American rabbis: “Germany has a moral obligation to pay war reparations to Poland”

Arkadiusz Mularczyk, Polish Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, met representatives of the North American Board of Rabbis (NABOR). During the meeting, the issue of war reparations that the Polish government expects from Germany was raised.

The rabbis admitted that they understood how important the issue of war reparations from Germany was for Poland. As they told PAP, Poland’s demands need to be addressed as soon as possible “from a moral point of view”. They stressed that they were aware that during the communist era, Poland could not claim any reparations, as the country was powerless under Russian rule. However, now when Poland is free, and the Polish people have real power, it is necessary to claim their own. The rabbis appreciate that Poland has been home to the Jewish community for centuries and is now a frontline country that is giving support to the whole world by helping Ukraine.

Minister Mularczyk said to British Poles: “NABOR is a very important, highly respected umbrella organisation of Rabbis that has a very large congregation – in the tens of thousands – across North America. Rabbi Rosenbaum, President of NABOR, is a hugely respected figure in America and across the world, as are the Rabbi members of the NABOR council. The fact that we were able to engage in calm, constructive debate about the historical issues that exist between Poland and Germany should set an example to the German government, who have told their ambassadors not to engage in discussion with Polish ambassadors. We hope that the Rabbis will take back a message to their congregations and explain why Germany has a continuing moral obligation to resolve the issues that are still open after the Second World War.”

Almost a year ago, on the 1st of September 2022, at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Minister Mularczyk presented the “The report on the losses suffered by Poland as a result of the German aggression and occupation during the Second World War, 1939-1945”. It presented the main theses and estimated war losses, which the team calculated. The losses of the Polish population caused solely by the activities of the German state and its state bodies amounted to 5 219 000 citizens of the Polish state (21% of whom were children under 10 years of age). The total value of material losses amounted to PLN 797.398 billion (USD 196.403 billion). All components of the value of material and demographic losses add up to total Polish losses of PLN 6,220,609 million, which at the end of 2021 amounts to USD 1,532,170 million. The abridged version of The War Report in English is available here.

Mateusz Morawiecki, the Prime Minister of Poland, said on the 1st of September at Westerplatte: “Poland did not receive adequate compensation from Germany for the atrocities of the Second World War. We lost six million people – much more than other countries that received high reparations. This is not fair. It cannot remain this way (…) it is necessary to talk about those losses, to demand truth and reparation”.

To this end, the Jan Karski Institute for War Losses was created to carry out scientific and educational activities aimed at comprehensively establishing and describing the consequences of the Second World War. Experts and co-authors of the Report are part of the Institute. The Chairman of the Institute’s Council is Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk.

A major information campaign on this topic has been launched worldwide. Polish ambassadors have been instructed to talk to German ambassadors in their countries. The War Loss Report is being sent to all opinion leaders in Germany, the EU, NATO, the UN, UNESCO or the American Congress. The voice of the Jewish Diaspora is very important here. This is a form of pressure on Germany, which it will have to feel and consequently begin talks with Poland.

Minister Mularczyk visited London three months ago to present the Report on war reparations for Poland. Besides numerous meetings with ministers, MPs, British Lords, representatives of Polish and British diplomatic authorities and the Polish community, he had the opportunity to submit a copy of the Report in English to the Library of the House of Commons. Every MP now has the opportunity to view and learn about the scale of Polish war losses. An information campaign is also planned in the UK Parliament among MPs and Lords as well as in the British media.

Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk said to the British Poles at the end of his visit to the UK: “In the course of my meetings, I remind politicians all over the world how large demographic and material losses Polish society suffered during the war. Here we strongly count on the support of the Polish community abroad, as any involvement in promoting the reparations issue is very valuable to us.”

In Germany, historical awareness of the crimes is not substantial. Mularczyk pointed out that propaganda was carried out there for decades, effectively blurring responsibility. Today’s school manuals distort the historical truth so that Germany can take the blame for war crimes off its shoulders.

The Germans have so far downplayed the issue of reparations and tried to postpone it. Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk told the British Poles: “I think that the communist authorities made efforts and actions which unfortunately did not materialise. You have to bear in mind that the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL) was part of the communist bloc. At that time, there was no will from the Western world, the United States or the United Kingdom to help Poland. Germany defended itself, explaining that at that time helping Poland – that was, the PRL – was equivalent to being supportive of the communists. It was the Germans’ strategy to postpone the entire story, hoping that it would be overdone and forgotten. They did everything they could to delay this subject in time.”

For years, German propaganda has gone through great lengths to prove that there is a document concerning the Polish renunciation of reparations. Mularczyk stresses that in the archives of the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there is no Council of Ministers resolution or any document that fulfils the formal and legal conditions of a Council of Ministers resolution concerning the alleged renunciation of reparations from Poland.

In April, the Council of Ministers adopted a resolution, which was published in the Official Journal of Poland (Monitor Polski), stating that: “neither in the times of the People’s Republic of Poland, nor in the times of the free Republic of Poland, having regained the possibility of sovereign and democratic determination of its fate in 1989, did the Polish government and the government of the Federal Republic of Germany close the issue of reparations, compensation, reparations or any other form of compensation for the material and immaterial losses that Poland and the Poles suffered as a result of the unlawful German attack on Poland in September 1939 and the subsequent German occupation.”

Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk was satisfied with talks with the rabbis: “Our discussions mainly focused on the future and the need to build bridges and connect through open conversation. As such, the message from our meetings is one of hope; hope, that countries and groups engaged in conflicts can come together, resolve their differences, and set an example for others. Of course, this is of particular importance given Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine. NABOR cannot play a political role; however, they believe that Germany has a moral opportunity to start talking to Poland. I hope that Germany will listen to this message, live up to its moral responsibility, and reach out to Poland.”

The issue of reparations from Germany is completely open and the Polish government hopes for support and the start of an open, fact-based dialogue leading to a resolution of the issue. The War Losses Report emphasises that since the end of the war, German policy towards Poland to date can be characterised as a game of “silence, prescription, forgetting”.

Daria Więcek

Cover photo: IPN/Anna Mikowska, MFA

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