Should only whites pay for reparations

Billions in demands from Poland : Does Germany still have to pay for war crimes?

Shortly before the 80th anniversary of the German attack on Poland on September 1, 1939, the Polish government reiterated its demand on Germany for reparations. In Warsaw there is talk of a study that puts the damage that has not been compensated for at over 800 billion euros. From the perspective of the federal government, there is no legal basis for reparations. The question is finally clarified by various contracts.

In the Bundestag, however, there is cross-party support for the proposal to meet Poland with a gesture. For example, the Saxon Palace in Warsaw, which was destroyed in the war, could be rebuilt with German funds, or money could be put into a future fund - for projects that bring Poles and Germans together and keep memories alive.

What is Poland asking for?

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki complained on Wednesday: "To date, Poland has not received adequate compensation from Germany for the atrocities of World War II." His country lost six million people and more than a thousand villages were wiped out. Poland suffered far more than other states, which, however, received extensive reparations. “That is not fair.” Morawiecki did not name any specific amount that Poland wanted to receive from Germany.

Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz demanded reparations on Monday for the same reason. There was a "lack of fundamental fairness" in the compensation of the countries attacked by Germany. “Poland was discriminated against in this process.” There are “countries that have lost many times less, but have received more compensation. Is that okay? ”Czaputowicz referred to France and the Netherlands. He also did not name a specific amount.

How is the federal government reacting?

From a legal point of view, the question of reparations is closed from a German perspective. It was regulated in several contracts. In the Potsdam Agreement, the victorious powers agreed that the reparations to Poland were to be drawn from the benefits that the Soviet Union received. In the Görlitz Treaty of 1950, the governments of the GDR and Poland agreed on the Oder-Neisse line as the final border. In 1953 the Polish government declared to the GDR that it would waive further reparations. The two-plus-four treaty for the unification of Germany in 1990 states that reparation issues have been settled. During the talks on the German-Polish Neighborhood Treaty of 1991, both governments declared the compensation issues to be finally settled.

Poland has also received material compensation through the shifting of its borders to the west. The areas in East Prussia, West Prussia, Pomerania, Lower and Upper Silesia that came to Poland were better developed economically than the eastern areas that Poland lost to the Soviet Union.

The question of whether Poland can demand reparations from Germany so many years after the war has not only legal but also moral and political components. Morally Germany owes Poland's debt; it has made no material reparation remotely proportional to the suffering and damage. Six million Polish citizens were murdered, the majority of them Jewish. The Polish intelligentsia was deliberately exterminated. Cities and villages were razed to the ground.

Why is the debate breaking out now?

Poland's right-wing populist ruling party PiS has repeatedly pushed the question of German reparations after the 2015 election victory. A parliamentary commission has drawn up a report with calculations on the amount of the demands and arguments. It's not published yet. A spokesman is the Reparations Commissioner and PiS MP Arkadiusz Mularczyk. He claims that the reparations issues have not been conclusively settled because Poland was not part of the Potsdam Agreement and at the time of the Görlitz Treaty with the GDR did not have a democratically legitimized government. Shortly before the 80th anniversary of the start of the war, he was more heard. In addition, Poland will vote on October 13th.

How do Germans and Poles commemorate the 80th anniversary of the start of the war?

Federal President Frank Walter Steinmeier will travel to Warsaw on September 1st. A delegation from the German Bundestag visits the Westerplatte. A Polish ammunition depot was located on the headland at the entrance to the port of what was then the Free City of Danzig. The German warship "Schleswig-Holstein" had fired at the Westerplatte on September 1, 1939 at 4:47 am: the first shots of the Second World War.

In Berlin, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble and representatives of civil society and various organizations will be commemorating the war caused by Germany at 1 p.m. on Askanischer Platz in front of the ruins of the Anhalter Bahnhof. Poland's Sejm Marshal Elzbieta Witek has been invited and has since confirmed her participation. The initiative came from the director of the German Poland Institute Dieter Bingen. The German-Polish choir “Spotkanie” will sing. The organizers ask not to bring wreaths, but flowers in the Polish national colors of white and red.

As early as 10 a.m., various religious communities invite you to a memorial service in the Berlin Cathedral. A partnership with the St. Trinity congregation from Warsaw is also to be established.

Askanischer Platz was chosen as a place of remembrance because a memorial for the Polish victims of the Second World War is to be built there. Several social initiatives and a cross-party coalition of members of the German-Polish parliamentary group, including Alexander Müller (FDP), Dietmar Nietan (SPD), Thomas Nord (Die Linke), Manuel Sarrazin (Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen) and Paul, are campaigning for this Ziemiak (CDU). Although the debates have been going on for months, the Federal Government and Bundestag have not been able to agree on a gesture with which they will face Poland on the anniversary.

How can the dispute be resolved?

The MPs confirm that the issue of compensation has been legally clarified. They regret that the PiS is driving the topic. This is "counterproductive" (North) and a "wrong approach among NATO and EU partners" (Nietan). Regardless of this, Germany should set an example that it recognizes its historical responsibility and that it is investing in the common future. Such a sign could be the reconstruction of a symbolic building like the Saxon Palace in Warsaw, say Nietan and Müller. Sarrazin adds that it depends on whether Poland supports this idea. Nietan and Nord think it is even better to support people. For example with scholarship programs for Polish young people in remembrance that the Third Reich wanted to exterminate Poland's intelligentsia. Or to invest in youth exchanges and the infrastructure in the border region so that more people can meet.

There are divergent ideas about the financial magnitude of a gesture. Nietan and Nord say it should be “more than just a symbolic gesture”. The basic idea is correct that Poland got off badly in reparations compared with Western Europe and measured against the destruction. East Germany also made considerable reparations to the Soviet Union, but Poland received little from them. Müller warns against offsetting. Conversely, displaced persons could then demand compensation for the houses and businesses they left behind. "It has to be good at some point."

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