Karl Heinz Roth has told public broadcaster Deutsche Welle in an interview that Poland, Greece and other countries should join forces in urging Germany to pay war reparations.
A rally urging Germany to pay reparations to Poland for World War II was staged in Warsaw last month.
Participants encouraged Poland’s authorities to come up with a decisive claim for the payment of war reparations by Germany, which invaded Poland in 1939, sparking World War II.
Polish and German experts in September discussed the sensitive topic of war reparations at a conference in Warsaw.
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz in early September told German news weekly Der Spiegel that “73 years after World War II the Polish people are still talking about their suffering and losses; it's a part of our identity.”
Roth told the Deutsche Welle that Poland’s wartime losses—comprising material damage, human loss as well as forced labour—could be estimated at USD 78 billion in 1938.
“Today that’s over USD 1 trillion,” he said, as quoted on the dw.com website.
Earlier this year, the head of a Polish team assessing potential reparations said that Germany could owe Poland USD 850 billion for damage it inflicted in World War II.
"We are talking about very large, but justified amounts of compensation for war crimes, for destroyed cities, villages, the lost demographic potential of our country,” Arkadiusz Mularczyk, an MP with Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party, was quoted as saying at the time.
'Systematic plan' of destruction
Roth was quoted by dw.com as saying that wartime destruction in Poland “was undoubtedly the biggest in size.”
He added that the Germans “acted according to a systematic plan” of destruction.
Around 5.4 million civilians were killed during Nazi occupation in Poland, according to Roth.
He said that after the war Poland as well as Greece “shared the fate of so-called small allies” and have been “marginalised in terms of reparations policy.”
He also said that “the issue of compensation is an ethical problem” and that “a multilateral solution” was needed to address calls for reparations from Poland and Greece as well as “other countries where similar initiatives have emerged over the years: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, and [the former] Yugoslavia."
“Only in this way can the huge reparations debt be repaid,” Roth said.
He added that “the reparation debt is not subject to a statute of limitations and is still open.”
Roth has authored a number of publications on the history of Nazism and German occupation policy; last year, he published a book on reparations for Greece, dw.com reported.
Warsaw entitled to demand reparations: Polish MPs
An analysis by Polish parliamentary experts found last year that the government in Warsaw was entitled to demand reparations from Germany.
German officials have said that the issue was definitively settled with Poland in 1953.
In a resolution adopted that year, the Polish communist government of the time recognised that Germany had fulfilled its obligations with regard to Poland and decided against seeking compensation.
But Poland's ruling conservatives have said that decisions made by the country's communist-era authorities are not still valid because they were made under pressure from the Soviet Union.
Jarosław Kaczyński, head of the Law and Justice (PiS) party, which came to power in late 2015, said at a convention in July last year that Poland never received compensation for the damage it suffered in World War II, losses which "we have really still not made up for."
Officials in Warsaw have said that nearly 6 million Poles were killed during the war from 1939 to 1945, when their country was invaded by Nazi Germany.