The Polish pushback against Berlin digs deep into the horrors of the past century. In October, Poland filed a formal claim against Germany for €1.3tn in reparations for damages and losses inflicted by the Nazis during the second world war, FT reports.
Berlin has flatly rejected this claim, insisting that the issue was settled in the 1950s with Poland’s then communist government. Germany has also since paid direct compensation to some Polish war victims, notably survivors of the Holocaust. German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said last year that while “Germany admits its historical responsibility, no ifs or buts about it, the issue of reparations is a closed one from the perspective of the German government.”
But Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the Financial Times last September that Poland was ready for a long legal battle. “The Herero and Nama people waited 120 years to get compensation, we also have time,” he said, in reference to a €1.1bn euro donation pledged in 2021 by Germany in recognition of the colonial-era slaughter of tens of thousands of tribespeople in Namibia.
Poland is drawing comparisons with other claims, but one of the peculiarities of its demand for wartime reparations is that it only targets Berlin and not Moscow — even though Poland was partitioned by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 and Moscow then forced communist rule upon Warsaw.
Asked why Warsaw was not also seeking Russian reparations, Polish state secretary Marcin Przydacz said in an interview with the FT that “we treat Berlin and Moscow in a different-civilisation way. With Berlin, we believe we can start a dialogue but with Putin this is the other civilisation. Once there will be a success with Germany, the next step could be to launch such a discussion with the other oppressor.”