Poland’s top politician said Thursday that the government will seek the equivalent of some $1.3 trillion Cdn in reparations from Germany for the Nazis’ invasion and occupation of his country during the Second World War.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice party, announced the claim at the release of a long-awaited report on the cost to the country of years of Nazi German occupation as it marks 83 years since the start of the war.
“We not only prepared the report but we have also taken the decision as to the further steps,” Kaczynski said during the report’s presentation.
“We will turn to Germany to open negotiations on the reparations,” Kaczynski said, adding it will be a “long and not an easy path” but “one day will bring success.”
He insisted the move would serve “true Polish-German reconciliation” that would be based on “truth.”
He claimed the German economy is capable of paying the bill.
Report took years to prepare
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 pre-war lands. Berlin calls the matter closed.
Poland’s right-wing government argues that Poland has not been fully compensated by neighbouring Germany, which is now one of its major partners within the European Union.
“Germany has never really accounted for its crimes against Poland,” Kaczynski said, claiming that many Germans who committed war crimes lived in impunity in Germany after the war.
The release of the three-volume report was the focus of national observances of the anniversary of the Second World War, which began Sept. 1, 1939, with Nazi Germany’s bombing and invasion of Poland. It was followed by more than five years of brutal occupation.
The head of the report team, lawmaker Arkadiusz Mularczyk, 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.
Germany says the matter is already settled
In Germany, the government’s official for German-Polish co-operation, Dietmar Nietan, said in a statement that Sept. 1 “remains a day of guilt and shame for Germany that reminds us time and again not to forget the crimes carried out by Germany” that are the “darkest chapter in our history” and still affect bilateral relations.
Reconciliation offered by people in Poland is “the basis on which we can look toward the future together in a united Europe,” Nietan said.
Poland’s government rejects a 1953 declaration by the country’s then-communist leaders, under pressure from the Soviet Union, agreeing not to make any further claims on Germany.
A Polish opposition lawmaker, Grzegorz Schetyna, says the report is just a “game in the internal politics” and insists Poland needs to build good relations with Berlin.