Lawyers rule out German WWII claims against Poland

10 November 2004

WARSAW - There are no national or international legal grounds for compensation claims against Poland by German citizens who lost property to Poland after the Second World War, Polish and German legal experts concluded on Wednesday.

Professors Jan Barcz and Jochen Frowein drew the conclusion in an unprecedented special report commissioned by the Polish and German governments following moves by Germans expelled from Poland after the war to seek damages for properties they left behind.

"There exist no legal claims stemming from the Second World War which could question consensus on the conclusion that 'there can no longer be any place for restitution claims from Germany'", the report says.

Both experts agreed that a 1 August statement by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder vowing the German government would not support any individual or group compensation claims against Poland in the courts was indeed binding in terms of international law.

"Neither the federal German government nor any serious political power supports individual property claims as far as they are made," Schroeder said in Warsaw on 1 August at state ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis. "This is a position the federal government will take before the courts," he said.

The compensation dispute was among a raft of unresolved issues stemming from the Second World War which have soured relations between Poland and Germany in recent years.

Threats of legal action on compensation claims by German expellees in turn caused the Polish parliament to pass a resolution demanding the government take legal action on gaining war reparations from Germany.

Fundamental disagreements over involvement in Iraq and national voting rights in the European Union's future constitution have also sparked major tensions.

In a bid to iron out bilateral problems, last week Poland and Germany each appointed special advisors responsible for managing bilateral relations.