Mon, 27 May 2024

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We need to talk about war reparations from Germany

3 min read

Given Germany’s poor and frankly hostile response to our Brexit vote, this is the opportune moment to raise the issue of war reparations, writes Daniel Kawczynski 

It may have come to the attention of some people that a recent tweet of mine created something of a heated debate. The post in question concerned the Foreign Office waiving war compensation rights following the reunification of Germany. I have also raised this issue in Parliament in the form of a written question and was shocked to find that Great Britain waived her rights to reparations in a deal signed off by the then Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd.

During my tenure as a Member of Parliament, I have devoted myself to standing up for important issues and, given Germany’s poor and frankly hostile response to our Brexit vote, I thought it right and proper to raise the issue of war reparations.

Germany is very keen to inform us about the £40bn we supposedly owe them for Brexit, despite the countless billions that we have already paid in. Yet they are seemingly quick to forget that the cost of the damage caused to Britain during the war was an incredible £120bn – equivalent to £3,620bn today. If that wasn’t enough Britain only finished paying off the loans we had to take out to finance the war effort in 2006 – 61 years after the end of the war.

This issue of war reparations, both to Poland and the UK, is one that is personal to me and, as the first Polish-born Member of Parliament, I feel that it is up to me to raise it.

My family personally suffered during the horrific events of World War II, most notably my great uncle and his family who resided in Poland. During World War II he hid a number of Jewish families on his farm from the German occupiers, unfortunately, they were discovered and their farm was surrounded.

My great uncle returned to the farm and his neighbours warned him to stay away; he refused to leave his wife and daughter behind and instead went to the farm. Upon arriving, the Germans made him remove his officer’s boots, dig his own grave and then watch as they shot his 13-year-old daughter, then his wife before finally killing him.

What is less known today is that, under Nazi occupation, Poland was the only country where you could receive the death penalty simply for helping a Jewish family. My great uncle and his family knew that and still they took the risk because they knew that it was the right thing to do.

I entered Parliament to speak up for the causes that are dear to me and to improve the lives of my constituents and the country as a whole.

Never has this been more important than with regards to the current Brexit negotiations and we should be negotiating with all the tools available to us and not cowering in fear of offending Germany.

Given the major European change that Brexit will bring about, this is the opportune moment to sort out our war reparations alongside other European countries and finally put this issue to rest.

If speaking up for Britain and for my family’s legacy earns me the wrath of a number of online trolls with nothing better to do with their lives then so be it. In the immortal words of Sir Winston Churchill, ‘You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.’    

Daniel Kawczynski is Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham  


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