What’s Behind Poland’s Reparation Debate?
Despite the fact that there is a massive land war raging just across the border, Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has decided that now is a good time to revive the decades-old issue of German war reparations. In doing so, PiS has once again put its own interests first.
WARSAW – Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Poland has received daily threats from Russian propagandists that it will be next. Yet despite these high stakes, Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party government has decided to start a fight with Germany – one of our closest allies – by demanding huge war reparations for the destruction caused by Hitler’s Third Reich.
On September 1, the anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, PiS Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński presented a report that puts the sum of Poland’s wartime losses at $1.3 trillion. While PiS has been talking about reparations since it came to power seven years ago, this is the first time that it has broached the topic with Germany. In fact, the issue is both formally and morally unambiguous – and the correct policy lies in the opposite direction.
After World War II, the Allies decided that injured parties would receive material, rather than financial, reparations. German factories would be dismantled and relocated, or work done by the Germans would benefit the aggrieved states, which were divided into an 18-country “western mass” and an “eastern mass” comprising the Soviet Union and Poland. The eastern mass took its share mainly from the Soviet occupation zone in eastern Germany.