We appeal to the international community to support the efforts of Poland in seeking comprehensive compensation from Germany for the unprecedented destruction of Poland and harm done to her people during World War II.
Hitler’s order to destroy Poland and the Polish people was issued just before the 1939 invasion of Poland and had been carried out by German occupying forces for five long years. The order was as follows:
I have issued a command – and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by firing squad – that our war aim does not consist of reaching a certain line but in the physical destruction of the enemy.
Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death, mercilessly and without compassion, men, woman, and children of Polish derivation and language.
Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today about the annihilation of the Armenians?
Speech of August 22, 1939
Report by Lous Lochner, Head of the Associated Press Berlin Office
Poland was deprived of compensation from Germany for losses suffered in WWII
After the war, Poland was under Soviet occupation and, as a Soviet satellite, was deprived of compensation for the crimes committed by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Likewise, Poland was not included in the Marshall Plan.
Poland was the greatest victim of WWII and the first victim of German aggression. Poland suffered the greatest losses in population and infrastructure in proportion to all other countries impacted by WWII and therefore has the full and indisputable right to demand compensation for war damages and the harm suffered.
Hitler’s Germany committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Polish nation. However, to this day, Polish victims of Nazi Germany have not received compensation for their material losses or the harm they suffered from Germany.
Losses among Polish citizens caused by German extermination operations during the Second World War are estimated at 5.2 million people. This number does not include Polish citizens who were murdered as a result of Soviet aggression and ethnic cleansing atrocities in eastern provinces.
The Poles harmed by Nazi Germany were denied justice
Poles harmed by Germany also have no legal avenue under any law to pursue individual claims against the German state, which has committed against the Polish people violations of fundamental universal human rights, including the right to life, property right, and the right to dignity.
The crimes of Nazi Germany committed in Poland are not subject to the statute of limitations
International law does not recognize statutes of limitations for universal crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of genocide. Therefore, the statute of limitations does not bar compensation for these crimes.
Germans deny that Nazi Germany committed crimes against the Polish nation
The German state never took proper steps to fairly assess the wrongs done to Poland by Nazi Germany, bring about compensation for the wrongs suffered, and pay due compensation for its total destruction of the Polish state, murdering millions of Poles, and using millions of Poles as slave labor for the Third Reich.
Polish Losses in the Defensive War of 1939
During the attack on Poland, the Germans destroyed several hundred Polish towns, devastated Warsaw, and launched the Extraordinary Pacification Action called Action AB. At least 6,500 people were murdered, including representatives of Polish political and intellectual elites in Action AB.
For 55 days, from September 1 to October 26, the Wehrmacht participated in 311 mass executions of Polish civilians and soldiers of the Polish Army. Between September 1 and October 26, various German forces carried out a total of 764 executions, killing at least 24,000 Polish people. Thousands of other mass murders were carried out by units of the German Selbstschutz and Volksdeutsche militias as well as police units and SD Operational Groups.
In total, various German forces burned over 434 Polish villages during the September attack on Poland and exterminated their inhabitants. These were unlawful acts, taking place in violation of international law and norms, without military necessity, and often after combat had ended. Furthermore, taking and shooting hostages in towns occupied by the Wehrmacht and Einsatzkommandos, setting houses on fire, and expelling the local population were regular occurrences.
Mass Extermination of Poles
During the occupation of Poland, the Germans regularly carried out round-ups on the streets of Polish cities, in trains, or even at schools, and deported Polish civilians en masse to extermination camps or slave labor camps. Throughout occupied Poland, Poles were arrested and murdered en masse based on proscription lists prepared by the German minority in Poland. Starvation rates for food were introduced in German-occupied Poland in order to exterminate the Polish population biologically.
About 100,000 people were murdered in a “political cleaning-up” operation code-named “Tannenberg.” It was the first such planned extermination operation carried out with great precision and determination during World War II.
The Annihilation of Warsaw
During the defense of Warsaw in September 1939, the losses of Warsaw’s population amounted to about 12,000 killed and 50-60,000 wounded. About 10% of the city’s buildings were destroyed, including 78,000. apartments.
