Poland is demanding €1.32 trillion in reparations from Germany as compensation for the consequences of Hitler’s war. Does these claims stand a chance? What does international law say about this? A fact check.

132,000,000,000 euros. That’s how much money Poland wants from Germany. Today, 78 years after the end of World War II. For the devastation caused by Hitler’s blood hordes in Poland between 1939 and 1945. Six million dead (as far as is known) and a country destroyed after an extermination campaign.

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The federal government is reacting cautiously, it does not want to smash any political porcelain. With a confrontational response, it would only do what the Polish nationalists are hoping for: foment a prestigious neighborhood dispute. And yet the question arises: Does Poland have an (international) legal right to war reparations?

Sure – you can dismiss the whole thing as electoral maneuvers. A national-conservative government, which is under considerable pressure for many reasons, mobilizes its supporters with anti-German, nationalist resentment. And that’s why he puts out a trillion dollar demand for the Germans to attract the public. The sad thing about it is that there is resentment, it is actually widespread, less in the big cities but in the country, where the number of academics is limited.

1.32 trillion: A demand derived from the days of Hitler, which in these circles is often invoked for current reasons. Unforgotten is the poster campaign immediately before the Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s inaugural visit to Warsaw: Adolf Hitler, his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, in a collage with Angela Merkel and Frank Walter Steinmeier, and the demand for reparations.

Politically, the matter is out of the question. Only one person can be happy about it, the man in Moscow. But what about the legal side – here are the facts that are not communicated by the federal government, probably so as not to further irritate the “wild guys” from the Pis party.

It is a refutation in six stations:

First: August 1945, the war is over because Germany lost it and surrendered. The Potsdam Agreement is concluded on August 2 of this year. Therein Chapter IV: Polish claims for reparations are to be settled from the German reparations to the Soviet Union. This alone makes it clear: Poland does not have the right to register its own claims against Germany.

Second: August 1953. The Polish government makes an official statement on reparations. Shortly before, Moscow had announced that it would no longer receive reparations from “their” part of Germany, the GDR. Therefore, on August 23, 1953, the Polish government declared the following:

“Taking into account that Germany has already fulfilled its obligations to pay reparations to a significant extent and that the improvement of Germany’s economic situation is in the interests of peaceful development, the Government of the People’s Republic of Poland has made the decision, effective January 1 To refrain from paying reparations to Poland in 1954 in order to make a further contribution to solving the German question.”

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The background: In 1953 Moscow and East Berlin are still assuming the possibility of an early reunification of the two states in Germany. A year earlier, the all-powerful ruler of the Kremlin, Josef Stalin, had sent a note to the Germans proposing reunification—at the price of neutralizing Germany. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who had meanwhile firmly anchored the Federal Republic of Germany in the West, refused.

Third: 1970, the first federal government under a Social Democratic Chancellor, Willy Brandt, negotiates the Eastern treaties with Moscow and Warsaw. During the negotiations, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Winiewicz officially confirmed Poland’s waiver of German reparations.

Fourth: The Warsaw Treaty of 1972 ends up before the Federal Constitutional Court. It’s about the course of the Polish border, but not only about it, but also about property claims by those displaced from their homeland – they lost their belongings in the course of Poland’s westward shift. The Karlsruhe judges also have to deal with the question of reparations. In their verdict, they state clearly and unequivocally that when the Warsaw Pact was signed, Polish claims for reparations no longer existed.

Fifth: 1990, the Two Plus Four negotiations. Germany and the GDR are negotiating the status of Germany with the former Allies, with the Americans, the Russians, the French and the British. The Polish government is not officially involved, but is, as the diplomatic term goes, “involved” in talks.

In the Two Plus Four Treaty, which ultimately establishes the sovereignty of Germany as a whole, there is no mention of reparations. But something else is decisive in terms of international law: in the talks taking place parallel to the negotiations, Poland never put forward demands for reparations. This means that they are done with – mind you: not from the point of view of the Federal Government, but according to internationally binding international law.

Sixth: 1991, the German-Polish Friendship Treaty. After German reunification, relations between Germany as a whole and Poland were put on a new footing – former East-West bloc opponents became political partners. That is why the friendship treaty does not provide for any reparations.


Legally, the matter is clear: Poland has no justifiable claim under international law to reparations from Germany, because it itself has waived this several times and because reparations have already been paid in another way – via the Soviet Union.

Politically, what Warsaw is doing is bad style that violates the spirit of the German-Polish friendship treaty. And in reality, only one person is helping who is pursuing the goal of driving the West apart: Vladimir Putin.