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    Prime Minister for Niezalezna.pl: Poland did not relinquish claims to war reparations. It is an imaginary legal act

    I am convinced that we will receive reparations from Germany, although it will not happen quickly. Even the most difficult journey begins with the first step. For years, the Third Republic of Poland’s establishment lacked the courage and determination to take this step. Our first step was to prepare a report […], the second step is to present the report and submit a diplomatic note to the German government, which will happen soon,” the head of the Polish government, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in an interview with the portal niezalezna.pl.

    Aleksander Mimier, Niezalezna.pl: Following the publication of the report on the consequences of Germany’s crimes, there was an announcement of an imminent diplomatic note to Berlin. What legal arguments does the Polish government intend to use to effectively begin the process of claiming war reparations?

     

    Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki: We have analysed all the arguments cited by the German side and those who believe that the topic is closed. The key is supposed to be the so-called resolution of the Council of Ministers of August 1953. Well, no such resolution has been found in the archives. To say nothing of the fact that Bierut himself – as a Soviet agent – was in a way doubly unauthorised to present such a commitment. Firstly – and this is by no means a purely moral argument, we shall raise it as a legal argument – Bierut was in fact Moscow’s governor, carrying out its orders. Poland was not a free country at that time. Anything Bierut did, even if he had done it in a manner consistent with the law of the time, would not, in my opinion, but also that of the lawyers we consulted, have the force of law. There is also the context, which Professor Sandorski has been raising for many years, that this “resolution” was passed under duress from the USSR and is therefore invalid ab initio.

     

    The second argument concerns the shape of the legislative procedure then in force. In 1952, the Polish People’s Republic – however flawed and subordinate to the Kremlin’s power – adopted a constitution at the time. According to it, such a waiver should be made by the Council of State or the Sejm (depending on the interpretation of the legislation). Neither the State Council nor the Sejm issued any such act. This is the second, very serious argument that no waiver of reparations took place. An alleged waiver is an imaginary act.

     

    Strong words. Is there no evidence of the document?

     

    The only evidence that something was supposed to have happened on 24 August 1953 is a press release, placed a day later in the Trybuna Ludu. If for someone the “Trybuna Ludu” is a sufficient source of international law, then… congratulations. This alleged ‘resolution’ was never published in any Polish official journal! There are many indications that this meeting of the Council of Ministers, at which the “resolution” was adopted, did not actually take place. As Mr Jozef Menes, co-author of the War Losses Report points out, there are no signatures under the attendance list. What is more, there also are the minutes, which contain a note about the adoption of this “resolution,” numbered 23a, although normally the minutes were numbered consecutively. Furthermore, the meeting of the Council of Ministers would have to be held on a Sunday, which would be eminently unusual. 

     

    The effectiveness of this ‘resolution’ as a source of international law, based on which the People’s Republic of Poland waived reparations from Germany, is therefore extremely difficult to defend. It was not an international agreement with Germany, nor does it meet the requirements prescribed by international law for acts consisting in the renunciation of rights belonging to a state, nor does it meet the requirements then in force under Polish law. Because of this, it cannot be regarded as a legal act at all, either in the national or international order – it is merely a non-binding political declaration by the Soviet agent Bierut. None of the subsequent acts – 1970 (the Polish-German border negotiations) or 1990 (the 1990 “2+4” treaty, the signed Polish-German border treaty) – directly addressed the issue of reparations or compensation due to Poland for the Second World War, hence there is no binding source of international law under which Poland renounced its claims. It should be emphasised that these claims have two extremely strong legal bases. Firstly, in the general principle of international law, which speaks of responsibility for damage caused by illegal aggression, and secondly, in the international agreement signed by Germany and Poland, i.e. Article 3 of the Hague Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annexe: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land adopted on its basis, which Nazi Germany unquestionably violated by committing bestial and inhuman crimes against the Polish nation.

     

    I, therefore, believe that we have very strong, strictly legal arguments for demanding reparations for the terrible German crimes committed against the Polish nation, against Polish citizens, but also for the destruction of our future. Not just the destruction of the present, but precisely of the future. Poland in per capita income in international dollars was, according to Angus Maddison’s research, a richer country than Spain in 1951. After an equal forty years, the average per capita GDP income was only 38 per cent. The entire four lost decades were due – apart from the Soviet Union, of course – to Nazi Germany.

     

    No one needs to be convinced of the extent of this destruction today. However, this does not mean that people believe that Poland should enforce war reparations. 

     

    Apparently, we have many doubters. I am convinced that we will receive reparations from Germany, although it will not happen quickly. Even the most difficult journey begins with the first step. For years, the Third Polish Republic’s establishment has lacked the courage and determination to take this step. Our first step was the preparation of the report, for which I would like to thank once again Arkadiusz Mularczyk and the entire group of experts – excellent and courageous experts on this difficult matter. The second step is the presentation of the report and the submission of a diplomatic note to the German government, which will take place soon.

     

    “Reparations will start to be paid within three to five years,” Mr Mularczyk argues, while Law and Justice president Jarosław Kaczyński points to a process lasting generation. Will we have several decades of regular transfers to the state budget?

     

    President Jarosław Kaczyński is right that this process can be stretched over generations, especially the very repayment of individual instalments. The amount is indeed large. For me, however, as important as financial reparation is the moral and axiological dimension of this process. It is not only the money that counts, historical rightness and international standing are also extremely important. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, attempts were made to change the awareness of what the Second World War was. We began to be portrayed as a country complicit in the Holocaust, complicit in the crimes of the Second World War. This incredible insolence prompted the Sejm in 2004 – on a motion drafted by Antoni Macierewicz, for which I thank him – to pass a resolution calling on the government to prepare a report on reparations. Eighteen years later, it was our government that fulfilled that resolution.

     

    Did the Polish parliamentary system rise to the challenge? Some politicians got lost. They present extreme opinions and reviews on the publication of the report over the last several days.

     

    At first, I found it difficult to imagine that any sensitive, historically knowledgeable Poles would not support the restoration of elementary, historical justice. However, I understand the consternation of Civic Platform politicians. The statements of Mr Sikorski, Mr Schetyna and Mr Tusk are reprehensible, but I am glad that the party’s line is gradually changing to one that is in line with ours on this issue. I think they understood that reparations are the Polish raison d’état and that the Poles, in general, support this idea. But the fact that each time they try to downgrade our idea shows only the smallness and shallowness of their arguments. I fear that this support is highly insincere on their part.

     

    The issue of reparations is an opportunity to remind the world of the extermination of Poland in 1939-1945. How to reach people on different continents? Perhaps the promotion of these issues should be entrusted to the Polish community abroad. 

     

    You have raised a crucial issue. The success of our efforts also depends on the activity of the Polish diaspora around the world in promoting the Polish raison d’état and historical truth. In this context, I rely on very broad support. Also, people who are less involved in Polish affairs daily, who have ancestors who left for the United States, Canada, Australia or the United Kingdom immediately after World War II. I rely on these people to find not only photographs of their parents or grandparents, but also a willingness to act to support our efforts in all possible institutions. Such dispersed activity will stimulate public opinion in the countries of the free world. This is a synergy effect that cannot be overestimated. We are very keen on this. If we act together, sooner or later the Germans will understand that they have no choice but to pay Poland the reparations. The issue of the property of the Polish minority that was seized by Nazi Germany and whose restitution has not been settled to date should also be addressed, here, too, we would like to involve the Polish community in Germany.

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