On August 1, 1944, Hitler ordered Himmler to raze Warsaw to the ground and murder all the inhabitants. According to SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, this was the order:
Every inhabitant of Warsaw must be killed.
no prisoners must be taken.
Warsaw is to be razed to the ground.
During the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, the Germans murdered at least 200,000 residents of Warsaw. Over 500,000 inhabitants of the Polish capital and about 100 thousand people from towns near Warsaw were deported, of which nearly 150,000 were sent to concentration and forced labor camps.
After the fall of the uprising, at a conference in Himmler’s field headquarters on October 9, 1944, the Reichsführer-SS ordered the complete destruction of Warsaw, having previously emptied it of all valuable materials for the Reich. The order was:
This city is to completely disappear from the face of the earth …
Stone upon stone should not remain.
All buildings must be demolished down to their foundations.
Therefore, after the fall of the Warsaw Uprising, the Germans began the systematic destruction of Warsaw, which lasted from October 1939 and was interrupted only by the Soviet offensive in January 1945. During that period, mass looting of private and public property took place. With particular passion, the Germans destroyed Polish monuments and objects of great cultural and sacral value. For example:
- On October 25, the building of the Krasiński Estate Library at Okólnik Street was carefully burned down from the basement, floor by floor – burning to the ground all old prints and the largest collection of manuscripts in Poland, constituting the primary source of Polish history. The fire consumed about 2,000 incunabula, 50,000 manuscripts and 100,000 old prints, and other invaluable items;
- On November 3, the National Archives located in the building of the Warsaw School of Economics at Rakowiecka Street were burned. 95% of the archive’s resources were destroyed;
- On November 4, the Warsaw City Archives, located in the former Warsaw Arsenal, were burnt down. All archival resources gathered there were destroyed;
- On December 6, the monument to Prince Józef Poniatowski on Saski Square was blown up;
- In mid-December, the Warsaw Cathedral was demolished along with the adjacent Jesuits church. At the same time, the churches of oo. Reformatów at Senatorska Street and oo. Paulinów in Nowe Miasto were destroyed;
- On December 18, the Brühl Palace was blown up;
- between December 27 and January 1, the following monuments were destroyed: Bogusławski, Mickiewicz, Lotnik & Saper;
- On December 29, the Saxon Palace was blown up;
- On January 16, the Public Library of the Capital City of Warsaw was burnt down. The Library of Warsaw at Koszykowa Street was a warehouse of books and magazines. Germans burned down 500,000 books and documents there.
Priceless monuments and objects of great cultural and spiritual value were destroyed. The register of sacral and secular buildings of historic value destroyed in Warsaw includes 674 items.
The total material losses suffered by Warsaw and its inhabitants at the hands of the German occupiers during World War II have been estimated at 40 billion dollars.
This particular intensity of the destructive passion of German criminals in relation to priceless Polish monuments should be explained by the slogan proclaimed by them:
A nation lives as long as
its cultural heritage is alive
This is undoubtedly the justification for this German destructive passion in Poland.
During World War II, the Germans destroyed at least 84% of the buildings of Warsaw on the left bank of the Vistula river. The destruction of Warsaw was one of the attempts to destroy the Polish nation.
Poland never recovered thousands of Polish children kidnapped by Nazi Germany
It should be remembered that as part of the genocidal actions against the Polish ethnic group, the German authorities massively obtained racially valuable genetic material through mass abduction and Germanization operations of Polish children. Out of over 200,000 Polish children abducted by the Germans during the Second World War, only 15-20 percent were recovered.
Poland did not regain the cultural goods plundered by Nazi Germany
Germany’s plan was not only to destroy the Polish people but also to completely erase Polish culture from the achievements of civilization. This strategy concerned all areas of cultural activity, including literature, music, theatre, cinematography, and fine arts, as well as Polish museums, architectural heritage, and monuments.
The losses of Poland’s cultural heritage are incomparable to the damage caused by Germany to other countries. Hundreds of thousands of Polish works of art, and cultural and religious goods were either completely destroyed or plundered and never returned.
