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Scholz set to announce compensation for Polish survivors of Nazi crimes

The German chancellor is also expected to announce additional support for the defense of Poland’s eastern flank as the two countries seek to mend long-strained ties.


July 2, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is expected to announce measures to improve German-Polish relations — including by compensating the still-living Polish victims of Nazi crimes — during a visit to Warsaw on Tuesday.

“It is to be expected that the chancellor will announce that something will be done … for the people who suffered under German Nazi rule in Poland and who are still living and, for example, do not have adequate health insurance and experience poverty in old age,” Paul Ziemiak, the secretary general of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the country’s biggest opposition force in parliament, told POLITICO’S Berlin playbook podcast.

With the expected announcement, Scholz aims to further improve his country’s relations with Poland after Prime Minister Donald Tusk took office last year. The countries’ relationship sharply deteriorated under the former Polish government, which was ruled by the populist right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Germany was a favorite target of the PiS government, with the party’s leaders demanding Berlin pay more than €1 trillion in war reparations. Germany rejected those demands, with a spokesperson saying the “matter is closed” due to a series of postwar agreements.

The current Polish government has dropped the reparation demands, but Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has called on Germany to find a “creative solution” to compensate the Polish people for their suffering.

The German announcement is expected to consist of a package of measures with costs in the “three-digit million range,” German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported. This is expected to include financial compensation for Polish victims of Nazi Germany who are still alive, support for the defense of Poland’s eastern flank, and the creation of a memorial in Berlin focused on Nazi crimes in occupied Poland.

Scholz is expected to announce the initiatives during a press conference alongside Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Tuesday. The trip also marks the first German-Polish government consultations since 2018. More than 10 ministers in Scholz’s cabinet are scheduled to join the consultations.

It’s unlikely, however, that Germany’s expected announcement on Tuesday will quell reparations demands. Polls suggest a majority of people in Poland believe Germany should pay compensation.

Security cooperation to deepen Germany’s support along the country’s eastern flank will be a key part of the consultations, according to a senior German official. Those discussions are happening in a context in which both sides wish to bolster their own cross-border initiatives on air defense.

Scholz wants Warsaw to sign up to the Sky Shield platform to jointly procure and operate air defense systems, while Tusk is on the hunt for backing for a separate strategic defense line along the Baltic region’s border with Belarus and Russia, which would also include air systems.

The plan to establish the new memorial in Berlin — dubbed the “German-Polish House” —was adopted by Scholz’s cabinet last week.

“The horrors and crimes of Nazi Germany’s occupation of Poland, to which over five million Poles fell victim, are … still far too little known in this country,” Claudia Roth, Germany’s culture minister, said in a statement after the cabinet decision. “Germany still has a special historical responsibility when it comes to its relationship with Poland, our neighbor and, fortunately, our close partner again.”

Gordon Repinski contributed reporting.



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