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Issue of WWII reparations for Poland closed, German foreign ministry tells Polish Radio

06.10.2022 12:30
Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has told public broadcaster Polish Radio that, according to the government in Berlin, "the issue of World War II reparations" for Poland "is closed." 
The German foreign ministry building in Berlin.
The German foreign ministry building in Berlin.Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The German foreign ministry expressed its position in an official reply sent to Polish Radio on September 22, the public broadcaster’s polskieradio24.pl website reported. 

Polish Radio asks German foreign ministry about WWII reparations 

More than a week earlier, on September 14, Polish Radio contacted the government in Berlin with six specific questions regarding Germany’s responsibility for World War II and the issue of reparations for Nazi Germany’s destruction of Poland between 1939 and 1945, polskieradio24.pl said.

The move was prompted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s remark in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, published on September 7, according to polskieradio24.pl.

Scholz said: “I would like to state, just like all the previous German federal governments, that this issue [of WWII reparations] is settled conclusively under international law.” 

To find out the reasons behind the German chancellor’s “unequivocal but vague” stance, Polish Radio reporter Tomasz Zielenkiewicz sent six questions to the foreign ministry in Berlin, polskieradio24.pl reported. 

The Polish Radio journalist asked, for instance: "Is the German government in possession of official documents proving that the Polish state had agreed to forgo WWII reparations from Germany? Does the government in Berlin acknowledge German responsibility for starting World War II and for all the consequences of the actions implemented by the German state of the time, such as war crimes, the crimes of genocide and enormous damage to infrastructure? Does the government in Berlin acknowledge Germany’s responsibility for the death of more than five million Polish citizens?"

Polish Radio also wanted to know if "the government in Berlin has paid any World War II reparations to Poland since 1945" and "which countries have received World War II reparations from Germany so far,” according to polskieradio24.pl.

German foreign ministry responds

In its response, dated September 22, the foreign ministry in Berlin answered only one of Polish Radio’s questions, about responsibility for starting World War II, according to polskieradio24.pl. 

All the other detailed questions were dealt with in “a general statement, described by the German foreign ministry as material to be used by Polish Radio, and not an official position of the German government,” polskieradio24.pl reported.

To the question about Germany’s responsibility for starting World War II, the German foreign ministry replied: “Germany maintains its historical responsibility for the crimes committed during World War II by German units and on German orders, which brought immeasurable suffering and millions of deaths to Europe, including the Polish nation.”

The German foreign ministry added, as quoted by polskieradio.pl: “We wish to shape Polish-German relations in full awareness of the past. Keeping alive the memory of the crimes and commemorating the victims is part of eternal German responsibility. We maintain this position in the political and moral sense."

‘Issue of reparations is closed’

The reply concluded that "the issue of reparations, in the federal government’s opinion, is closed.”

In an accompanying general “unofficial” statement, the German foreign ministry further said that “Polish reparation claims were to be satisfied from the reparations paid to the Soviet Union.”

It added that the Soviet Union “renounced all the remaining German reparation obligations, effective from January 1, 1954” and “the Polish government agreed to this decision in a statement from August 24, 1953,” as quoted by polskieradio24.pl. 

The foreign ministry in Berlin went on to say, according to polskieradio24.pl: “Since then, the Polish government confirmed its renunciation of reparations several times, for instance during negotiations leading up to the December 7, 1970 treaty between West Germany and the Polish People’s Republic and in a statement by the [Polish] Council of Ministers from October 19, 2004.” 

The statement added that the 1990 Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, signed by West Germany and East Germany (GDR) and the four superpowers: the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France (referred to as the Two Plus Four Agreement) “was met with great satisfaction by the heads of government of the countries taking part in the Paris Summit of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, on November 21, 1990, including Poland,” according to polskieradio24.pl.    

Push for WWII reparations from Germany

On September 1, Poland announced that the losses suffered by the country at the hands of Nazi Germany during World War II totalled EUR 1.3 trillion and that it would push for reparations. 

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said last month: “I am convinced that we will receive reparations from Germany, although it won’t happen quickly.”

He added: “Even the most difficult journey begins with the first step.” 

On Monday, Polish Foreign Minister Zbgniew Rau signed a formal note to the government in Berlin, demanding compensation for the losses Poland suffered between 1939 and 1945.


Source: IAR, polskieradio24.pl