World War II reparations

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Division of Germany as of the Potsdam Conference, with the cream-coloured territory being ceded as a form of reparation to Poland and the Soviet Union.

After World War II, both West Germany and East Germany were obliged to pay war reparations to the Allied governments, according to the Potsdam Conference. Other Axis nations were obliged to pay war reparations according to the Paris Peace Treaties, 1947.[citation needed]

Early propositions[edit]

An early plan for a post-war Germany was the Morgenthau plan with terms that would have essentially transformed Germany to an agrarian society. The French Monnet Plan would have transferred the Ruhr Area to France. This position was completely changed by the London Agreement on German External Debts, also known as the London Debt Agreement (German: Londoner Schuldenabkommen) of 1953.


According to the Yalta Conference, no reparations to Allied countries would be paid in money. Instead, much of this value consisted of German industrial assets, as well as forced labour to the Allies.[1] The Allied demands were further outlined during the Potsdam Conference. Reparations were to be directly paid to the four victor powers (France, Britain, USA and the Soviet Union), for the countries in the Soviet sphere of influence, the Soviet Union would determine its distribution.

Annexation of territories[edit]

The Soviet Union annexed the German territories east of the Oder-Neisse, leading to the expulsion of 12 million Germans. These territories were incorporated into communist Poland and the Soviet Union respectively and resettled with citizens of these countries. In the case of communist Poland, the majority of settlers were people expelled from eastern Polish territories annexed by the Soviet Union.

France controlled the Saar protectorate from 1947 to 1956, with the intention of using its coal deposits and possibly annexing the region to France permanently. The same mines had been under French control from the end of the First World War until 1935. Following the results of a plebiscite, France had to relinquish its control of the Saar region on 1 January 1957.

The Netherlands annexed approximately 69 km2 of German territory in 1949, nearly all of which was given back to the West Germany Government in 1957. Under the Dutch-German treaty made in The Hague on 8 April 1960, West Germany agreed to pay to The Netherlands the sum of 280 million German marks in compensation for the return. Similar annexations have been conducted by Belgium as well as Luxembourg. Most of these territories were also returned after German compensation payments.

Dismantling of industries[edit]

At the beginning of the occupation, the Allies commenced to dismantle the remnants of German industries. Plants and machinery were dismantled; the railroad system deconstructed and everything transported to the Allies. The German merchant fleet and all other ships were handed over. Foreign stocks of about 2.5 billion dollars were confiscated. The remaining German industries had to give up a share of their production to the Allies. Large shipments of steel, coal, but also other industrial production were seized and transported out of the country.[2] Later the Western Allies softened their stance in favour of the Marshall Plan, while Eastern Germany continued to deliver industrial goods and raw materials to the Soviet Union until 1953.[3]

Intellectual property[edit]

The Allies confiscated large amounts of German patents, copyrights and trademarks worth about 10 billion dollars.[2]

Forced labour[edit]

Millions of Germans were pressed into forced labour for several years to work for the Allies in camps, mining, harvesting or industry.

Occupation costs[edit]

Germany had to shoulder the cost of the Allied occupation by itself; amounting to several billion dollars.[4]

Holocaust victims[edit]

Germany concluded a variety of treaties with Western and Eastern countries as well as the Jewish Claims Conference and the World Jewish Congress to compensate the victims of the Holocaust. Until 2005 about 63 billion euros have been paid to individuals. Additional payments by German companies which exploited forced workers have been made.[5]



As a consequence of aggression by Nazi Germany, much of Poland was subjected to enormous destruction of its industry (62% of which was destroyed), its infrastructure (84%) and loss of civilian life (17.07% of its citizens during the war). Material recompensation incurred by Germany has been estimated as approximately €1.5 billion to 2006 exchange values, which equals to about 2% of all material losses of Poland, not including enormous loss of human population of about 6 million people.[6][7] For those reasons, Poland still remains the country with the least amount of received reparations compared to the amount of damage done from Germany.

On 23 August 1953, the Soviet-imposed communist Polish regime under pressure and control of the Soviet Union announced it would unilaterally waive its right to war reparations from East Germany on 1 January 1954, with the exception of reparations for Nazi oppression and atrocities. East Germany, in turn, had to accept the Oder-Neisse border, which gave around one quarter of Germany in its 1937 borders (see Former eastern territories of Germany) to Poland and Russia. West Germany hadn't paid reparations to non-Jewish recipients for the damage inflicted in Poland. West Germany in 1972 paid compensation to survived Poles being victims of pseudo-medical experiments in various Nazi camps during the Second World War.[8] Gierek-Schmidt agreement signed in 1975 in Warsaw, stipulated that 1.3 billion DM will be paid to Poles who, during Nazi occupation, had paid into Germany's social security system without receiving pension.[9]

After German reunification in 1990, Poland demanded reparations again, as a reaction to claims made by German refugee organizations demanding compensation for property and land repossessed by the new Polish state that they were forcibly deported from as a stipulation of the Potsdam Agreement and the priorly mentioned Oder-Neisse border. In 1992, the Foundation for Polish-German Reconciliation was founded by the Polish and German governments, and as a result, Germany paid Polish sufferers ca. 4.7 billion . Between 1992 and 2006, Germany and Austria jointly paid compensation to surviving Polish, non-Jewish victims of slave labour in Nazi Germany and also to Polish orphans and children forced to work.[10] The Swiss Fund for the Victims of the Holocaust was paying compensation in the years 1998-2002 for Polish Jews and Polish Romani people being victims of Nazi Germany.[11] There is an ongoing debate among Polish international law experts whether Poland still has the right to demand war reparations, with many arguing that the 1954 declaration wasn't legal as Poland wasn’t a sovereign state.[12]

The reparations issue arose again in 2017 with comments made on the side of Polish government officials from Law and Justice political party. According to a statement made by the German government on the issue, the reparations issue was resolved in 1953 as Poland declined receiving any payments from Germany. This claim is being countered by Polish commentators, stating that the then Polish government was under control and heavy pressure from the Soviet Union and that its 1953 refusal is non-binding.[13]

In my opinion, Poland has the right to this (reparations) and the Polish state has the right to ask for them.

