Polish authorities are looking into demanding reparations from Germany for the massive losses inflicted on Poland during World War II, an official said Wednesday.
The Polish parliament’s research office is preparing an analysis of whether Poland can legally make the claim and will have it ready by Aug. 11, said Arkadiusz Mularczyk, a lawmaker with the ruling Law and Justice party who requested the report.
The step comes after Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s most powerful politician, said the “Polish government is preparing itself for a historical counteroffensive.”
“We are talking here about huge sums, and also about the fact that Germany for many years refused to take responsibility for World War II,” Kaczynski, the leader of the conservative ruling party, told Radio Maryja last week.
In Berlin, Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, reacted by saying: “Of course Germany stands by its responsibility in World War II, politically, morally and financially.”
“It has made significant reparations for general war damage, including to Poland, and is still paying significant compensation for Nazi wrongdoing,” Demmer told reporters.
The massive suffering inflicted on Poland has been a topic of public discussion as Poland marked the anniversary this week of the start of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The doomed revolt against the Nazi German occupying forces resulted in the killing of 200,000 Poles and the near-total destruction of the Polish capital.
Amid the observances, Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said Tuesday that Germans need to “pay back the terrible debt they owe to the Polish people.”
World War II, which began with the German invasion of Poland in 1939, killed nearly 6 million Polish citizens and inflicted huge material losses, including the destruction of cultural treasures, industry and entire cities.
Kaczynski called for reparations from Germany when he was prime minister more than a decade ago, adding to tensions between Poland and Germany, important trade partners and allies in NATO and the European Union.
His party, Law and Justice, has a nationalist bent and is often critical of Germany, accusing it of unfairly dominating other EU members.
Germany has paid billions of euros over the years in compensation for Nazi crimes, primarily to Jewish survivors, and acknowledges the country’s responsibility for keeping alive the memory of Nazi atrocities.
“If Jews have gotten compensation — and rightly so — for loss of property, why shouldn’t we too make claims?” Ryszard Czarnecki, a ruling party member and deputy head of the European Parliament, told Polska The Times.
Poland’s former communist government, under pressure from the Soviet Union, agreed in 1953 to not to make any further claims on Germany.
Demmer said as far as Germany is concerned, “the question of German reparations for Poland was dealt with conclusively in the past, legally and politically.”
But Polish Defense Minister Macierewicz says communist-era Poland was a “Soviet puppet state” whose decision is not necessarily still valid.