Germans Demand War Reparations; Cite Expulsion from Ceded Areas

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 10, 2004 | Go to article overview

Germans Demand War Reparations; Cite Expulsion from Ceded Areas


Byline: Andrew Borowiec, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

GENEVA - In what might seem an act of monumental nerve, a group of Germans is seeking compensation from Poland for property lost at the end of World War II.

The war began with Germany's invasion of Poland, which it ruled in brutal fashion and made home to its most infamous concentration camps.

But at the end of the war about 12 million Germans were ousted from regions ceded to Poland under Soviet pressure, mainly in East Prussia and eastern Germany, and the former owners are now seeking restitution or financial compensation.

The idea has not gone down well in Poland, where the government has hinted that it may lodge its own demand for about $30 billion representing the cost of rebuilding the Polish capital after the German forces put down the 63-day Warsaw uprising in 1944.

The question surfaced after a visit last week to Warsaw by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to mark the 60th anniversary of the uprising. Before a large Polish audience, Mr. Schroeder admitted Germany's "shame" and asked for Polish forgiveness for acts in which an estimated 200,000 Poles died and 80 percent of Warsaw was reduced to rubble.

The unprecedented statement received polite but tepid thanks from the Polish government, which thinks the apology was not sufficient. It also inspired the latest demands from the Federation of German Expellees.

German Finance Minister Hans Eichel described the statement by the expelled Germans as "totally inappropriate" and indicated that it could damage Germany's relations with Poland after years of efforts to ease the lingering bitterness of World War II.

But Rudi Pawelka, head of Preussische Treuhand - an association representing the interests of the former inhabitants of East Prussia - has promised legal action before German courts and the European Court of Justice. …

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