Poland Rekindles German War Reparation Talk Before EU Elections

(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s ruling party is returning to the controversial topic of World War II reparations from Germany ahead of May’s elections to the European Parliament, calling on its western neighbor to take “responsibility” for the economic costs of its invasion eight decades ago.

A special parliamentary group published a preliminary study on Wednesday showing that Nazi Germany’s 1939 invasion and bloody six-year occupation may have cost the Polish economy more than $850 billion -- or nearly two years of the east European country’s current economic output.

The report will be presented this year and may be a starting point for discussions on reparations with Berlin, if Poland’s government decides to press ahead with the issue, according to Law & Justice lawmaker Arkadiusz Mularczyk.

“Germany can’t run away from its responsibility,” Mularczyk told reporters. “Germany is paying for genocide in Africa, they’re paying Israeli citizens -- and I don’t see any reason why Poles should be discriminated against. That would show double standards -- that you pay the Jews but not the Poles.”

Law & Justice, the self-appointed defender of traditional Polish values, has vilified numerous groups to tighten its grip on power, including European Union elites, Muslim refugees, homosexuals and anyone questioning the country’s role in World War II. It has also railed sentiment against Germany, Poland’s biggest trading partner and the EU’s paymaster.

Unlike western European nations that settled claims in the decades after World War II ended, Poland signed its postwar border treaty with Germany only in 1990, a year after the collapse of communism. As part of the Soviet bloc, Poland didn’t take part in the U.S.-funded Marshall Plan that helped rebuild western Europe. Germany said the reparations issue is closed.

Calls for reparations from the war, during which about 6 million Poles -- half of them Jews -- were killed, have soured ties between Warsaw and Berlin. As a conflict over an erosion of democratic values in Poland intensified under Law & Justice, party chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in 2017 that the Nazi invasion gave his country a moral claim to receive EU funds regardless of its refusal to accept EU policies.

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