Die Welt asked German MPs about war reparations for Poland

German national broadcaster Die Welt surveyed members of the Bundestag – the German parliament – regarding Poland’s demands for war reparations.

Based on this report published on 1 September by the Parliamentary Group for the Estimation of Compensation Due to Poland from Germany for Damages Caused During World War II, the Polish government demands €1.3 trillion from Germany.

The Polish and German visions are colliding. Warsaw argues that payment of reparations would allow for the strengthening of bilateral relations, while Berlin insists that the matter was closed long ago.

The official position of the German state (currently represented by SPD Chancellor Olaf Scholz) is that the matter is closed. German officials such as President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerboeck (Greens) reiterated this position on several occasions in the last weeks.  

Die Welt journalists asked a few German MPs from other political parties about this subject. Here are some of the answers which were provided. 

Żaklin Nastić (The Left) argued that although she disagrees with the amount of money demanded by Warsaw, the issue of reparations “is one that needs to be discussed together with the Polish state”. She said to be in favour of “a broad discussion on German-Polish friendship and neighbouring which has been neglected for decades”.

Christoph de Vries (CDU) was more categoric in his assessment. “We are obviously aware of our historical responsibility, including the suffering we caused by the invasion of Poland […] But it was the Polish government […] that announced its resignation from reparations in 1953,” – he argued. De Vries added that, in his opinion, the topic of reparations represents “a manipulation of the Law and Justice party willing to stir up resentment” in the midst of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Götz Frömming (AfD) left no doubt about his party’s position on the matter. “We strongly support the Chancellor [Olaf Scholz] when he rightly pointed out that the question was legally closed a long time ago. We, therefore, reject any reparations claims,” – he said. He further underlined that “Germany must ask itself why has this topic come back in the picture right now […] We can clearly see neglect on the part of the [German] government and the EU, which have been treating Poland as a second class partner.”

Alexander Müller (FDP) presented somewhat different arguments to support the Berlin narrative. “We have to come to terms with the past […] and close this issue in a legal way. This is actually what happened in 1990 with the signing of the 2+4 treaty* […] Poland doesn’t seriously believe we will give them this money. It’s a manoeuvre from Law and Justice […] which hopes to score points in the elections campaign”.

Die Welt’s survey reveals that the German political class is almost unanimous from left to right, at least on two matters. First, they consider the topic of reparations as closed. Second, they perceive the resurgence of this issue in the public sphere as a strategy used by Poland’s ruling party for political gain.

 

Image: Twitter (@dw_polski)

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen

*Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany.

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