Poland resigned from reparations in 1953 and had since repeatedly confirmed this. There is no reason to question the effectiveness of the 1953 resignation.

Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the Law and Justice party, has been making comments on reparations issue ever since he brought them up.[16] Sigmar Gabriel, Foreign Minister of Germany rejected the reparations issue again on behalf of the German government.[17]


Excerpt Akte R 27320, page 114 (political archive of the German Federal Foreign Office)

As a result of the Nazi German occupation, much of Greece was subjected to enormous destruction of its industry (80% of which was destroyed), infrastructure (28% destroyed), ports, roads, railways and bridges (90%), forests and other natural resources (25%)[18][19][20] and loss of civilian life (7.02–11.17% of its citizens).[21][22] The occupying Nazi regime forced Greece to pay the cost of the Nazi occupation in the country and requisite raw materials and food for the occupation forces, creating the conditions for the Great Famine. Furthermore, in 1942, the Greek Central Bank was forced by the occupying Nazi regime to loan 476 million Reichsmarks at 0% interest to Nazi Germany.

After the war, in 1960, Greece accepted 115 million Marks from West Germany as compensation for Nazi crimes. Nevertheless, past Greek governments have insisted that this was only a down-payment, not complete reparations.[23] In 1990, immediately prior to German reunification, West Germany and East Germany signed the Two Plus Four Agreement with the former Allied countries of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. For Germany the issue of reparations has been settled with this agreement. On 8 February 2015, the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras demanded that Germany pay the "complete" reparations to Greece. On 6 April 2015, Greece now evaluated the war reparations to be the equivalent of 279 billion euros. Germany replied that the stipulations of the Two Plus Four treaty still stand and the issue was resolved in 1990.[24]


West Germany paid reparations to Israel for confiscated Jewish property under Nuremberg laws, forced labour and persecution. Payments to Israel until 1989 amounted to about 14 billion dollars.[4].

The Netherlands[edit]

The Netherlands demanded reparations, but later desired to annex a large part of German territory. They eventually annexed 69 km2 in 1949, bought back by West Germany in 1960.


The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia received a value of US$36 million, in industrial equipment from the dismantled German factories. West Germany also paid 8 million German marks as reparations for forced human experimentation on Yugoslav citizens.

Soviet Union[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pavel Polian-Against Their Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR Central European University Press 2003 ISBN 963-9241-68-7 P.244-249
  2. ^ a b Wehler 1987, p. 947.
  3. ^ Wehler 1987, pp. 948-949.
  4. ^ a b Wehler 1987, p. 950.
  5. ^ "Die Entschädigungszahlungen an jüdische Opfer des Nationalsozialismus" [Compensation payments to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust] (PDF). (in German). Wissenschaftliche Dienste des Deutschen Bundestages. 2007. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ [1] Reluctant Realists: The Christian Democrats and West German Ostpolitik, Clay Clemens Duke University Press Books (27 July 1989) Page 160.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Sprawy Międzynarodowe, 2005, nr 1 Problem reparacji, odszkodowań i świadczeń w stosunkach polsko-niemieckich 1944–2004. Tom I – Witold M. Góralski (red. naukowa): Studia, str. 427; tom II – Sławomir Dębski, Witold M. Góralski: Dokumenty, str. 621. Polski Instytut Spraw Międzynarodowych. Warszawa 2004
  13. ^ WELT, DIE (2017-08-02). "Zweiter Weltkrieg: Polens Regierung prüft Reparationsforderungen an Deutschland". DIE WELT. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  14. ^ "Poland 'ready' to demand WWII reparations from Germany: PM". 8 September 2017. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  15. ^ (, Deutsche Welle. "Deutschland lehnt Zahlung weiterer Reparationen an Polen ab - Aktuell Europa - DW - 08.09.2017". DW.COM. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  16. ^ Trzaska, Izabela (2017-09-25). "Reparacje wojenne. Prezes Kaczyński szykuje się do walki na forum międzynarodowym". WP money (in Polish). Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  17. ^ "German FM rejects war reparations for Poland: report". Polskie Radio dla Zagranicy. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  18. ^ Vallianatos, Evaggelos. "The Math of Mass Starvation and Murder: Germany in Greece During World War II". Truthout. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  19. ^ "Τα ερείπια της γερμανικής κατοχής στην Ελλάδα (μέρος 2ο)". Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  20. ^ "Οι μεγάλες καταστροφές και το γερμανικό χρέος στην Ελλάδα μέσα από ντοκουμέντα". (in Greek). 2015-03-05. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  21. ^ "Council for Reparations from Germany, ''Black Book of the Occupation''(In Greek and German) Athens 2006 p. 1018-1019" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
  22. ^ Gregory, Frumkin. Population Changes in Europe Since 1939, Geneva 1951. pp. 89-91
  23. ^ Nikos Christodoulakis (2014). Germany’s War Debt to Greece: A Burden Unsettled. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 13. ISBN 9781137441959. [A] Special Report published by the Bank of Greece in 1962 ... specified the amount outstanding to be ... more than tenfold the sum dispensed by Germany.
  24. ^ "Greece Nazi occupation: Athens asks Germany for 279bn euros". BBC News. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015.


Wehler, Hans-Ulrich (1987). Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte [German civil history] (in German). 4. Munich: C.H. Beck. ISBN 9783406322648.