Polish MPs set up committee to calculate potential WWII reparations from Germany

Polish MPs set up committee to calculate potential WWII reparations from Germany

Poland has set up a parliamentary investigative committee to calculate the amount of World War II reparations the country believes it’s still owed by Germany following the invasion and consequent occupation during World War II.

The new committee was formed after Polish lawmakers Arkadiusz Mularczyk and Jozef Menes dug out a 1969 UN document, which they claim proves Poland, has in fact, not relinquished its right to war compensation from Germany.

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A picture of inmates behind barbed wire taken in 1945 when the concentration camp of Auschwitz was liberated in Poland where millions of Jewish deportees were exterminated by nazis during World War II. © Elizaveta Svilova

East Germany and the People’s Republic of Poland, both former members of the Soviet-led Warsaw Treaty, reconciled the reparations issue in 1953. The Polish government unilaterally waived their demand for compensation to “contribute to solving the Germany question in the spirit of democracy and peace,” while the East Germans ceded sizeable swaths of former Prussia – the heartland of German militarism – to Poland and the Soviet Union.

But according to the committee, headed by Law and Justice MP Mularczyk, the 1969 UN document alleged that Poland is still entitled to reparation payments from Germany.

The document contains the responses of several states, including Poland, to the request of the Secretary-General which asked countries to define the criteria for war reparations and the principles of liability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The Polish government in its response stated that the issue of liability for war crimes and crimes against humanity was not limited to criminal liability to the perpetrators of such crimes, but that the UN document should also include the principles of material liability of the aggressor for war damage,” Menes and Mularczyk said in a statement.

“The disclosed 1969 UN document on the issue of war reparations from Germany violates the narrative of the circles that claimed that the case was closed because Poland renounced the reparation in 1953,” Mularczyk later told Polish media outlets.

The first meeting of the special committee will take place during the next session of the Polish Lower House of Parliament (Sejm), scheduled for October 10-13. The team plans to collect all possible documentation in relation to the damage inflicted by Germany to potentially make a valid claim in court.

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Polish prisoners of war under guard on the German-Polish frontier, 1939. © Central Press / Getty Images

“We want to start work in the Polish parliament, our aim being to analyze and estimate how much compensation Poland is owed by Germany,” Mularczyk told Polish news agency PAP. “We are also seeking clarity as to the legal ways of pursuing these claims.”

In mid-September, the Sejm Research Bureau already published a study which looked at the possibility of Poland claiming compensation from Germany for damage caused during World War II.

According to the Bureau, Poland has a legitimate claim and is entitled to compensation from the Federal Republic of Germany. The study also argued that reparation claims have no expiration dates.

Berlin, however, dismissed Warsaw’s reparation demands, saying the issue was fully resolved over sixty years ago, and that Berlin already paid “considerable reparations for overall war damages” to Poland.

“Poland made a binding decision in August 1953… to relinquish demands for further war reparations… this issue was therefore settled both legally and politically,” said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert as quoted by AFP.

READ MORE: ‘Empty words’: Duma communists dismiss Polish claims of reparations from Germany

A senior Russian Communist Party MP also recently described the Polish initiative as “empty words” and noted that he did not expect this issue to have any tangible effect on international relations.

“The subject of reparations was discussed at meetings between the heads of states of the anti-Hitler coalition, including the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Especially Potsdam,” RIA Novosti quoted First Deputy Head of the Lower House Committee for Defense Dmitry Novikov as saying.

“All issues concerning the reparations were agreed upon in the first post-war years; it is impossible to return to them today.”

Poland is not the only country that has recently pressed on the issue of WWII reparations. In 2015, Greece claimed that Germany owed it no less than €278.7 billion ($330 billion) in World War II reparations. Berlin, however, said it already paid Greece war damages in the ‘50s as well as to the victims of Nazi crimes in the early ‘60s, and has firmly rejected notions that it owes Athens any more money.

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