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War reparations. “Italy got from Germany” 55 million euros for compensation? Not true

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Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta said on the radio that the Germans “solved the problem” of Italy’s post-war claims by “giving them this money in KPO”. This was quickly followed by a false message that “Germany gave Italy 55 million euros” as reparations.

Sebastian Kaleta, member of Solidarna Polska and deputy minister of justice, was a guest on the morning of RMF FM radio on January 9. At some point, the conversation turned to the issues of post-war reparations that Poland is demanding from Germany. On January 3, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany responded to the note of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland of October 3, 2022 regarding compensation for Polish losses suffered as a result of German aggression and occupation during World War II – according to the German government, the matter of reparations and compensation for war losses remains closed, and the German government does not intend to enter into negotiations on this matter.

Kaleta: Germany “solved this problem in KPO”, “Italy receives EUR 55 million from Germany”

When asked by the broadcaster what the Polish government should do in a situation where the issue of reparations is finally closed for Germany, Deputy Minister Kaleta gave the example of Italy. “The Germans do not want to talk about reparations with Poland; (…) from the Italian KPO, the Italians received 55 million euros to pay off their citizens’ claims against Germany.” He continued: “If we look at the approach of the German state to claims in reparation cases, they solved the problem with Italy by giving them this money in the KPO. The Italians under the KPO will receive EUR 55 million from the European Union.”

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Saying that the Germans and the Italians “solved this problem” under the KPO, Deputy Minister Kaleta suggested that it was the German government that made such a decision regarding Italy’s claims. And so the information about it went further: on the same day, on Twitter, the user Damian Artur Kowalczyk (in the account description we read that he is a councilor of Solidarna Polska in the Warsaw district of Praga Południe) wrote: “This is a HIT! Germans do not want to talk to Poland about reparations, while Italy receives 55 million euros from Germany in KPO to cover claims. The post had over 10,000 likes. views.

The false message was created after Sebastian Kaleta’s statement in a radio interview Twitter

The title of the information posted on the PolskieRadio24.pl website was similar: “Germany avoids the subject of reparations for Poland. Compensation was paid to Italy … under the KPO.”

Meanwhile, the message that “Germany paid Italy 55 million euros” or that “Italy receives 55 million euros from Germany to cover claims” is false. Because the West German government did not pay anything to Italy – it was the Italian government itself that decided to create a compensation fund for German crimes during the Second World War.

In addition: the Deputy Minister of Justice, speaking about Germany’s reparations to Poland, suggested that Germany also owed Italy war reparations. And reparations are compensation for the losses that a given country has suffered from the aggressor – a country that lost the war. He explained it in Konkret24 prof. Krzysztof Ruchniewicz, historian and German scholar from the University of Wrocław, author of books, including on Germany’s post-war reparations. The context of the “payment of 55 million euros” for Italy therefore concerns not reparations, but compensation, i.e. obligations of the state – the injured citizen of another country.

“Germany won’t pay, it’s true.” Italy creates a special fund

“Compensation fund for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity for violation of human rights committed on Italian territory and to the detriment of Italian citizens by the troops of the Third Reich in the period from September 1, 1939 to May 8, 1945” was established by decree-law of the President of Italy of April 30, 2022.

decree “Further urgent actions to implement the National Recovery and Resilience Plan” describes how spending from the Italian KPO will be implemented. In Art. 43 of this decree, issued at the request of then Prime Minister Mario Draghi, stipulated the establishment of a special fund to pay compensation to the victims of German crimes committed in and in Italy during the Second World War. The expenditure of the fund until 2026 is to amount to over EUR 55 million.

“Germany (…) has always refused to pay [odszkodowań osobom poszkodowanym przez III Rzeszę]the new fund is how the Italian state replaces the German state and pays off German debts,” said Joachim Lau, a lawyer dealing with war reparations for Italian citizens, quoted on Massimiliano Boni’s blog, an Italian lawyer working at the Constitutional Court of Italy.

Similarly for of the newspaper “Corriere della Sera” another lawyer said. “Reparation is an act of justice. Germany will not pay, it is true. But also Italy has a great responsibility for what happened,” said Francesco Lanaro, representing the families of the victims of the German Nazis.

It’s not “German” money

So it was not Germany that “paid” Italy 55 million euros, but the Italian state decided to create a fund from EU money. Meanwhile, in the statement of the Solidarity Poland politician, there is a thesis that these 55 million euros are “German money” (Kaleta said that the Germans “gave them”). Indeed, Germany is one of the so-called main net contributors – i.e. their contribution to the EU budget is greater than the funds that the country receives from the EU budget. But the Italian compensation fund is funded by national recovery plan funds that are distributed to each EU member by the European Commission.

Across the EU, funds for national recovery plans amount to EUR 750 billion – they are to come from loans taken by the European Commission, bond issues and new taxes. So it’s not just “German” money. You might as well say it’s US money if EU bonds were bought by US funds.

The long-standing German-Italian dispute

The establishment of the Italian fund is the result of many lawsuits for compensation that Italian victims of the Second World War filed against Germany, as well as a long-term Italian-German legal battle before international courts. In 1961, Germany concluded an agreement with Italy to pay 40 million marks in compensation to Italians for losses caused in Italy during the Second World War. The agreement guaranteed immunity to the German state (no state can be subject to the courts of a foreign state) – that is, Italian citizens would not pursue claims against Germany before their own courts.

In 2008, however, the Italian Court of Cassation ruled that Italians could claim compensation from Germany for crimes during the Second World War. The result of the ruling was an increase in the number of proceedings against Germany before Italian courts initiated by persons injured in armed conflicts – and subsequent judgments unfavorable for this country. At the end of 2008, Germany filed a complaint to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In 2012, the tribunal ruled that the German state is protected by immunity against lawsuits filed by victims of Nazi crimes in foreign courts. The Italian courts ignored this ruling, accepting the lawsuits of their citizens against Germany.

Main photo source: PAP/Piotr Nowak

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