By Magdalena Chodownik with Philip Andrew Churm
Claims of €4.3m are being made against German companies Bayer and Henschel by descendants of two Polish Nazi victims
Descendants of two Polish Nazi victims have filed compensation claims to the value of €4.3 million against Germany companies Bayer and Henschel.
During World War II Henschel took over a company owned by Leopold Wellisz, while the second victim, Tadeusz Sledzinski, was sent to a forced labour camp for a subsidiary of Bayer.
Monika Brzozowska-Pasieka is a lawyer from the campaign group ‘Defenders for Defenders War Compensation Foundation’ and said: “Tadeusz Sledzinski earned 950 PLN before the war. He was a great engineer, [he had] 29 patents.
“Leopold Wiellisz, wealthy financier, entrepreneur and philanthropist. We are moving [with the lawsuits] in the direction of compensation, in the direction of hard data. That is – this is how much he would have earned if not for the war.
“We recognise in such situations that if someone has benefited from someone else’s damage, they should make a compensation. This is the understanding of justice.”
This private lawsuit comes parallel to relentless demands from the Polish government for reparations from the German side.
Arkadiusz Mularczyk from the polis Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained: “Our activities are primarily informative, but also diplomatic.
“We try to gain the interest of international organisations, but also international partners, on the issue of injustice after the Second World War for different countries, asymmetric treatment of Germans, different countries, and different nations.
“We point out that this violates the elementary principles of international law, the rule of law and human rights.”
The coordinator of cooperation between Poland and Germany’s foreign affairs ministry told Euronews he could not comment on the issue in the coming weeks. In an email, the German Embassy in Poland responded:
“The German Government’s position on reparation claims is well known and unchanged. This issue is closed in the view of the Federal Government.
“We have taken note of the reporting on the court proceedings against two companies. These are ongoing proceedings before a Polish court, which we do not comment on further.”
However, experts said that while World War II crimes remain a fraught issue, they do not threaten Polish-German relations.
“The legacy of the Second World War weighs heavily on Polish-German relations and will probably weigh them down in the coming decades,” Lukasz Jasinski from the Polish Institute of International Affairs said.
“There is some fear of precedent. In short, if the German side said, that they would pay reparations to Poland, whether all or part of it, then other countries would almost certainly join the queue.”
Nevertheless, the opinions of Poles on the issue of reparations from Germany are divided.
Some say the subject should be already closed. Others argue only compensation will close it.
Germans, on the other hand, seem to pretend that the topic does not exist.