A DISPUTE ABOUT THE TRUTH OR WAR DEBTS?
Moral and legal reasons prove that we should get damages from Germany
Destructions and losses which Germany caused in our Homeland during the Second World War are enormous. One can only mention 6 million of victims and disabilities and illnesses of further 10 million citizens of Poland. Poland should receive damages of many millions for the very destruction of Warsaw. These are issues allegedly obvious for everybody, whereas the pronouncement of the chairperson of the Law and Justice party Jarosław Kaczyński in July that Poland has never received any damages, caused an uproar in Germany and anxiety in Poland.
On 14 September this year the president of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmaier took on a positive attitude towards the issue during a talk with president Andrzej Duda and changed the tone of his previous pronouncements in Germany – and they can be summarized as follows: Germany is guilty of its attack on Poland in 1939, they are guilty of causing cruelties, but why is Poland destroying its relationship with its neighbouring country, when raising the issue of claims, and why is it isolating in Europe? These words of the spokesman of the federal government Steffen Seibert are the proverbial turning the cat upside down, as instead of taking on an attitude towards the damages, they are trying to enforce an opinion that these are Poles who are always raising conflicts.
However, one could finish the issue earlier. When Lech Kaczyński was the president of Warsaw, a report on war losses of Warsaw city was created under the management of prof. Wojciech Fałkowski. Its aftermath was, among the others, a seym act of 2004. Imposing a duty of the government of that time (the Leftist Democratic Alliance) to present the issue of war reparations from Germany. Unfortunately, it was not effective.
So, why now? Because it is the first time we have had the government in independent Poland which can take all possible actions in this direction. Will it, though? The first signal that it will is a broad opinion of the Office of Seym Analysis, which clearly suggests that during the Second World War Poland had the biggest personal and material losses in Europe, for which we should receive damages from Germany. In the conclusion of the document there is a statement that these claims have not disappeared or became outdated.
Surely, compensating for German crimes was not paying off single small benefits for the victims of medical experiments, damages for workers forced to work, or prisoners of the former German concentration camps. And what about damages for thousands of the disabled, for the families of the killed and murdered? As I think, it was the reason for which Germany has never wanted to sign a peace treaty with Poland, as it would entail reparations for Poland, while we have not received anything, whereas other countries in and outside Europe received reparations – even the countries so far away, like Peru, Syria, Pakistan and New Zealand. Damages from Germany were also given to the countries which were in the Soviet sphere of influences: the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia and Albania. Only Poland got nothing.
Moral and legal reasons prove that we should get damages from Germany, but is it good for Poland that this issue has been raised now? I think that it is very good, especially in the context of constantly appearing slanders about ‘Polish concentration camps’. Just the discussion about the war reparations should make the world realize the fact that enormity of destructions done by Germany in Poland, that is, who was a culprit in fact, and who was the victim.
Raising this issue became important for us. There appeared politicians, scientists or publicists, who think that our government should not raise this issue at all. Some people, anticipating the Germans say that we do not have any legal reasons for receiving damages, others – that we should not demand damages from Berlin, as the Germans were supporting Poland in its efforts to join the NATO and the European Union, that they are our biggest economic partner and ally. There are also others who point to the fact that Poland received the Western Lands within the damages (but they seem to have forgotten that the Soviet Union took the possession of huge areas of the pre-war Republic of Poland).
Surely, the war debts, or saying straightforward: claims for reparations will be officially submitted by the Polish government to the federal government. Then the issue will be submitted to international tribunals and it will result in bilateral talks and contracts. What effect will it have on neighbouring relationships? I think that they will get deepened, because nothing works so effectively and is as purifying as the truth.