The town of Wieluń, in Central Poland, made history as the first city to be attacked by the Nazi Army at the start of World War II in September 1939. Now, it’s making history once again by becoming the first municipality in Poland to claim reparations from Germany for the damages and suffering it had incurred at that time and during the entire occupation.
The town, which back then was close to the border between the two countries was the first to be bombed by the Luftwaffe Nazi airforce, resulting in extensive destructions.
On Tuesday, 29 August, the Wielun town councillors adopted a resolution to that respect making things seem rather official. However, the document itself is more symbolic than binding and is an expression of the town’s will.
It is also meant as support and agreement with the Polish national parliament’s resolution that the country should demand reparations from Germany. Last autumn, the Polish government grabbed the headlines with the extravagant claim that it had calculated the amount of reparations that Germany owed Poland as compensation for the 1939-1945 occupation.
And that amount came up to 1.3 trillion dollars. The head-spinning sum is meant to cover all Polish losses in all aspects, such as human, financial, material, loss of cultural heritage and war damage.
The German government has generally brushed off these claims by the Polish officials, stating that all matters have been settled under international law after the War, including the subject of reparation.
Poland’s ruling conservative party PiS (Law and Justice) has been promoting the reparations narrative since at least 2015, as part of its somewhat Eurosceptic and nationalist stance. Their claim stems from the fact that after the War, Communist Poland couldn’t really exercise sovereignty as it was pressured by the Soviet Union not to seek reparations.
In May of this year, the German Ambassador to Poland, Thomas Bagger, described the rehashing of the reparations subject as the “opening of Pandora’s box” and something that’s better left “untouched”. But it looks like the town councillors of Wielun have decided to try and open the box, nevertheless.
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