Re: Poland and Germany
- From: "brat_olin" <brat_olin@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2005 02:12:17 +0200
Nice summary, Mr. Kamyk. Thanks!
P.S. Yalta was in 1945
"kamyk1112" <kamyk1112@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
> I consider the ongoing conflict between Germany and Poland a major
> threat to the European unification process.
> The main problem is that there is widespread believe on both sides to
> be the innocent victim, and for the other side to be the evil
> The reason why such a strange situation could emerge is that there
> remain open issues, and more importantly millions of victims on both
> Schröder and Kwasniewski want to solve the problem by rejecting German
> and Polish demands for compensation. However by doing so they do the
> The hard facts:
> 1. Between 1939 and 1945 millions of Poles, many of them Jews, became
> the innocent victims of mass murder, expulsions, hunger, misstreatment,
> bombing terror, as a result of Nazi German warfare and occupation.
> Indirectly Nazi occupation also lead to 45 years of communism.
> 2. In 1945 millions of eqully innocent Germans were forcibly expelled
> from their century old homeland, loosing not only property, but also
> their heritage and identity.
> Fact: Both issues cannot be surpressed by politicians. They have to be
I am sorry for using harsh words, but presenting these two issues
together without further comment is unfair. I am aware that,
unfortunately, virtually all German newspapers tend to compare these
two events as if they were symmetric. I want to believe that the reason
for doing that is ignorance, rather than ill-will.
Your letter deals with the subject of compensation. Compensation is
inevitably related with the notion of guilt, in the way that those who
compensate should be 'guilty' of doing something wrong. As for guilt,
however, it's quite a difficult concept, disserted by many notable
thinkers, but for this purpose I'll quote the definition of the
philosopher Father Tischner: "in order to be guilty of some evil, one
should have been objectively able to prevent that evil from happening".
Let's take your first point. The responsibility (which in this context
is the same as guilt) of the Germans for the suffering inflicted on the
nations of Europe during WW2 has been discussed for decades. Several
points stand out:
1. The Germans supported Hitler when his politics brought material
2. Hitler and the Nazis where astoundingly clear about their racism,
and the treatment of other nations as inferior (and especially Jews and
Poles as subhuman). Imprisonment of people of these races was publicly
announced in the press and through loudspeakers.
3. Plans to conquer foreign states for the sole purpose of "lebensraum"
for the German nation were unashamedly announced.
4. In the later stages of the war, the Gauleiters deliberately talked
openly about their murder policies, in order to share the guilt with
the citizens and increase the fervor with which ordinary Germans were
to defend the III Reisch for the fear of revenge.
5. Active underground opposition to the Nazis among the Germans was
absolutely minimal and insignificant.
Whereas it is difficult the assess the responsibility of a single
individual, in the face of the points above, the German state should
indeed in my opinion be held responsible for the crimes of the Nazis.
Now let's take the second point. Firstly, it is, in my opinion,
absolutely outrageous, that so many times the German press, and you
here as well, limit the issue of the great post-ww2 expulsions to the
Germans. It is a manipulation. The expulsion of Germans cannot be
separated from the expulsions of other nations, because these
operations had the very same roots, were performed by the same army
command and were coordinated.
It was Joseph Stalin that wanted 2/3 of the territory of pre-war Poland
to be incorporated into the Soviet Union. He perceived the territory of
pre-war eastern Poland as the "near border", over which the Soviet
Russia should possess total control. It was his idea, that some parts
of Germany should be given to Poland. Officially, he called that a
"compensation" to Poland for the lost Eastern lands. However, taking
into account his attitude to Polish people (shooting of tens of
thousands of Polish captive officers, the Warsaw Rising, the murder
activities of the NKVD, etc.), it's unlikely that he was so
particularly keen on helping Poland. He probably wanted to:
1. destroy East Prussia, which he saw as a potential threat in the
2. as for Pomerania and Silesia, he wanted to have more control over
more land, and he was aware that he would have more control over Poland
than over Germany, the status of which was still unresolved.
He had earlier cut the relations with the legal Polish government in
exile in London. He didnt discuss these issues with the Polish
representatives. He proposed these ideas directly and secretely to
Churchill and Roosevelt in Teheran in 1943, and both agreed to them.
