Germany expresses ‘deep shame’ for Nazi destruction of Poland

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At an event marking the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, Germany recognized its moral responsibility for Nazi wartime atrocities in Poland. But Foreign Minister Heiko Maas ruled out financial reparations.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday said Berlin feels moral responsibility for Nazi Germany’s devastation of Poland. He made the comments during a visit to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.

“For what was done to Poland by Germans and in the name of Germany, you can only feel deep shame,” Maas said during joint press conference with Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz.

However, Maas noted that the question of reparations for wartime actions was “closed for Germany.”

‘Feeling of injustice’

But his Polish counterpart stressed a Polish “feeling of injustice or lack of compensation for harm and losses suffered” during World War II. A parliamentary team is assessing the cost of damages, Czaputowicz said.

In 2004, Warsaw’s then-mayor and future president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, put the cost of damages the city had sustained in the war at $45 billion (€41 billion).

The parliamentary assessment would be part of future discussions, Czaputowicz said.

Shadow over relations

The Warsaw Uprising has continued to cast a shadow over German and Polish relations. However, Maas’s attendance at the commemorations — the first by a high-ranking official since former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s 2004 visit — marked a new page.

“The visit of (Foreign) Minister Heiko Maas constitutes proof of close relations between Poland and Germany, and the meaning that both sides ascribe to an honest, intensive dialogue between our countries,” Czaputowicz said.

Maas said he felt particularly honored “because today, 75 years after the Warsaw Uprising, Poland and Germany — as friends — express strong mutual trust.”

Death and devastation

In a failed bid to free the city, Polish resistance fighters rose up against Nazi occupation on August 1, 1944. Some 200,000 people — mainly civilians — were killed or executed during Nazi countermeasures. Hundreds of thousands were deported to concentration camps.

The rebels had hoped for outside help, but supplies dropped by the Allies tended to miss their target. And despite the nearby presence of advancing Soviet forces, Moscow refused to support the resistance fighters due to their connection with the anti-communist government in exile.

The resistance fighters managed to hold out for 63 days, before capitulating on October 2, 1944. Shortly after, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler personally ordered the wide-scale destruction of the city. Around 90% of all historical buildings were blown up, including the royal palace.

Warsaw’s population numbered almost one million at the start of the Uprising. By the time it was over, only a few thousand people still lived among the rubble of the devastated city.

DW

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