Georgia L. Gilholy

Germany can’t continue to ignore Polish pleas for war reparations

Warsaw in ruins after the end of World War II (Credit: Getty images)

The Nazi occupation of Greece decimated its finances, left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead and all but destroyed the country’s ancient Jewish communities. Some Greeks, including the country’s former president Prokopis Pavlopoulos, think Germany should pay reparations.

At the feet of the Parthenon last week, a cache of lawyers met to discuss the pressing need for Greece and Poland, another erstwhile victim of the Nazi yoke, to receive its dues. Germany, so far, is playing hardball. This month’s conference was the culmination of a coordinated six-year effort to open up direct avenues of inquiry with the German government regarding Nazi-era reparations – an avenue Athens itself tried and failed at throughout the 2010s.

Berlin has frequently indulged in international lectures on topics ranging from Brexit to beef, but it is quieter on this uncomfortable subject. How much longer can it ignore pleas to pay up?

Berlin remains in denial about its full role in the horrors of the twentieth century

Like its Greek counterpart, but unlike many of its close neighbours, the Polish government did not collaborate with the Nazis or the Soviets, and almost six million Poles died as a result of these occupations.

Completed between 2017 and 2022, the Polish government’s research into the impact of the Second World War on Poland’s development is the most comprehensive research of its kind. It will provide a blueprint for pursuing Ukraine’s grievances in the coming years. The report found that the material cost of the occupation was the equivalent of a trillion pounds, not to mention the irreplaceable theft of human potential.

Even this figure is conservative, merely taking into account the damages inflicted on the ‘Core Lands’ of Poland, which excludes the territories it lost to the Soviet Union.

In April, Poland’s council of ministers adopted a resolution to affirm that the country had never received reparations from Germany for their brutal occupation.

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