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Europe

Poland Won't Seek German Reparations

The Polish government will evaluate the country's losses during World War II, but will not seek reparations from Germany over the Nazi invasion, Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said.

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German-Polish unity: Cimoszewicz and Joschka Fischer

"An inter-ministerial group will be charged with evaluating the losses suffered by Poland as a result of World War II," the Polish Foreign Minister said Tuesday following a government meeting to examine a controversial parliament resolution last week that called for war reparations from Germany.

Cimoszewicz said the exercise was purely intended to provide a "reminder of the causes and effects of war," and reiterated the government's refusal to seek reparations from Berlin.

"Our intention is not linked to any demand for compensation," he said. "It is a case of illustrating and reminding those who may have forgotten about World War II and its consequences."

"It is perhaps such forgetfulness that has led to demands for compensation from us," he added, in reference to a series of recent claims for restitution of property seized from Germans forced to flee Poland after 1945.

Cimoszewicz added that the government would "work out provisions to support its citizens if they were brought before the courts over a claim for compensation."

"The question of compensation on either side is closed," he said, while calling for a "stronger dialogue" to prevent the debate between Warsaw and Berlin from "veering in the wrong direction."

Restitution tug-of-war

Polish lawmakers last Friday voted unanimously, with one abstention, for a resolution calling on Germany to pay for war damages -- drawing an embarrassed reaction from the government in Warsaw and a firm rebuttal from Berlin.

Gerhard Schröder und Aleksander Kwasniewski in Berlin

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, left, Alexander Kwasniewski.

The move was seen as a tit-for-tat response to a series of claims by German civilians seeking compensation for property lost after Poland's borders shifted westwards in 1945 and they were expelled from the newly re-drawn state.

But Jozef Oleksy, the speaker of the Polish parliament, said on Wednesday that the resolution demanding compensation was in fact aimed at prodding the European Union over regional aid for Poland.

Oleksy said the demand "is aimed at the EU as a reminder (of Poland's losses) when it comes to hand out regional fund and aid money. It could lead to particular goodwill (on the part of the EU) to help us regain lost ground."

Six million Poles, including most of the country's pre-war population of 3.1 million Jews, are believed to have been killed after Nazi Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. A further 2.5 million people were deported to labor camps in Germany, while Warsaw and many other cities were extensively damaged in a Nazi campaign to eradicate Polish culture.

Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, while acknowledging that ill-feeling towards Germany persisted among many of his countrymen, had already dismissed calls for reparations, saying the two countries should concentrate on building trust.

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