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THE DEBATE "REPARATIONS - HOW TO CONVINCE THE WORLD THAT WE ARE RIGHT?"
During this year's 15th edition of the NNW International Film Festival (Niepokorni, Niezłomni, Wyklęci), the Jan Karski Institute of War Losses funded the main prize in the Polish Documentary competition (for the second time). Before it was awarded, however, a debate took place on how to convince international public opinion of Polish expectations regarding war reparations.
The debate took place on Friday 29 September and involved Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk, Director of the Jan Karski Institute for War Losses, Prof. Konrad Wnęk; Director of the Witold Pilecki Institute for Solidarity and Valour, Prof. Magdalena Gawin; and Maciej Aleksiejuk from the State Archives in Warsaw. The discussion was supervised by Michał Karnowski.
The debate was opened by Deputy Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk, who - summing up the efforts made so far for Poland to obtain reparations - stated that, in his opinion, it had been possible to overcome knowledge gaps among numerous influential personalities in the structures of the United Nations, among others. "We have had a lot of meetings, we are trying to change the consciousness of both politicians and public opinion in the world" he said, adding at the same time that the Germans do not stop their behind-the-scenes efforts to cover up and drown out the Polish information campaign. At the same time, the Deputy Minister stressed once again that "The Report on the Losses Sustained by Poland as a Result of German Aggression and Occupation during the Second World War, 1939-1945" was not so much a summary as the opening of the next stage of efforts to obtain reparations due to us. This is to be achieved by an intensified campaign to make the world aware of the enormity of the war losses suffered by Poland and its citizens. In conclusion, the Deputy Minister stated that "(...) we must quickly and offensively make up for the omissions of the last few decades".
Prof. Magdalena Gawin concluded that the Germans had already managed to recognise themselves as victims of the mythical "Nazis". Hence, in her view, the greater the importance of historical politics as a way to talk about oneself and convince others. According to Professor Gawin, the expectation in some circles that this process can be carried out painlessly and in an amicable atmosphere is a pipe dream. "Unfortunately, dispute and conflict is unavoidable; especially if we actually wish to achieve something" concluded the Director of the Pilecki Institute.
In his speech, Director Konrad Wnęk referred to the standard 'argument' formulated by Germans, that the areas obtained by Poland as a result of the agreements between the victorious coalition partners in World War II were a form of reparations. "If this is how we are to consider it, then we will also ask for Bavaria and a piece of Brandenburg, because only then will the calculus be right" concluded Professor Wnęk, not without irony. Not coincidentally, the total area of post-war Poland was reduced by 77,000 km² in relation to the territory occupied by the Second Republic. This in turn corresponds (more or less) to the area mentioned by the Director of the War Losses Institute.
Maciej Aleksiejuk from the State Archives in Warsaw, who is in charge of the documentation produced by the Bureau for the Rebuilding of the Capital, presented this part of the institution's resources. This is a very important part, as it is a record of the efforts made to raise the 80% destroyed city from the ruins. He also took the opportunity to mention the enormous amount of work done during the preparation of "the Report on Warsaw's wartime losses" of 2004 (which was largely based on documentation from the office).
During the debate, there was no shortage of contributions from the numerous members of the audience, most of which were factual and complemented the discussion in a constructive manner. The abridged version of The Report on the Losses Sustained by Poland as a Result of German Aggression and Occupation during the Second World War, 1939-1945, which was available at the time, also attracted a great deal of interest. In addition, those who came to the meeting had the opportunity to view the open-air exhibition of the War Losses Institute.