Germany plans to pay compensation for Nazi victims in Poland


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany is planning to provide aid for surviving victims of the Nazi occupation in Poland during World War II.

“Germany is aware of the gravity of its guilt, of its responsibility for the millions of victims of the German occupation and of the mission that arises from it,” Scholz said in Warsaw Tuesday at a press conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk following joint government consultations at which German and Polish leaders agreed an action plan to deal with current as well as historical issues.

Germany stands by its historical responsibility without any ifs, ands or buts, Scholz asserted.

“The situation of elderly victims is one that concerns us greatly, and we will also take action in this regard,” the German leader added.

Scholz did not say when or how much compensation would be paid to the approximately 40,000 victims of the German occupation of Poland who are still alive.

Tusk says he hopes payments to start ‘soon’

But Tusk said he hoped the compensation announced Scholz will start being distributed soon.

“This is not a matter of years, but of months,” Tusk said in Warsaw after the German-Polish government consultations.

Tusk described Scholz’s announcement as a step in the right direction. “There is no amount of money that would compensate for everything that happened during World War II,” he said.

He acknowledged that in a formal and legal sense, the issue of reparations was closed. Nevertheless, the aid promised by the German government for the victims of the occupation could serve to improve German-Polish relations, “because good gestures are also very important in politics,” said Tusk.

The previous nationalist conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) government had demanded reparations totalling €1.3 trillion ($1.39 trillion). Since a change of government in Poland in December, the tone towards Germany has become friendlier.

Tusk noted that Germany’s commitment to security in Europe is currently a key issue. “For me, it is important that Germany is prepared to take on much greater responsibility for the security of the continent, to ensure that there will be no war in Europe,” he said.

Action plan agreed

The plans to tackle not only past wrongs but also current issues, such as defence policy were outlined in a paper circulated by the German government as Scholz and a group of ministers visited Warsaw for government consultations.

There were however no concrete figures on war reparations or military aid in the document.

Now that both countries have centre-left governments, bilateral relations are witnessing something of a new start. The government consultations, for example, are the first such talks since November 2018.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said in the past that he expects Germany to make material and moral reparations for the damage caused during World War II.

The action plan states: “The two governments are conducting an intensive dialogue on measures to support the surviving victims of the German aggression and occupation in the years 1939 to 1945, remembrance and security.”

The paper refers to the construction of a German-Polish House in Berlin as a further project for reconciliation. The house is intended to commemorate the complicated German-Polish history and the brutal German occupation from 1939 to 1945, and create a place of remembrance for the Polish victims.

Defence needs a major part of action plan

Scholz was welcomed earlier with military honours to Warsaw by Tusk, marking the start of the joint government consultations.

He travelled to Poland with 12 federal and state ministers. According to government sources in Berlin, the consultations should provide “a strong impetus” for good neighbourly relations.

A large part of the 40-page action plan deals with the topic of the countries’ current defence issues.

EU and NATO member Poland is one of the most committed political and military supporters of Ukraine, as well as bordering Ukraine and Russian ally Belarus.

The action paper says: “We will strengthen the interoperability and standardization of our defence capabilities, increase production capacities and promote investment in our defence industry.”

Specifically, the paper refers to the development of joint initiatives in the field of tanks and ammunition, including increasing the availability of spare parts for Leopard battle tanks, which both countries have supplied to Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz takes part in the press conference following the German-Polish government consultations alongside Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland. These are the first government consultations with Tusk's center-left government, which replaced a right-wing conservative government led by Morawiecki at the end of last year. Michael Kappeler/dpa

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz takes part in the press conference following the German-Polish government consultations alongside Donald Tusk (R), Prime Minister of Poland. These are the first government consultations with Tusk's center-left government, which replaced a right-wing conservative government led by Morawiecki at the end of last year. Michael Kappeler/dpaGerman Chancellor Olaf Scholz takes part in the press conference following the German-Polish government consultations alongside Donald Tusk (R), Prime Minister of Poland. These are the first government consultations with Tusk's center-left government, which replaced a right-wing conservative government led by Morawiecki at the end of last year. Michael Kappeler/dpa



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