"A New European Debt Conference"
AACHEN german-foreign-policy.com spoke with Hans-Rüdiger Minow about Polish demands for reparations for the mass crimes committed by the Nazis. Minow is the Spokesperson for the Board of Directors of the "Train of Commemoration." On behalf of the "Train of Commemoration," he had advised Polish and other Eastern European victims' organizations, which had convened in Warsaw in 2010 to quantify their reparations claims. There was a reconstruction of the revenues collected by the German Reich from mass deportations with the "Reichsbahn" railway to forced labor and extermination camps, including Auschwitz. Transport by rail, for the benefit of Berlin's state treasury, had affected three to six million people in Poland. The Federal Republic of Germany owes repayment of these revenues.
gfp.com: What was the amount at the time?
Hans-Rüdiger Minow: Our expert assessment calculated Berlin's revenues, alone for the victims of the mass deportations by the Reichsbahn to forced labor and extermination camps, to be around half a billion euros - interest not included! Only a portion of the revenues collected by the German state from deportation of slave labor to Germany or the depopulation of entire areas of a country, especially in Poland, are included in this calculation. Hundreds of thousands of families were "transposed" to another place within the occupied region, in other words, abducted and transported by railroad, to make space for pedigree German settler colonialists.
gfp.com: Did Berlin ever refund those revenues?
Minow: Not a zloty, a penny, nor a cent.
gfp.com: Is this the reason for negotiations in 2010 with the German government?
Minow: The Polish government, at the time, and the German government reached an agreement on the booby prizes and bargain compensations behind the backs of the victims' organizations.
gfp.com: Why was the government in Warsaw going along with this?
Minow: The most powerful members of Warsaw's government, at the time, were the foster children of German foreign policy. German proxy organizations in Poland, for example the Konrad Adenauer Foundation played a significant role in former Prime Minister Donald Tusk's rise to power. This came with a price tag. Berlin would fire anyone in Warsaw who raised demands for reparations - or, if he were compliant, he would be promoted, like Tusk, to Brussels.
gfp.com: Warsaw's current government is also accused of being indifferent to reparations claims. They are only doing it for tactical reasons.
Minow: The current Polish government is the first government in Warsaw, since 1990, that has emphatically confronted Berlin on the question of reparations. The leading representatives in Warsaw did not begin only recently to voice this issue. Incidentally, there is an itemization of damages dating back to 1947.
gfp.com: But their nationalist tone, the current government in Warsaw's EU policy, which ranges from conservative to ultra-conservative is...
Minow: One can desire something different ... however, are only certain victims' heirs supposed to be allowed to remind the descendents of the criminals that there has never been payment for those crimes? Strangely enough, Athens is raising demands identical to those of Warsaw - but to a completely different political tune. Are they also nationalists, when they point to Berlin's wealth and say: That is money from our estate, which you took and never returned; it was ripped from our flesh; is dripping with our blood?
gfp.com: If one adds together the claims from Warsaw with those from Athens, it would make a trillion. Are these demands realistic?
Minow: It was realistic, in the material sense that the foundation of Polish civil and economic life had been reduced to dust. Think of Warsaw. The capital was razed to the ground. If that was a true crime, then is it not realistic to draw up the bill accordingly?
gfp.com: Berlin argues with the extent of the destruction; saying that it was so extensive, so horrendous, that it could never be compensated for.
Minow: That is the logic of a bandit! That is a hint to future criminals: rob and plunder, murder and gas as much as possible, so that the destruction will be too devastating to be compensated for ... That is barbarism. The claims raised in Warsaw are fully justified!
gfp.com: There is nevertheless the question, how should the compensation work - practically?
Minow: In every legal procedure - and this is such a case - first, there is a comprehensive registration of damages, second, determine the guilty party and only third pass sentence. Poland and Greece have been insisting on such a procedure - regardless of Berlin's excuses. The first step in this procedure has not even been taken, and the debtors are already talking about the last step and wanting to determine their own sentence. If such a procedure could be initiated under mutual consent and trust, this would already be the first step toward atonement. They would not have to fear the last step.
gfp.com: Berlin refuses any kind of negotiation...
Minow: No self-reflection can be expected from German state policy. The footprint it has left on the pages of history, is one that is particularly gruesome, a particularly barbaric form of fascism. If negotiations do not happen, civil society along with forces abroad, independent of the state must take on the responsibility.
gfp.com: A new European Debt Conference?
Minow: That would be necessary. The material atonement for German war crimes is a question of war and peace in Europe.