Following a long period of silence, the issue of war reparations due to Poland for the Second World War has returned. The actual fact that reparations/compensations for the Second World War are outstanding from the two invaders Germany and Russia – is undisputable. The reparations are not an act of condescension on behalf of a state or subjects to do so – under international law – are their obligation.
There are many terms used colloquially, such as war reparations, contributions, compensations, repayment for the war damages. The common basis for all these terms is the obligation to make amends and repair war damages. Nevertheless, according to the interpretation of Prof. Alfons Kaflowski Ph.D. at least two different terms namely war reparations (reparations, indemnity) – having a wider range and meaning all types of rewards for war damages. On the other hand compensation (damages) – understood as individual claims under the civil law, The global reparation legislation does not exist, however, it does not exclude an individual pursuit of war reparations.
Claims are based on the following legal acts:
There is no doubt the payout of war reparations to Polish citizens solely depends on political decisions. Decisions were taken at the highest level in Warsaw, Berlin, and Moscow. The years that have passed since the end of the war proved that real individuals that even have their claim supported by international laws cannot execute reparations they are entitled to. Unfortunately, the Polish authorities – neither the Polish People’s Republic ones nor the 3rd Republic’s never have sought any compensations and war reparations. It was a taboo subject. Being honest, in 2004, the Parliament (Sejm) passed the law dealing with the war damages, however, it has never been put into force. The then prime minister Marek Belka (the Union of Democratic Left – SLD) said straight away, he had no intention to implement it and the foreign affairs minister – Cimoszewicz, called that law a mistake in an interview in a German newspaper. What is more, Mr Cimoszewicz has not changed his mind until today. And even today, the Polish state has not compiled any kind of a “Black Book of War Loses”, which all the ministerial departments and state institutions would work on, We have no estimates of losses caused either by Germany of the Soviet Union (Russia). When late Lech Kaczynski was the president of Warsaw, he threatened Germany he would issue an invoice to the Bundes Republic for having destroyed our capital city – Warsaw. And it just ended with a threat. This year, the Office of Parliamentary Analysis (Biuro Analiz Sejmowych) has come up with a legal opinion pertaining to war reparations from Germany due to us. The trouble is that officially, Poland has not issued any claim for payment these reparations. Not yet. There is a fearful feeling that everything as in case of Warsaw reparations will blow over.
Material war destructions are relatively measurable and obtainable for statistical purposes. Human loses are more difficult to assess Professor Kaflowski in his expertise has reported that immediately after the war there were thirteen million and three hundred and fifteen thousand people eligible to individual claims for war damages from Germany. There were “only” hundred thousand war invalids amongst them, the majority of people affected by the Third Reich were civilians. In 1990, Professor Kaflowski estimated the Polish losses at US$ 284 billion. Today, seventy-two years since the end of the war, the number of survivors has decreased practically to zero. The average death rate in this group is 208 thousand people per year. However, it does not mean that the reparations for damages have expired, the civil-law rights to damages have been inherited by the hairs including any interest due.
For years, Germany has avoided paying Poland and Poles compensation for war damages. They have been using various perverse arguments, such as we were not eligible as the Polish People’s Republic and the Federal Republic we did not maintain diplomatic relations. However, the West Germans did not maintain diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia, and yet they concluded an agreement with the Yugoslavia on reparations. For many years the Germans maintained that Poles cannot claim war reparations because our country did not sign a peace treaty with Germany. In view of the practice, it is appropriate to recognize this argument to be simply an excuse because, despite the lack of a peace treaty, the German government has concluded twelve separate international agreements on war reparations with European states, including with the COMECON ones. Germany also concluded an agreement on war reparations with Israel, which was only three years old since the end of the war. According to German estimates, two hundred large corporations and industrial plants in Germany used slave labour. About nine million people worked in German work camps. Only a few of these companies were charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Polish claims for compensation for slave labour took place before the German courts, but they were conducted in such a way as to prevent the execution of the lawsuit. Only the association of twenty-three Jewish organizations based in Austria, Canada, England, France, South Africa and the USA won with IG Farbeinindustrie and the Krupp Group in 1958.
Information contained in the “Expertise of Legal Basis of Individual Cases for Individual War Damages Claims” (“Ekspertyzy podstaw prawnych roszczeń indywidualnych o odszkodowania wojenne”) by Professor Alfons Klafkowski, PhD. has been used, commissioned in 1990 by Mieczysław Janosz of the Association of War Victims (Stowarzyszenie Ofiar Wojny). The expertise was to be presented at the UN General Assembly.
KL Gross Rosen