Official: Poland entitled to seek German WWII reparations

A Polish official says there exist no documents or records to show that Poland ever renounced its right to seek World War II reparations from Germany

WARSAW, Poland -- A Polish official said his country is entitled to seek World War II reparations from Germany, arguing Tuesday that no documents or records show Poland ever renounced its right to do so.

Berlin has repeatedly said there is no legal basis for the claims because the matter was settled in a 1953 agreement.

But prominent ruling party lawmaker Arkadiusz Mularczyk told The Associated Press that to his knowledge the only document that exists is a copy of a 1953 note from a government session. It's signed only by Poland's communist leader of the time, Boleslaw Bierut, and isn't legally binding.

Poland's current right-wing authorities have argued the 1953 decision is invalid because it was dictated by Moscow when Poland was a satellite of the Soviet Union.

Mularczyk believes that raising reparations with Berlin would improve bilateral ties. He said Poland hasn't been adequately compensated for the human and material losses it suffered under Nazi German occupation from 1939-45.

"This is not antagonizing," he argued. "If Germany paid reparations to Poland it would be a chance to improve those relations," because there is still a sense among many Poles that the country should be compensated for its losses.

According to Mularczyk, Poles who were Nazi concentration camp inmates, victims of pseudo-medical experiments or forced laborers have been paid less than 2 billion euros in compensation, which is incommensurate with their suffering.

He believes the matter could be solved through bilateral talks. Last month, Greece said it would revive its long-standing demand for German war reparations and would make use of European and international law to back its demand, which Germany has repeatedly rejected.

Mularczyk reiterated the government's refusal to discuss compensation for Jewish property, saying Poland shouldn't pay reparations since it was a victim of the war.

He said that in line with Poland's law, legal heirs should claim property, if it exists, or compensation, through courts, a lengthy procedure that also applies to Polish citizens whose property was seized during the war and under communism.

"Please send the bill to Germany, to Mrs. Merkel" Mularczyk said, referring to the German chancellor.

Mularczyk heads a team of experts set up in 2017 by the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party that tasked it with counting the losses and their long-term effects on Poland, saying the nations deserves compensation. He intends to present it to Germany and other countries on Sept. 1, the 80th anniversary of the Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland.

"Our goal is to show (internationally) the effects and consequences of World War II, the human and material losses and how they influence today the life, the economic, the political and the demographic position of our country," he said.

Mularczyk said the "very cautious, minimalist" estimate of losses will be higher than the currently cited $850 million, which derives from a 1947 count. It will include losses to all who were Poland's citizens in 1939, including Jews and other minorities.