Poland seeks $1.3 trillion in WWII reparations from Germany

The leader of Poland’s governing party says the official demand for the reparations will be submitted to Germany.

Poland has estimated its World War II losses caused by Germany at 6.2 trillion zlotys ($1.32 trillion) and announced its plan to officially demand reparations from Berlin.

The remarks were made on Thursday by the leader of Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The new estimate tops a governing party lawmaker’s $850bn estimate from 2019. PiS has repeated calls for compensation several times since it took power in 2015, but Poland has not officially demanded reparations.

“The sum that was presented was adopted using the most limited, conservative method, it would be possible to increase it,” Kaczynski told a news conference before the release of a long-awaited report on the cost to the country of years of Nazi German occupation as it marks 83 years since the start of World War II.

Poland’s right-wing government has argued that the country, which was the war’s first victim, has not been fully compensated by neighbouring Germany, which is now one of its major partners within the European Union.

Polish Army Veterans attend a wreath laying ceremony marking national observances of the anniversary of World War II in Warsaw
Polish Army Veterans attend a wreath-laying ceremony marking national observances of the anniversary of WWII in Warsaw [Michal Dyjuk/AP]

Top leaders including Kaczynski, who is Poland’s chief policy maker, and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attended the ceremonial release of the report at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.

It was the main point of national observances of the anniversary of the war that began on September 1, 1939, with Nazi Germany’s bombing and invading Poland, for more than five years of brutal occupation.

The war was “one of the most terrible tragedies in our history”, President Andrzej Duda said during Thursday morning’s observances at the Westerplatte Peninsula near Gdansk, one of the first places to be attacked in the Nazi invasion.

“Not only because it took our freedom, not only because it took our state from us, but also because this war meant millions of victims among Poland’s citizens and irreparable losses to our homeland and our nation,” Duda said.

Polish President Andrzej Duda stands in front of World War 2memorial
Poland’s president delivers a speech during a ceremony to mark the 83rd anniversary of the outbreak of World War II [Bartosz Banka/Agencja Wyborcza.pl]

Germany has argued compensation was paid to Eastern Bloc nations in the years after the war, while territories that Poland lost in the East as borders were redrawn were compensated with some of Germany’s pre-war lands. Berlin calls the matter closed.

The combative stance towards Germany, often used by PiS to mobilise its constituency, has strained relations with Berlin.

It intensified after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine amid criticism of Berlin’s dependence on Russian gas and its slowness in helping Kyiv.

About six million Poles, including three million Polish Jews, were killed during the war and Warsaw was razed to the ground following a 1944 uprising in which about 200,000 civilians died.