Germany and Poland look to experts on reparations row

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 17, 2018 9:00 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany and Poland said on Wednesday they would consider setting up a commission to explore Polish calls for reparations for German actions during World War Two.

Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has revived the issue of war compensation although the government has stopped short of making an official demand.

New Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz and his German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel, said at their first meeting they did not want the issue to harm bilateral relations.

Both ministers stressed the importance of the relationship between the neighbors and EU partners but acknowledged that the question of reparations was not going away.

"We have a clear legal position that all questions about reparations have been cleared up," Gabriel said, adding that Poland's democratically elected government accepted that in the early 1990s after the fall of Communism.

"But there is no point in talking about the legal situation if there is a debate within society in a neighboring country," he said.

"One way ahead could be to ask experts to look at this," he said, making clear there was no concrete plan so far and the makeup of such a panel would have to be decided but it may constitute historians and lawyers.

Six million Poles, including three million Polish Jews were killed during the war and the capital Warsaw was razed to the ground in 1944 after a failed uprising in which 200,000 civilians died.

After the war, the victorious Allies awarded Poland a large swathe of German land as compensation for Polish territory annexed by the Soviet Union in the east.

"We want to have this debate," said Czaputowicz, who said he accepted Gabriel's suggestion.

Relations between Poland and Germany have improved in recent years but have taken a knock since the nationalist-leaning PiS won a parliamentary election in 2015.

The PiS, which says Berlin wields too much influence within the European Union, frequently talks about Poland's suffering under the German occupation in an effort it says aims to promote patriotism.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers)