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4 Sep, 2017 20:03

EU leaders trying to ‘erase’ Poland’s WWII drama from historical memory of Europe – Polish minister

EU leaders trying to ‘erase’ Poland’s WWII drama from historical memory of Europe – Polish minister

Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz has accused European leaders who are critical of Poland’s reparations claims, of attempts to “erase” the tragic fate of the Polish people during WWII from the “memory of Europe.”

"Sulejow, destroyed villages and cities, the Polish nation, have the right to the truth of how the defense of Europe and European values looked in 1939, and who really defended them. And who destroyed them,” Macierewicz said during a visit to the town of Sulejow, located in central Poland, as it marked the 78th anniversary of being heavily bombarded by the German Luftwaffe at the start of WWII.

He went on to say that he wanted to remind Merkel, Macron and others who are willing to "erase the drama of Poland and the Poles from the historical memory of Europe,” AP reports.

The minister then recalled the millions of Poles killed and the near total destruction of Polish cities, including Sulejow and Warsaw, adding that those communities now have the right to financial compensation from Germany.

His remarks appear to be a reaction to a comment made last week by the deputy vice president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, in which he said that Poland could thank the EU for the greater sovereignty and freedom it enjoys today than in recent centuries, when the country was often under foreign rule.

Also Monday, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski called for "serious talks" to take place between Warsaw and Berlin regarding World War II reparations, claiming Germany's 1939 attack on the country still "casts a shadow" on relations between the two nations.

"We should sit down to serious talks with the Germans and together think about how to deal with the issue" of reparations, Waszczykowski told RMF radio station, according to AFP.

"How can we deal with the fact that Germany's 1939 attack (on Poland) and unresolved post-war issues still cast a shadow on Polish-German relations?" he added.

The minister went on to state that Poland is "preparing" its formal position on WWII reparations, while declining to say when that stance would be made public.

"The fact is that Poland was destroyed during the war, terrible crimes were committed here, and we have received no compensation for that," he said.

Monday’s statements by the two ministers come just two days after Poland's interior minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said that Poland could claim $1 trillion from Germany.

Meanwhile, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo has also supported the push for reparations to be paid, saying the country is simply seeking justice and stressing that Poland is a "victim of World War II." 

The leader of Poland's governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has also accused Germany of neglecting its responsibility for wartime damage inflicted on the country, which saw Warsaw razed to the ground.

Poland's right-wing government disputes a 1953 resolution by the country's then-communist authorities who dropped claims against Germany, claiming the deal was made under duress from the Soviet Union. However, some government officials have recently spoken out against the reparation claims, with Poland's deputy foreign minister, Marek Magierowski, telling the parliament on August 8 that the 1953 reconciliation is lawful and legally binding.

Legal experts hired by Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, said last week that Poland has no claims to compensation for World War II crimes, citing a newer treaty signed in 1990, known as the “Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany.”

That treaty, according to the legal team, "blocks any reparation demands against Germany to the present day," Deutsche Welle reported, citing the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).  

Poland "had, during the treaty negotiations, at least implicitly waived their right to assert them (claims for reparations)," the legal experts said.

The 1990 treaty saw the four powers that occupied Germany at the end of World War II France, the Soviet Union, Britain, and the US formally renounce all rights, allowing for the full return of German sovereignty.

Meanwhile, a majority of Poles (51 percent) oppose such claims against Germany, according to an August survey by the independent Ibris pollsters. Only 24 percent support such claims.

The current government's push for reparations comes as tensions continue to mount between the EU and Warsaw over media and judicial reforms by the Law and Justice government, which critics say erode democratic standards and the rule of law.
French President Emmanuel Macron has accused Poland of going "against European interests," while Merkel has called Poland a "serious issue."

Poland isn't the only European country to demand reparations from Germany. Greece demanded that Berlin pay €278.7 billion (US$329.4 billion) in war reparations in 2015 in a claim which has also been dismissed by Germany.

“It is our firm belief that questions of reparations and compensation have been legally and politically resolved,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said at the time.