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Poland holds Council of Europe seminar on WWII damages from Germany

26.04.2023 07:00
The Polish government has held an international seminar on its efforts to seek compensation from Germany for World War II at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.  
Photo:Twitter/Katarzyna Sójka

The event, entitled The Right to Just and Equal Redress and the Access to Court and a Fair Trial for All Victims of German Aggression During World War II, took place on Tuesday, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported.

Led by Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk, the seminar brought together experts and lawyers from Poland, Greece and Italy, according to officials. 

Mularczyk told the gathering that “the matter of just and equal redress for victims of World War II has not yet been studied fully and thoroughly.”

He said that “the effects of World War II – demographic, economic, infrastructural, scientific, educational and cultural – are felt by Poles to this day.” 

Mularczyk stated: “Poland was hit the hardest by World War II and the resulting destruction, in relation to its population. My country lost 5.5 million citizens. The Germans sought to eliminate our intelligentsia, our elites, Germanised children, used our citizens as forced labour, conducted pseudo-medical experiments and carried out a policy of extermination in concentration camps.”

Meanwhile, Magdalena Bainczyk from Poland’s Western Institute said: “The losses suffered by Polish people practically have not been compensated by Germany. Damages were paid out mainly to residents of Germany. And so there is an asymmetry when it comes to paying out damages, a violation of the dignity of the victims and their human rights.”

Mularczyk said that the "unequal treatment of the victims of World War II is still an unhealed wound."

Christina Stamouli, a lawyer at Greece’s National Council for the Investigation of German Compensation, outlined legal efforts to obtain compensation for the victims of the 1944 Nazi German massacre of the central Greek town of Distomo.

She said that Greece’s Appeals Court had ruled that Greek courts had jurisdiction over the matter and that the government was able to confiscate German property, including the local Goethe Institute, “as part of compensation for individual victims of German aggression.”

“A Council of Europe resolution on World War II damages would be another important step towards securing compensation,” Stamouli told the seminar.

Filippo Biole, an Italian lawyer and expert on war damages, said that “cooperation between the 46 member states of the Council of Europe would significantly help victims in their efforts to obtain compensation from Germany.”

Poland’s Mularczyk said: “Many members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe are supporting us. Our aim is to create a system of procedures to obtain compensation for the individual victims of German crimes.”

Experts gathered at the seminar agreed that the issue of securing compensation for war victims “is of key importance in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the need to obtain compensation for Ukrainians from Russia in the future,” the PAP news agency reported.

Poland demands WWII damages from Germany

Earlier this month, Poland’s government adopted a resolution “on the need to regulate, in Polish-German relations, the issue of reparations, compensation and redress” for the losses caused by the German invasion and subsequent occupation of Poland during World War II.

The government said that the document “confirms that the issue of compensation for the damage and harm caused by Germany during World War II has not been settled in the form of an international agreement between the Republic of Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany, and that such an agreement must be entered into.”

In September last year, the Polish government announced that the losses suffered by Poland at the hands of Nazi Germany during World War II totalled PLN 6.22 trillion (EUR 1.3 trillion) and that it would demand compensation from Berlin.

In October, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau signed a formal note to the government in Berlin, demanding compensation for losses Poland sustained during the war.

According to the German government, "the issue of reparations and compensation for World War II losses remains closed” and Berlin "does not intend to enter into negotiations on the matter," officials have said.

The Council of Europe is an international organisation that brings together 46 countries aiming to uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe.


Source: IAR, PAP