A hard-hitting campaign, echoing the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, has been launched by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) ahead of Germans heading to the polls on September 24.
The website of right-wing TV channel Republika’s published an image of the slogan “Reparationen machen frei” (Repatriations are free) photoshopped to mimic the gates of the notorious camp that had the original slogan “Arbeit macht frei” (work sets you free).
The amount demanded by Poland has tended to vary but the weekly newspaper Sieci Prawdy stated the figure was about £4.7trillion ($ 6trn).
Whatever the final figure might be Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) party, said at a convention in July that the damages caused to his country were “really still not made up for”.
PiS deputy Arkadiusz Mularczyk also claimed that seeking war reparations from Germany was a “moral duty”.
Earlier this month, Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz said Germans should “pay back the terrible debt they owe to the Polish people”.
He said: “There is no doubt that during the first months of the war, it was simply a slaughter, genocide.”
Ryszard Czarnecki, a PiS party member and deputy head of the European Parliament, said: “If Jews have gotten compensation — and rightly so — for loss of property, why shouldn’t we too make claims?”
According to a recent poll, the Polish people firmly back Germany paying reparations with 63 per cent saying Germany should pay up.
Berlin though has tried to brush aside the issue with a German government spokeswoman saying that the issue had been “dealt with conclusively in the past.”
The question of reparations is part of wider disputes between Poland and Germany that have split over into the European Union.
Mr Kaczyński has accused Berlin of abusing its position in Brussels to further its own ends while Poland has been criticised for infringing the EU’s rule of law.
The two countries have also clashed over the imposition of refugee quotas which Germany wants to enforce and Poland has flatly refused to take part in.
Tensions have also recently flared up between the countries over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.
Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said that the pipeline is another way for Brussels, and Berlin, to punish the country for its insubordination.
During World War 2, Poland lost around a fifth of its population and many towns and cities were raised to the ground.
Neither Chancellor Angela Merkel nor her political SPD rival Martin Schulz will want to confront the question of reparations, as well as the wider questions regarding the EU as the pair fight it out in the upcoming elections in the country in September.
Both will view raising the questions surrounding Germany’s relationship with Poland as a political minefield and very likely to just stir up further anti-German sentiments within Poland.
Alexander Wöll, President of the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt, recently said: “The situation is totally unsatisfactory. However, I would also advise the chancellor to continue to refrain from making clear statements.
“Clear statements from Germany always end up helping those in Poland you do not want to support.
“An intervention from Germany would weaken these forces rather than strengthen them. This is unfortunate, but the experience of the past decades has taught us this.”
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