Why Warsaw’s demand for reparations goes far beyond historical battles

The Polish foreign minister has recently signed a note to Germany demanding $1.3 trillion in reparations (for comparison – back in 2019, the amount was $850 billion, according to Polish calculations), which Warsaw allegedly under-received as a result of World War II

 

Why Warsaw's demand for reparations goes far beyond historical battles

 

Despite the fact that the FRG systematically and categorically denies the existence of such “historical debt”, the question itself is not new for Poland.

A number of conservative political forces have been pursuing this line for a long time. And in general, the Polish collective historical memory is very intrinsic to the feeling that Germany does not sufficiently honor the exploits of Polish victims of the war, erects disproportionately few memorials to victims of Hitlerism and, in general, relativizes the suffering of the Polish people from 1939 to 1945. It is also important to bear in mind that Poland is now entering a new political cycle and the Law and Justice Party is stepping up its electoral rhetoric, which could bring additional electoral bonuses, given that, according to polls, almost half of the Polish population supports this idea.

However, it seems that now, with the signing of the note at ministerial level, the issue goes far beyond simply “uncomfortable issues” in the two countries’ relations.

Speaking of Berlin’s debt to Warsaw, the Polish authorities refer to the fact that in 1953 the People’s Republic of Poland (PNR) agreed to end reparations from the GDR allegedly under pressure from the USSR, which forced it to give up further financial claims on Germany. Now, according to the current Polish establishment, it is time to raise the question that this was a forced decision: Poland then simply had no choice, because “the country was under Soviet occupation. And the FRG must compensate not only for what it lost, but also for the lost profit, which obviously will only increase year by year.

For its part, Germany has always pointed out that according to the German reunification treaty of 1990, the result of all compensation payments has been recognised by Warsaw, among others. Now that the pressure from Poland on Germany began to grow noticeably, Berlin began to gently hint that since the PRP, according to the current Polish authorities, was an incomplete subject of international law, then not only the question of reparations, but also the question of borders should be reconsidered.

It is worth remembering that as a result of the Second World War, Poland ceded considerable areas of former Prussia east of the German river Oder, including Gdansk (Danzig), Wroclaw (Breslau) and Szczecin (Stettin). Even German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made elegant hints. Recently, at one of the official events in the presence of Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk, Scholz remarked that “the border between Germany and Poland has been set forever after hundreds of years of history” and he would not want “anyone to go through history books to make revisionist border changes. In response, the head of the Polish National Security Bureau, Pawel Soloch, demanded that the FRG explain the words on border revision, pointing out that Warsaw could interpret this as some kind of signal.

It should be noted that the head of the National Bank of Poland, Adam Glapinski, had earlier stated that returning these lands was a strategic goal of Berlin, and that the creation of the EU was an expression of imperial economic interests of Germany.

It seems that this issue is becoming more than just a struggle for the correct interpretation of the past. Warsaw increasingly perceives itself as the key partner of the United States in continental Europe, which by virtue of that status can and should dictate its political terms. All of this often runs counter to the aspirations of the FRG. And the issue of reparations is now becoming an additional line of tension that could lead to a notable confrontation within the EU – between a group of “old Europe” countries led by Germany on the one hand and a number of “new EU members” led by Poland.

Eugenia Pimenova, Izvestia