‘Darkest chapter in our history’: Germany issues response after Polish official demands more than $1 trillion in WWII reparations
By JD Heyes // Sep 16, 2022

The German government has issued a response after a top Polish official issued a new demand for more than $1 trillion in reparations stemming from World War II.


Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said that Poland would be making a new demand from its largest trading partner and fellow NATO and European Union member of $1.3 trillion, reports noted.

"Poland's new estimate tops the $850 billion estimate by a ruling party lawmaker from 2019. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has repeated calls for compensation several times since it took power in 2015, but Poland hasn't officially demanded reparations," said a report by Reuters.

"The sum that was presented was adopted using the most limited, conservative method, it would be possible to increase it," said Kaczynski, who is the leader of Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) party during a news conference. "Germany has never really accounted for its crimes against Poland."

Kaczynski, his country's chief policymaker, and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki both attended the ceremonial release of a long-awaited reparations report that took place last week at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, rebuilt from ruins after being destroyed during the war.

ABC News noted further:

The release of the three-volume report was the focus of national observances of the anniversary of the war that began Sep. 1, 1939, with Nazi Germany’s bombing and invasion of Poland that was followed by more than five years of brutal occupation.

The head of the report team, lawmaker Arkadiusz Mularczyk, said it was impossible to place a financial value on the loss of some 5.2 million lives he blamed on the German occupation.

He listed losses to the infrastructure, industry, farming, culture, deportations to Germany for forced labor and efforts to turn Polish children into Germans.

A team of more than 30 economists, historians and other experts worked on the report since 2017. The issue has created bilateral tensions.

The war was “one of the most terrible tragedies in our history,” President Andrzej Duda noted during observances in the early morning on Thursday at the Westerplatte peninsula near Gdansk, where one of the first Nazi attacks took place following Hitler's invasion in 1939.

The invasion took place on Sept. 1, 1939, with Nazi German forces pouring over Poland's border in Blitzkrieg fashion -- using fast-moving armored and infantry units as well as Hitler's vaunted air force, the Luftwaffe.

"Germany's blitzkrieg approach was characterized by extensive bombing early on to destroy the enemy’s air capacity, railroads, communication lines and munitions dumps, followed by a massive land invasion with overwhelming numbers of troops, tanks and artillery. After the German forces had plowed their way through, devastating a swath of territory, infantry moved in, picking off any remaining resistance," according to a History.com entry. It took Hitler only six days to overrun the Polish army, which was large at 1 million strong but was equipped with outdated gear and made the mistake of taking German forces head-on. Three days after the invasion began -- the official beginning of World War II -- Britain responded with bombing raids over German territory.

For its part, the German government responded to Kaczynski's reparations demand. The foreign ministry said in a statement that the issue of reparations was settled long ago, with Poland having renounced any further claims to compensation decades ago, though some Polish officials claim that renunciation is invalid because Poland was ruled by the USSR at the time and the renouncing was done under pressure from Moscow.

Germany's top official for German-Polish cooperation, Dietmar Nietan, noted in a statement that Sept. 1 "remains a day of guilt and shame for Germany that reminds us time and again not to forget the crimes carried out by Germany" that are the "darkest chapter in our history."

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