Churchill told the Polish PM about the plans, but neither he or
Roosevelt told the Polish PM, that these issues had been secretly
settled (Roosevelt even later in Washington blatantly lied to the
Polish PM, that 'your country would emerge undiminished').
When the Polish PM wanted to discuss the issue of the borders with
Stalin and Molotov at Yalta in 1949, Stalin is said to have looked at
Churchill with surprise and said "didnt we settle these issues at
Teheran in 1943?". Churchill nodded. The Polish PM was shocked. He left
the conference. He flew directly to London to the rest of the
government to inform them of the news.
The Polish government by that time had been totally marginalized. In
Potsdam, Roosevelt and Churchill signed a treaty:
"The Three Governments, having considered the question in all its
aspects, recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations,
or elements thereof, remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary,
will have to be undertaken. They agree that any transfers that take
place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner."
Churchill was also of the opinion, that minorities cause endless
trouble, and that the population movements, when conducted in an
orderly and humane manner, would help prevent later conflicts.
Obviously, the Polish government was not one of the signatories. Some
say that the long opposition of the Polish government to mass border
changes was the primary reason for the government's eventual
marginalization. The Polish PM was a man of moderation and he accepted
that 'some' border changes were unevitable. But no negotiations took
place: Churchill and Roosevelt had accepted Stalin's demands in full.
The Polish government was opposed to that option for a reason: it meant
that 1/3rd of the Polish population would have to be deported from its
eastern lands, into completely new lands, from which the Germans were
to be deported. The eastern lands (the 'Kresy', or 'Borderlands') were
an important cultural area for Poles: actually most of the Polish
writers and poets came from the Kresy. PM Mikolajczyk despised of these
mass population movements and he was a man of the highest moral
The underground army lead by the Polish legal government, the so-called
Home Army, was officially dismantled soon after. It did not take part
in the expulsions. The NKVD and the Soviet authorities hunted and
persecuted Home Army soldiers. Some of Home Army leaders were executed
in a show trial in Moscow.
Stalin provided its own puppet government in Poland, which was totally
(yes, totally) obedient to him. The support for this government in
Poland was very small.
Stalin also provided a new "Polish" army, over which he had total
control. The army consisted of ethnic Poles, but was fully under the
command of Stalin.
Large population movements took place: the Poles were forcibly deported
from the vast 'Kresy' in cattle trains. The Red Army controlled the
expulsions. The Germans from Silesia, Pomerania, Mazuria and Warmia
were also expelled. In East Prussia, the Red Army conducted the
expulsions (in many occasions also slaughters). In Silesia and
Pomerania, the Soviet-run "Polish" army conducted the expulsions. The
Ukrainians (the 'Lemks')from the Polish side of the border were
deported either to Ukraine, or to the northern part of East Prussia --
mostly by the Soviet-run "Polish" army. There was a population swap
between Slovakia and Hungary. All these countries were to become
Now, the point is, that if you want a due comparison to the expulsion
of Germans, the obvious, symmetric comparison is the expulsion of
Poles, not the Nazi crimes:
1. Both Poles and Germans were migrating to the East since the late
2. Both were dominant culturally in these areas.
3. In the German eastern areas, the Germans usually inhabited the
cities, whereas the Poles the villages. In the Polish eastern lands,
the Poles usually inhabited the cities, whereas Ukrainians, Lithuanians
and Belorussians the villages. This is also a symmetric situation.
4. The Germans from Silesia/Pomerania/East Prussia formed distinct
cultures. The Poles from the Kresy also formed a distinct culture
(perhaps actually the richest, most prolific Polish culture).
5. All were expelled as a result of Poland's border changes after WW2,
planned by Stalin, executed by Stalin-run armies.
There is one difference: the Poles were expelled to a Communist
Country. The Germans, to the Free World. Many Poles envied the Germans
Now, can the Poles take the _guilt_ for these expulsions? Well, aside
from the Red Army in East Prussia, ethnic Poles from the Soviet-run
"Polish" army also conducted them, indeed, some willingly, some not.
But these efforts was merely carrying out orders on the ground level.
