Germany tries to get out of paying with flimsy ”puppet state” excuses; Poland’s pro-German opposition backs Berlin
By Robert Strybel
WARSAW—On the 83rd anniversary of the start of World War II, Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s governing, conservative Law and Justice party, presented Germany with a detailed bill for $1.3 trillion to cover the damages it had inflicted on Poland in 1945-1939. On a per capita basis, Poland sustained the greatest human and material losses as result of German war crimes and genocide. Many Polish cities lay in ruins, historic buildings were destroyed and countless villages got burned to the ground. The country’s industrial and transport infrastructure was a shambles. and over half a million precious art works got carted away to Germany.
Worst of all, Poland had lost six million of its prewar citizenry, about half of them Jewish. The invading Germans particularly targeted for extermination the country’s intellectual elites—academics, artists, writers, lawyers, politicians, journalists and clergy. That ultimately played into the hands of the post-war Soviet occupation which found its Polish collaborators mainly amongst the uneducated and impoverished who did not question and were happy just to be alive.
According to Kaczyński, Poland’s top policy-maker, Germany has compensated some 70 countries for their war losses, but Poland was not among them. A number of individual Poles, including victims of pseudo-medical experiments, forced laborers and war orphans, did receive token humanitarian aid from Germany, but that cannot be called reparations. In fact, Germans cringe at the sound of that word, mindful of the staggering damages their country was forced to pay after the First World War. Instead, Berlin prefers such euphemisms as ”humanitarian assistance” and ”healing the wounds” which haven’t got a price-tag attached.
Germany’s response to Poland’s recent reparations report was short and sweet:” This matter is closed.” It justified its reply with the most cynical and hypocritical of pretexts by saying that the Poles officially ”renounced” reparations in 1953, when East Germany ”ceded” its eastern lands to Poland. But both the so-called ”German Democratic Republic” and the ”People’s Republic of Poland” were Soviet-installed puppet states, neither free to ”renounce”, ”cede” or ”decide” and could only do the bidding of their master-puppeteer. Joseph Stalin.
$1.3 trillion may indeed seem an exorbitant sum. However, it was not intended as an ultimatum, but merely the subject of negotiations. Kaczyński clearly indicated that this was not a one-off deal but rather a process that could take generations to implement. Whatever the case, it should surprise no-one that Poland’s pro-German total opposition opposed the move, saying it might offend Berlin and harm good-neighborly relations.