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Polish PM Seeking Joint Position on WWII Claims

September 27, 2004

Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka will visit the German capital on Monday seeking a joint declaration on the sensitive issue of demands for compensation for the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II.

Marek Belka will lead sensitive discussions with the chancellorImage: AP

Germany has been irritated by an emotionally-charged resolution the Polish parliament adopted on September 10 calling for reparations for "the enormous material and spiritual destruction caused by German aggression, occupation and genocide."

The resolution, which was put forward by right-wing parties, flew in the face of warnings from Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski that it could harm relations between Germany and its eastern neighbours who joined the European Union in May.

Belka said on Friday that in his first official visit to Berlin, he would use talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to "attempt to reach a common position on the issue of reparations."

He added that there was little point in Poland raising the issue of reparations with Germany because the demands are unrealistic.

Polish resolution "indefensible"

Schröder has dismissed the Polish parliament's resolution as indefensible.

"I believe the call is untenable and also impossible to fulfill and the Polish government knows that," he said in a newspaper interview published Thursday.

Although the Polish government has announced that it is opposed in principle to demanding compensation from Germany, it has said it will evaluate the extent of Poland's losses due to World War II.

And the fact that the resolution was passed by 320 votes to none with one abstention and that a recent opinion poll showed nearly two-thirds of Poles supported the move, illustrates the strength of feeling over the issue and makes it one the Warsaw government cannot


Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz recalled this week that Poland had renounced seeking reparations from Germany while under Soviet rule in 1953.

A total of six million Poles, including the majority of the country's pre-war population of 3.1 million Jews, are believed to have been killed after Adolf Hitler's army invaded in 1939.

Strained bilateral relations

Another 2.5 million were deported to labour camps in Germany, while Warsaw and other cities were nearly destroyed as the Nazis sought to eradicate Polish culture.

Relations between the two countries have also been strained by the claims of Germans who demand compensation for being forced to leave territory handed over to Poland at the end of World War II.

An analyst on Polish-German affairs, Dorota Dakowska from the Berlin-based Marc Bloch Centre, said it was these claims which angered many Poles who perceive that the ethnic Germans "are trying to turn history on its head, by presenting themselves as the biggest victims of war after the Jews."

"The loss of homes is disproportionate compared with the death of six million Poles, including three million Jews," she said.

Belka will spend three hours in Berlin before returning to Warsaw.

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