The Germans acknowledged their guilt towards 70 different countries, but not towards Poland!
Germany paid various kinds of compensation to 70 different countries but completely ignored its biggest victim – Poland. This shows the lack of acceptance of guilt for the crimes committed against Poles and the continuation of the humiliating treatment of Poles by the Germans by the ideology of fascist Germany about the superiority of races. In this way, the Germans continue to violate the basic rights of Poles to dignity and justice. This highly immoral attitude of Germany towards Poland can no longer be accepted by the civilized world.
The asymmetrical treatment of Poles in the matter of compensation is part of the racial discrimination carried out by Nazi Germany against Poles.
Such a discriminatory policy of Germany towards Poland and Polish citizens in comparison with other countries that suffered much smaller losses and received compensation forces Poland to raise on the international arena German lack of guilt for crimes committed against Poles, which is expressed by refusing to grant Poland due compensation for harm and damage suffered during World War II.
Poland never renounced its right to war compensation from Germany.
Contrary to German propaganda, Poland never renounced its right to war reparations from Germany. Under Soviet occupation, Poland was not a sovereign state entitled to make concessions to another government. Although the Kremlin ordered Poland to do so, there is no legally binding agreement with East Germany and/or West Germany containing such arrangements.
Dramatic destruction and political dependence are the reasons that Poland has so far been unable to obtain war reparations from Germany.
During the communist period, neither Poland nor Germany, deprived of sovereignty, could decide on the method of settling war reparations. However, after the fall of communism and the unification of East and West Germany in 1990, this matter should have been properly resolved.
The two plus four treaty on the unification of Germany signed on September 12, 1990, unfortunately, did not include, although it should have, the subject of war reparations for Poland. Although the unification of Germany was most significant for Poland as Germany’s closest neighbor, Poland was not invited to these negotiations and was not a party to this treaty.
Recognition of guilt and payment of compensation is a precondition to good neighborly relations in the future.
Relations between Poland and Germany must be based on the foundation of historical truth, dignified treatment, and due compensation for war crimes committed by Nazi Germany in Poland against its citizens. Therefore, both countries should as soon as possible lead to the closure and comprehensive solution of compensation for the crimes and destruction of Poland committed by Nazi Germany during World War II.
Losses at the hands of Nazi Germany are only part of the losses suffered by Poland during the Second World War.
The Soviet Union, which attacked Poland in cooperation with Germany, also committed barbaric atrocities against Polish civilians and prisoners of war and deported thousands to slave labor camps deep into the Soviet Union, where thousands of Poles died from the inhumane conditions.
Report of the Polish Government from 2022 on the losses suffered by Poland at the hands of Nazi Germany.
Poland demands WWII compensation from Germany. The three-volume Report of the Polish Government on the losses suffered by Poland as a result of German aggression and occupation during World War II 1939-1945 contains a comprehensive analysis of the costs that Poland suffered for being under German occupation during World War II. The losses sustained by Poland from Nazi Germany during World War II are estimated at 6 billion 220 mld 609 mln złotych which is 1,532,170 mln USD. This report shall be carefully analyzed to fully understand why compensation from Germany is morally, legally, and historically necessary.
We call on Germany to recognize that Nazi Germany’s aggression against Poland caused the greatest loss to Poland’s population and material assets compared to all other countries occupied by Nazi Germany, and therefore Poland has a full and indisputable right to due compensation.
As international law does not recognize the statute of limitations for claims in respect of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, we call on Germany to recognize its responsibility for the crimes of the extermination of the Polish nation, the destruction of the infrastructure of the Polish state and the cultural property of the Polish nation during the Second World War.
We urge Germany to immediately consider paying Poland due compensation for human and material losses resulting from the war of total annihilation of the Polish state and nation led by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
We call on Germany to pursue good neighborly relations with Poland based on historical truth, mutual respect, and due compensation for the crimes committed by Nazi Germany against Poles.
We call on Germany to return hundreds of thousands of works of art, cultural, and religious goods that Germany plundered and stole during the war and which have not yet been returned to Poland.
Maria Szonert Binienda
President, Libra Institute, Inc.