreign ministry spokesman.

During a visit to Warsaw in December, Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, ruled out reparations, saying the matter had been covered by treaties signed in the 1990s. He added that Germany also paid a lot into the EU budget. Poland has profited from EU funds which, for example, helped to overhaul its previously creaking transport infrastructure.

Arkadiusz Mularczyk, the head of the report team, said it was impossible to place a financial value on the loss of some 5.2 million lives he blamed on the German occupation.

He listed losses to the infrastructure, industry, farming, culture, deportations to Germany for forced labour 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.

Members of Law and Justice, the dominant party in Poland’s governing coalition, have made frequent calls for reparations in the past. Radek Sikorski, an opposition politician and a former Polish foreign minister, described the bid for reparations as “propaganda and fairy tales for the naïve”.

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Selected comments from DT readers :

Mark Smith : “Polish supported the UK in her hour if need. Only right that Poland now is fully compensated for the horrors of WW2.”

William Beckett: “’Bout time we sent the Germans our bill for 2 world wars, and for GB’s help in the re-building of Germany post WWII, and for the Berlin airlift and for defending them from the Soviet Union from 1945-1989. Makes the Polish demand look like chicken feed…”

Rob Dixon: “Go Poland I say. Germany got away very lightly after WW2 and have wielded far too much influence in the EU promoting German interests over everybody elses. Their recent cozying up to Putin and all the connotations of corruption which come with it has made them a danger to peace in Europe (again).”

Barnaby Rudge: “Poland will of course present a similar bill to Russia. Everyone’s heart goes out to Poland but if they are not careful, they will throw everything away.”

Mariette Hubert: “I quite see why it is important for Poland to come up with a list and put a figure on all they lost because of the Germans – though I’m sure they’re well aware they’re not actually going to see any payments. Additionally, I see the plus-points of bringing it up at this moment where Germany is behaving so shamefully in terms of helping Ukraine. It is a good and timely reminder that Germany only ever thinks about itself and will only ever do what is good for them. So all in all, well done Poland.”

Odysseus of Ithaca: “The Germans have a massive obligation and debt. We and the US paid to rebuild them after they lost the war. It cost the UK it’s empire. Two world wars. Germany culpable on both counts. They have have been trying to build the fifth Reich via the EU ever since.”

Arnie Ward: “Quite right too and sets a precedent for Russia’s coming reparations. All nations need to be deterred by the understanding that aggressive wars of conquest will have to be paid for.”

Jonas Richter-Fjeld: “How much are they demanding from Russia? They have done them as much damage, and some…”

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