Sunday, January 16, 2022

Books of the spoils of the Third Reich

 The Germans not only wanted to plunder Poland but also to enslave and kill its inhabitants and destroy the culture - says historian Ramona Braeu in an interview for the Saturday issue of the weekly "Der Spiegel."

Ms. Braeu is writing a report on the financial policy of Nazi Germany at the request of the German Ministry of Finance. According to her as early as 1944, the Polish first commission investigated the war damage in the liberated territories. The commission recorded damaged houses, bridges, roads, and even crop failures and the removal of livestock. Then the questionnaires were sent to the residents.

The German occupation "affected almost every Polish family," notes Braeu. Poland did not suffer the greatest human and financial losses as a result of the military war but as a result of an extremely brutal occupation policy and the Holocaust.

"When assessing the magnitude of war damage, valuation is a big problem. Do you take pre-war value for damage to infrastructure or businesses, or how much did it cost to rebuild what was destroyed after the war? And what prices do you set?" says Ramona Braeu.

"How can three years of forced labor be valued? Or the economic losses of the death of a 25-year-old? Poland lost about 15 percent of its pre-war population," says Braeu. "It can be said with certainty that Poland suffered the greatest civil losses after the Soviet Union. But in essence, the issues of reparations can only be solved politically and not through historical research," she adds.

The Germans managed to take a huge loot, but "they often failed to profit from it." Lots of things have been looted and left unused. It started with the German attack in September 1939. Wehrmacht, SS, and customs officers went from house to house and forced people to give away their belongings. Or they broke into local banks. All sorts of things were stolen: jewelry, fountain pens, savings books, large amounts of pocket watches, nail sets. "

Much of it disappeared in private pockets, but much was also handed over to the appropriate office as intended, stored in the Reich offices in Berlin, and registered in the so-called 'loot books'. Tax officials knew that these were things of no importance to the Nazi empire, such as securities of the now-defunct Polish state. It was just printed paper. Nevertheless, it survived until the end of the war."

The damage to the Polish victims was greater than the benefits to the German perpetrators.

According to the German historian, all this will rightly not change Polish reparation claims. "Despite all the differences, one should be aware that in Poland the German unconditional will to destroy has not been forgotten. The Germans not only wanted to plunder the country but to enslave and kill its inhabitants and destroy their culture," emphasizes Braeu.

- Based on an article @