Some Polish civilians also joined in the effort, willingly. Some helped
some Germans hide. But all of them were merely reacting to what was
happening anyway. No Polish representative took part in
Can the Polish puppet Communist government that coordinated the process
on the ground be compared to the Nazi government? IMO, it cannot. The
support for the government was very small. It was imposed and fully
controlled from the outside. The population and the legal Polish
government in London certainly would have preferred no border changes
in the first place and thus no expulsions. Obviously, the Poles, those
who survived, wanted to come back to their own homes -- and the border
changes prevented that. The expelled Germans couldnt come back to their
own homes either.
For this reason, it seems to me that comparing the Nazi German crimes
to the expulsion of Germans from Poland is unfair. Firstly, the
expulsions of Germans cannot be viewed as a separate event. The only
fair way to refer to it is the massive population movements of 3
population groups (Poles, Germans, Ukrainians) that were the result of
Poland's border changes. It was one operation.
Secondly, let's recall our definition of guilt. "In order to be guilty
of some evil, one should have been objectively able to prevent that
evil from happening". This will be the most important point.
For the Nazi German crimes no foreign power is responsible. The German
state itself and only it can be help responsible. HOWEVER, the most of
the reponsibility for the expulsions of ethnic populations in and
around Poland should be held by a foreign power, the Soviet Union.
Stalin had the most means to 'prevent' them from happening -- he
planned and executed them. But Stalin shares the guilt with others.
Churchill and Roosevelt can also be held responsible to some extent, as
they could have perhaps done something to prevent them. But their means
to prevent the expulsions were limited. The guilt of the Poles is even
The only, proportionally small, guilt, that can be held by the Poles
for this operation is for the Polish civilians that willingly
participated in expulsions of Germans and Ukrainians. However, these
ppl couldnt have prevented the expulsions on the massive scale -- we
can hold the Poles responsible only for some specific acts of violence,
for example. They were usually those who themselves didnt have a
choice: they had been forcibly taken away from home to some new lands
and were told that they should find a new home for themselves. So they
helped in expelling the Germans. One could say it was immoral of them
anyway. However, ppl who thought that way cannot be held responsible
for these events, as they couldnt have prevented them. Some limited
responsibility falls on the soldiers of the Soviet-run "Polish" army,
but their objective means to prevent the expulsions were very small.
Also, take into account that some Polish civilians also hid Germans.
Most importantly, the Polish government was actually the only Allied
government to have opposed all the mass border changes that created the
problem of expulsions. The Polish government did all that was possible
to prevent the border changes. It thus cannot be help responsible for
these changes and the expulsions that followed. The Poles were massive
victims of the very same operation of expulsions.
In summary, listing the Nazi crimes on Poles next to the expulsion of
Germans from Poland is a manipulation, because it omits that:
1. the Poles were expelled as a part of the same operation of
2. the expulsions were ordered by Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt
against the will of the Polish legal government and the expelled Poles.
However, there is no parallel to the Nazi German crimes on Polish
people. The only event that perhaps could be compared is the massacre
of several hundred Jews in Jedwabne in 1943. However, this is really
incomparable to the Nazi crimes, because it was not condoned by the
state, and because of the numbers.
Now, let's come to the issue of compensation:
> The solution to the problem is quite simple, and the legal framework
> alsready exists.
> The key to solving both issues lies in current legislation and
> international treaties
> 1. Germany has to financially compensate those Germans expelled for
> lost property. Post War agreements make Germany, as the perpetrator of
> the War responsible for compensation. As Germans in the former East of
> the country were in no way more responsible for Nazism than those
> living in the West it is only just that German tax payers money is
And here you ignore the most important analogy. The expulsion of Poles.
Well, in mid-nineties the Polish government has unilaterally obliged
Poland to pay compensation to the Poles who were expelled from the lost
Polish territories. Russia was NOT asked to pay for that. That is
unfair, of course, but it was done in the name of good relations with
Why the Germans havent done that?
Secondly, why the Germans blame the expulsions of Polish people? Their
guilt is certainly smaller than USA's, Britain's and, obviously
Russia's, because it was the governments of these three countries that
had objective means to prevent these expulsions.
> 2. Germany and Poland have to compensate Poles who suffered in the War.
> Poland received German territory as compensation already. I suggest a
> 50/50 split. This is a key issue to ensure that Polish vicitms are not
Holy mother of God! Are you serious! 50/50 split? Why didnt you propose
the same deal to Israel. Israeli concetration camp inmates received
millions of dollars in compensation back in the 50's. (Polish inmates
receveived nothing so far). Germany has paid reparations to France,
Britain and the USA, even though the damage inflicted on them was
infinitely smaller to the damage inflicted on Poland. Germany paid
reparations to America until 2000! Why do you propose double-standards?
