German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visit ing Warsaw on Friday, and Poland’s governing national-conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) are demanding that Germany to pay World War II reparations to Poland, which it conquered in 1939 and ruled until 1945. Polish President Andrzej Duda told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag recently his country’s wartime damages have not been properly compensated. “It is a question of truth and responsibility,” he said.
But the foreign policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group, Jürgen Hardt, of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), stated that “in August 1953, Poland renounced binding and effective reparations for all of Germany and confirmed this again and again.”
Hardt said Germany had already accepted political, moral and financial responsibility for the war, and urged that Friday’s meeting deal with the future, in the context of the deep political-strategic partnership between the two countries. “This partnership now needs to be further consolidated,” he stated.
But Poland’s President Andrzej Duda does not agree, insisting that the issue of reparations is far from settled, arguing: “Our losses were not compensated.”
Nazi Germany caused the destruction of 62% of Poland’s industry, 84% of its infrastructure, and the death of 16.7% of its citizens.
On August 23, 1953, the Communist Polish regime, under the control of the Soviet Union, announced it would unilaterally waive its right to war reparations from East Germany, with the exception of reparations for Nazi oppression and atrocities. In return, East Germany ceded 25% of its territory to Poland and Russia. West Germany had not at that time paid reparations to non-Jewish Polish recipients for the damage inflicted in Poland. In 1975, West Germany and Communist agreed to pay 1.3 billion DM (roughly $2.7 billion allowing for inflation) to Polish citizens who had paid into Germany’s social security system without receiving pension during the Nazi occupation.
Material compensation incurred by Germany has been estimated as approximately $1.755 billion in 2006 exchange values, allowing for inflation.
After Germany’s reunification in 1990, Poland again demanded reparations. In 1992, the Foundation for Polish-German Reconciliation was founded by the Polish and German governments, and as a result Germany paid Polish sufferers ca. 4.7 billion zł ($1.272 billion, adjusted for inflation). Germany and Austria in 1992-2006 paid together compensation for survived Polish, non-Jewish victims of slave labor in Nazi Germany, and for Polish former child laborers.
There is an ongoing debate among Polish international law experts as to whether Poland still has the right to demand war reparations, with many arguing that the 1954 declaration wasn’t legal, seeing as Poland wasn’t a sovereign state at the time.
In 2017, the Roman Catholic Church did not support Poland’s claims for reparations, cautioning it would destroy the hard-earned trust between Poland and Germany.