World War II reparations

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Division of Germany as of the Potsdam Conference, with the cream-coloured territory being ceded to Poland by the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union annexed eastern Poland (Kresy), whilst simultaneously giving it former Prussian territories.

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. First provisionally but later finally, Germany ceded a quarter of its territory as defined by its 1937 borders to Poland and the Soviet Union.[1] Other Axis nations were obliged to pay war reparations according to the Paris Peace Treaties, 1947. Austria was not included in any of these treaties.


According to the Yalta Conference, no reparations to Allied countries would be paid in money. Instead much of the value transferred consisted of German industrial assets as well as forced labour to the Allies.[2] 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, pending a final peace conference with Germany. Since a peace conference never took place, the areas were effectively ceded by Germany.[3] In the case of Poland, the acquired territory was a compensation for the Eastern Borderlands annexed by the Soviet Union, which lands had been assigned to Poland as a result of the Peace of Riga in 1921.

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 square kilometres (27 sq mi) of German territory in 1949, nearly all of which was returned to the Federal Republic of Germany 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 dismantled 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.[4] 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.[5]

Dismantling of rail infrastructure[edit]

In the Soviet Zone of Occupation (later the German Democratic Republic) virtually all double tracked rail lines were reduced to a single track with the material being taken to the Soviet Union.[6][7][8] Similarly the (relatively limited) railway electrification was also dismantled with the notable exception of most of the Berlin S-Bahn which retained its third rail infrastructure for the most part.

Intellectual property[edit]

The Allies confiscated large amounts of German patents, copyrights and trademarks worth about 10 billion (1948) dollars.[4]

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]

After World War II ended, the main four Allied powers – Great Britain, The United States, France, and the Soviet Union – jointly occupied Germany, with the Allied occupation officially ending in the 1950s. During this time, Germany was held accountable for the Allied occupation’s expenses, amounting to over several billion dollars.[9]

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.[10]



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.[11][circular reference][12][circular reference]

On 23 August 1953, the People's Republic of Poland, 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. In turn, East Germany had to accept the Oder-Neisse border, which gave around one quarter of Germany's 1937 borders (see Former eastern territories of Germany) to Poland and Russia. West Germany had yet to pay reparations to non-Jewish recipients for the damage inflicted in Poland. In 1972, West Germany paid compensation to Poles that had survived pseudo-medical experiments during their imprisonment in various Nazi camps during the Second World War.[13] In 1975, the Gierek-Schmidt agreement was signed in Warsaw. It stipulated that 1.3 billion DM was to be paid to Poles who, during Nazi occupation, had paid into the German social security system but received no pension.[14]

After German reunification in 1990, Poland demanded reparations, 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 stipulated in the Potsdam Agreement and the aforementioned 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 approximately 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 who had been subject to forced labour.[15] The Swiss Fund for the Victims of the Holocaust paid compensation between 1998 and 2002 to Polish Jews and Romani who were victims of Nazi Germany.[15] 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 was not legal as Poland was not a sovereign state.[16] Furthermore, the 1954 declaration only applied to the former state East Germany and not West Germany.[13]

The reparation issue arose again in 2017 with comments made by Polish government officials from the Law and Justice party. Germany still asserts that Poland waived all reparation rights with the 1953 agreement and that the dispute is settled. Poland rejects this view, stating that the then Polish government was under the sway of the Soviet Union and that its 1953 refusal is non-binding.[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%) [Scholarly sources required.] [18][19][20] and loss of civilian life (7.02–11.17% of its citizens).[21][22] Other sources put the total number of deaths resulting from the Axis occupation at 273,000 to 747,000 Greeks, or 3.7-10.2% of the prewar population. The occupying Nazi regime forced Greece to pay the cost of the 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 lend 476 million Reichsmarks at 0% interest to Nazi Germany.

After the war, Greece received its share of the reparations paid by Germany to the Allies as part of the proceedings of the Paris Reparation Treaty of 1946 which was enforced by the Inter-Allied Reparations Agency. 7.181 billion dollars were initially slated for Greece. This sum rose significantly due to growing size of the reparations seized by the Allies and Greece ultimately received compensations in the form of money and industrial goods with a worth of about 25 billion dollars.[23]

Greece received an additional share of reparations from other Axis powers as result of the Paris Peace Treaties from 1947.