Actually, Germany is using double-standards even now. I understand that
the West German government didnt pay anything to Poland because
Americans didnt want money transfer to the other side of the Iron
Curtain. But why is there absolutely no feeling in Germany today, that
this unfairness should be repaired now? I've read absolutely nothing of
a hint of a guilt for this situation in any German press. Why Poland
shouldnt receive the same as France, Britain and the USA
_proportionally_ to the damage inflicted on Poland (so much more)? Why
the double-standards? If the answer is "because it would be too much",
then it should be the German side that should ask the Polish side to
renounce the reparations. Nothing of the sort took place. No one says
"it was wrong, unfair and unjust that you didnt receive anything. But
we ask you to renounce reparations, because we cant afford them." If
the answer is "because it is too late", then the German leaders, and
the German press should at least openly say that "it was wrong, unfair
and unjust that Poland didnt receive reparations whereas the USA,
France, Britain or Israel did". However, I read nothing of this sort.
All I hear is that Poland is 'nationalistic' in wanting reparations and
that "Germany has already paid a lot!" (but to other countries).
If you want to know my personal opinion, I think that, unfortunately,
in Germany, the feeling that the Poles, Czechs and Ukrainians are
somewhat inferior to Germany's western neighbours and deserve less is
still very much alive.
> 3. Poland has to provide cultural compensation in the form of bilingual
> signage (topography) in formerly German speaking territory. This is key
> issue among expelled Germans and very just as it is also very much in
> the European spirit. The bilingual German/Sorb speaking Lusatia in
> Germany can serve as an example in this regard. There Sorbs only make
> up 4% of the population, still the entire region is officially
> bilingual. There will be strong resistance on this issue by some Polish
> nationalists, but the "Charta for Regional and Minority Languages" of
> the Council of Europe states that "linguistic heritage has to be
> protected" anyway. It is also in the interest of Poland to ensure the
> future protection of Polish heritage in the Ukraine and Belarus when
> these countries will eventually join the EU.
It's a different matter. The Sorbs are a tiny, insignificant ethnic
group of a few hundred people facing total wipe-out by a neighbour of
80 million. If not for bi-lingualism, the Sorbian language and culture
would be dead. Among the Sorbs there is a fear that young sorbs would
become fully germanized and the sorbian culture would be lost. Any fear
that Germany would become fully sorbianized and the German culture lost
would be ridiculous. Not even any sort of 'mixture' is possible,
because of the huge difference in the numbers.
In case of the Germans and Poland, the situation is completely
different. The German language is not facing extinction. If anything,
it's more popular and Germany is stronger economically than Poland. If
anything, we are observing brain-drain from Poland to Germany, not from
Germany to Poland. With the borders open, and the huge economic gap,
the Polish culture is facing a greater challenge of preservation in
these areas than the German culture. I dont see any rational reason for
preserving the German language and culture through such special means.
However, If we were to follow historical borders, than let me remind
you that in the Middle Ages the Kingdom of Poland reached to the river
Leba/Elbe. Shouldnt we then enact bi-lingualism from Odra/Oder to
Leba/Elba? In Europe, borders changed a lot. Introducing bilingualism
in all such areas would be ridiculous.
Let me remind you, that the German minority in Poland has a lot of
privileges: 2 seats in the parliament are guaranteed for it, the Polish
government co-funds bi-lingual schools, etc. No symmetric privileges
exists for the Polish minority in Germany. Even though actually the
agreements between the Polish and German governments oblige the German
government to co-fund Polish-language schools, the German government
still doesnt do that, a fact which from time to time is reminded by the
Polish press (btw, I've never seen any German paper writing about
that). Quite the opposite: Polish people are not allowed to work in
Germany, whereas, for example all Jewish people are allowed to freely
settle in Germany as a compensation for World-War-2. Polish companies
frequently face discrimination in Germany, even to the point of
detaining employees, cuffing them to the chair and threatening with
dogs (refer to the report of the Polish Comittee of European
Integration on discrimination of Polish companies within the EU).
Until Germany fulfills its own obligations to the Polish minority in
Germany i see no reason to provide even more privileges to the German
minority in Poland.
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