World War II reparations: Poland sends diplomatic note

Status: 03.10.2022 15:21

Poland has given official form to its demands for reparations from Germany. Foreign Minister Rau signed a diplomatic note addressed to his German counterpart Baerbock.

Shortly before a visit by Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to Warsaw, Poland’s government took another step to reinforce its demands for reparations from Germany. Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau signed a diplomatic note to be handed over to the Foreign Office in Berlin.

“It expresses the Polish Foreign Minister’s belief that the parties should take immediate steps towards a permanent, comprehensive and final legal and material settlement of the consequences of German aggression and occupation from 1939 to 1945,” Rau said. According to a spokesman, the Foreign Office in Berlin initially did not want to comment on the Polish announcements.

Reparations are always an issue

The national-conservative PiS government in Warsaw has repeatedly raised the issue of reparation demands in recent years. At the beginning of September, a parliamentary commission in Warsaw presented a report in which the damage caused by World War II in Poland was estimated at more than 1.3 trillion euros. At the same time, PiS boss Jaroslaw Kaczynski renewed the demand for compensation payments.

Rau did not name a specific amount. However, he made it clear that according to Warsaw, a regulation must include “the payment of compensation by Germany for the material and non-material damage that the Polish state suffered as a result of this aggression and occupation”. Victims of the German occupiers and their family members would also have to be compensated. Likewise, a regulation for the looted cultural assets and archives must be found.

Germany relies on the Two Plus Four Treaty

Baerbock travels to Warsaw later today. There she will take part in the celebrations of the German Embassy on the Day of German Unity and give a speech. Baerbock meets her counterpart Rau on Tuesday morning. A spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry said Rau would discuss all important issues of German-Polish relations with Baerbock. “And the diplomatic note is probably one of the most important.”

Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 marked the beginning of World War II with at least 55 million dead – other estimates put the number as high as 80 million. There are no exact numbers. Four to six million Poles lost their lives in the war. The capital Warsaw was almost completely destroyed.

The federal government rejects Poland’s demand for reparations. On the one hand, it refers to the Two Plus Four Agreement of 1990 on the foreign policy consequences of German unity; on the other hand, Berlin points out that the communist Polish leadership declared in 1953 that it would refrain from German compensation payments and had “confirmed it several times” over the years.

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