The Polish government announced it will seek $1.3 trillion in reparations from Germany stemming from the Nazi invasion and five-year occupation of Poland during World War II.
“We will turn to Germany to open negotiations on the reparations,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s Law and Justice party, said Thursday, according to a report in The Washington Post.
Kaczynski’s comments came during a ceremony revealing the results of a report on the cost of Nazi Germany’s invasion and occupation of Poland. The results of the report, which was compiled by more than 30 economists, historians and other experts since 2017, were released on the same day Poland marked the 83-year anniversary of the invasion of Poland and beginning of World War II in Europe.
“We not only prepared the report but we have also taken the decision as to the further steps,” Kaczynski said during the ceremony, noting that the process for obtaining reparations from neighboring Germany will be a “long and not an easy path” but “one day will bring success.”
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Kaczynski said that “true Polish-German reconciliation” would be achieved by the German payment to Poland, which he argued Germany’s large economy is capable of making.
The report and demands have caused tension between Germany and Poland, with Germany arguing that it has already paid East Bloc nations following World War II. Germany’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the country’s official position has not changed, that the “question of reparations is concluded.”
“Poland long ago, in 1953, waived further reparations and has repeatedly confirmed this waiver,” the ministry said in a statement to the Associated Press. “This is a significant basis for today’s European order. Germany stands by its responsibility for World War II politically and morally.”
But Poland counters that its former socialist government, which was largely influenced by the Soviet Union, did not demand enough from Germany, which Poland’s government blames for the loss of infrastructure, industry, farming, culture, and 5.2 million lives.
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“Germany has never really accounted for its crimes against Poland,” Kaczynski said.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said Thursday that the war was “one of the most terrible tragedies” in the country’s history.
“Not only because it took our freedom, not only because it took our state from us, but also because this war meant millions of victims among Poland’s citizens and irreparable losses to our homeland and our nation,” Duda said.
Dietmar Nietan, the German government’s official for German-Polish cooperation, said the anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland “remains a day of guilt and shame for Germany that reminds us time and again not to forget the crimes carried out by Germany,” but argued that reconciliation from the Polish people is “the basis on which we can look toward the future together in a united Europe.”
Meanwhile, Grzegorz Schetyna, an opposition party lawmaker, said the calls for reparations and the report were a “game in the internal politics” while calling for good relations with Germany.