Greece was signatory of the London Agreement on German External Debts in 1953. The signatories agreed to postpone additional German debts until a final peace treaty with Germany would be made.[23] In 1960, Germany concluded a treaty with the Greek government to compensate Greek victims of Nazi German terror which amounted to 115 Million German mark. These payments were explicitly marked as payment to the victims and not supposed to be a general reparation treaty. Later Greek governments insist that this was only a down-payment and further payments need to be made.[23][24]

In 1990 West Germany and East Germany signed the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany ('Two Plus Four Agreement') with the former Allied countries of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. This treaty was supposed to close all open questions regarding Germany and the aftermath of WWII and paved the way for German reunification. Germany considers this treaty as the final regulation which concludes the question of open reparations which had been made in previous treaties such as the London Debt Agreement.[23] Greece rejects this notion and on 8 February 2015, the then 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. The German government replied that the stipulations of the Two Plus Four treaty still stand and the issue was resolved in 1990.[25]


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.[26]

The Netherlands[edit]

The Netherlands demanded 25 billion guilders in reparations, but later desired to annex a large part of German territory. They eventually annexed 69 square kilometres (27 sq mi) in 1949, almost all of which was bought back by West Germany in 1963 for 280 million German marks.


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]

The Soviet Union received compensation under the Paris Peace Treaty in 1947 from four Axis allied powers, in addition to the large reparations paid to the Soviet Union by the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany and the eventual German Democratic Republic in the form of machinery (entire factories were dismantled and shipped to the Soviet Union) as well as food, industrial products, and consumer goods. The USSR was owed $100 million from Italy, $300 million from Finland, $200 million from Hungary, and $300 million from Romania.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marcin Zaborowski. Germany, Poland, and Europe: Conflict, Co-operation, and Europeanization. Manchester University Press. p. 2.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Geoffrey K. Roberts, Patricia Hogwood (2013). The Politics Today Companion to West European Politics. Oxford University Press. p. 50. ISBN 9781847790323.; Piotr Stefan Wandycz (1980). The United States and Poland. Harvard University Press. p. 303. ISBN 9780674926851.; Phillip A. Bühler (1990). The Oder-Neisse Line: a reappraisal under international law. East European Monographs. p. 33. ISBN 9780880331746.
  4. ^ a b Wehler 1987, p. 947.
  5. ^ Wehler 1987, pp. 948–949.
  6. ^ "Vor 75 Jahren: Aufbau der Bahn nach Kriegsende | MDR.DE".
  7. ^ "Die Stunde Null in der Sowjetischen Besatzungszone (SBZ)". 28 January 2015.
  8. ^ "Wirtschaftsentwicklung von 1945 bis 1949 | BPB".
  9. ^ Department Of State. The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs (2008-07-18). "Allied Occupation of Germany, 1945-52". Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ Polish material losses during World War II
  12. ^ World War II casualties#Human losses by country
  13. ^ a b "On Behalf of Victims of Pseudo-Medical Experiments Red Cross Action". International Review of the Red Cross. 13 (142): 3–21. 1973. doi:10.1017/S0020860400015576.
  14. ^ [1] Reluctant Realists: The Christian Democrats and West German Ostpolitik, Clay Clemens Duke University Press Books (27 July 1989) Page 160.
  15. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-10-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ 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
  17. ^ WELT, DIE (2017-08-02). "Zweiter Weltkrieg: Polens Regierung prüft Reparationsforderungen an Deutschland". DIE WELT. 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. ^ a b c d "Die "Deutsche Restschuld" gegenüber Griechenland" [The German (remaining) debt towards Greece] (PDF). Deutscher Bundestag (in German). 2015. Retrieved 2021-07-23.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "Greece Nazi occupation: Athens asks Germany for 279bn euros". BBC News. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  26. ^ Wehler 1987, p. 950.
  27. ^ Gibbs, Alexandra (2015-03-18). "Who still owes what for the two World Wars?". CNBC. Retrieved 2019-12-03.


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