War reparations team presents initial loss estimates

A team set up at the Polish parliament's lower house (Sejm) to evaluate the country's war losses with a view to claiming reparations from Germany presented its preliminary calculations on Friday.

More than five million Polish citizens were killed during the Second World War at the hands of Germany; losses in municipal real estate reached PLN 52 billion (EUR 12.12 billion), of which almost PLN 36 billion (EUR 8.39 billion) was in Warsaw - those are the preliminary calculations the parliamentary team on war reparations presented.

The team, which is tasked with establishing the extent of war reparations owed to Poland by Germany for World War II damage, met on Friday for the sixth time. The team's experts presented, as they emphasised, preliminary calculations in different areas: demographic losses borne by Poland during the war at German hands; initial estimates of losses to Polish real estate as a result of the war, and the estimated losses of insurance companies.

The issue of demographic losses was addressed by Prof. Konrad Wnęk of the Institute of History at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (southern Poland). He underscored that to date is has been accepted that about six million Poles were killed in the war. He noted that his estimates did not take account of losses caused by the Soviet Union or victims of the Volhynia Massacre, nor did it take account of people who emigrated, which is also a demographic loss.

According to Professor Wnęk, the most likely number of Polish victims is over five million. "Almost 5,163,000 people - Polish citizens, were killed in the course of the Second World War at the hands of Germany," he stated. He added that before the research he had estimated that the number would not exceed five million. "Unfortunately, it is confirmed that the number of victims was very, very huge," he stressed.

Prof. Wnęk noted that 70 percent of victims were residents of towns and 30 percent were from rural areas. He also estimates that 90 percent of Polish Jews were murdered. He emphasised that during the war, cities bore a heavy toll including Warsaw, Łódź (central Poland), Białystok (northeastern Poland), Lublin (eastern Poland) and Kraków (southern Poland). He added that the highest losses were borne by the Polish intelligentsia - professors, teachers, priests, rabbis, who could have been a so-called "leadership element."

The professor stressed that the figures are preliminary and still subject to verification.

Initial estimates of real estate losses were presented by Professor Mieczysław Prystupa from the Warsaw University of Technology. He elaborated that his estimates took account of the area that was part of Poland before the war and remains part of it today, hence an area of 208,000 square kilometres, which amounts to 53 percent of pre-war Poland.

Prof. Prystupa's research concerned material damage to residential and non-residential buildings. "That value was estimated at PLN 52,372,000,000 (EUR 12,222,284,042)," he stated, adding that Warsaw accounted for the heaviest losses. "Of this PLN 52 billion, PLN 36 billion fell on the capital," he reported.

He also said that losses to road transport were estimated at PLN 29 billion (EUR 6.76 billion) and in rail transport at PLN 68 billion (EUR 15.87 billion) while losses to agriculture stood at PLN 53 billion (EUR 12.37 billion).

Estimated losses to insurance companies were presented by Professor Mirosław Kłusek from the University of Agriculture in Kraków and the University of Łódź. He cautioned that the figures were for insurance companies from Poland within its current borders. He estimated their losses at PLN 8 billion (EUR 1.86 billion).

Arkadiusz Mularczyk, an MP of the ruling Law and Justice party who chairs the parliamentary team, highlighted that "today we have full awareness that a report concerning Polish war losses committed by Germany as a result of WWII must be completed."

"Even today's information on demographic losses shows that in the 1940s the statistics on those losses were falsified and losses caused by the Soviets and the Soviet army were ascribed to the Germans," he pointed out, going on to state that for decades there had been no political will or the necessary resources in Poland to research the matter properly. He pointed out that some documents concerning a report of the Office for War Losses date back to the 1960s. He announced that a more in-depth report would be presented next year.