German reparations after World War II

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German reparations after the Second World War were reparations that Germany had to pay for the Second World War that it started . In contrast to the reparation obligations after the First World War , they were mostly not made in cash but in dismantling . Some of the states occupied by the Wehrmacht during World War II still claim German reparations.

Victorious powers

Claims for reparations were already made during the Second World War, but the Allies could not agree on the total amount at the Yalta Conference . In 1946, German foreign assets were confiscated, foreign currency reserves were confiscated, trademarks and patents were confiscated and dismantling was carried out in accordance with the Paris reparations agreement . The calculation of the value of these withdrawals is difficult to determine and is controversial. Thus, the estimates range for the international investment of 315 million US dollars up to 20 billion marks and differ so on Reichsmark converted by a factor of 16. In the London Debt Agreement in 1953 excluded the settlement of all so far removed reparations: be slightly in view of the possible reparations and the German side would be well advised to let the question of reparations rest.

The Potsdam Agreement of August 2, 1945 stipulated that every occupying power should satisfy its reparation claims by dismantling and delivering goods from their own occupation zone . Since the Soviet Union had suffered the greatest war damage, it was granted the right to receive reparations from the other zones. This soon sparked a dispute: Since the Soviet Union refused to compensate for these deliveries with food deliveries from its zone , the American military governor Lucius D. Clay ended the deliveries to the reparations account from the American zone to the Soviet Union on May 25, 1946 . The other two Western powers followed suit. With the beginning of the Cold War , the western allies first restricted dismantling and postponed their reparation claims until a peace treaty was signed. Since the two-plus-four treaty was concluded in 1990 by mutual agreement of all contracting parties “instead of a peace treaty”, no further reparations were paid later.

Until 1948, the reparations payments made by the later GDR to the Soviet Union mainly consisted of the dismantling of industrial plants. This affected 2000 to 2400 of the most important and best-equipped companies within the Soviet occupation zone . By March 1947, 11,800 kilometers of railway tracks had also been dismantled and taken to the Soviet Union. This reduced the rail network by 48 percent compared to 1938. The loss of substance in industrial and infrastructural capacities as a result of the dismantling totaled around 30 percent of the funds available in this area in 1944. From June 1946 onwards, with SMAD Order No. 167, the form of reparations began to shift from dismantling to withdrawals from current production within the framework of the Soviet joint-stock companies , which between 1946 and 1953 between 48 and 12.9 percent (average 22 percent) of the gross national product. The reparations ended after the popular uprising of June 17, 1953 . Based on the first of developed archival materials, especially in Moscow, Lothar Baar, came Rainer Karlsch and Werner Matschke from the Institute of Economic History at the Humboldt University of Berlin around 1993 to a total of at least 54 billion marks and German Mark (east) ongoing to Prices or at least $ 14 billion in 1938 prices.

When the reparations were declared over in 1953, the Soviet Zone / GDR had paid the highest reparations known in the 20th century. Siegfried Wenzel , former deputy chairman of the State Planning Commission of the GDR , put the reparations of the Soviet Zone and the GDR at a total of 99.1 billion DM (at prices from 1953) and those of the Federal Republic of Germany at 2.1 billion DM (at prices from 1953 ). The Soviet Zone / GDR is said to have amounted to 97 to 98 percent of the reparations burden for Germany as a whole - i.e. 130 times that per person. Wenzel referred to different sources such as the Inter-Allied Reparations Agency for the reparations payments of the western occupation zones and the Federal Ministry for Internal German Relations for the reparations payments of the Soviet Zone and the GDR and drew different reference values ​​( US dollars at prices from 1938 and German marks at prices from 1944 [sic]). In fact, as Wenzel himself admits, an exact calculation of the reparations payments is made more difficult by different reference values.

As early as 1995, the historians Konstatin Akinscha and Grigori Koslow presented their own evidence after examining the original documents in Russian archives: They refer to this phase as The Looting of Germany . Similar information is known from the uranium mining of SDAG Wismut and from shipbuilding.


The "reparations issue" in the case of Greece concerns demands for repayment of funds stolen from the Greek view and compensation for war damage during the Second World War. The latter in particular are rejected by the German side with reference to the war situation.


Since 2017 there have been repeated public discussions between members of the Polish and German governments about completed and outstanding reparations for Poland. The Polish side refers to a 40-page legal opinion for the Polish parliament: The Federal Republic owes Poland reparations of 840 to 850 billion euros . At that time the two predecessor states of today's Germany acted. Current German representatives consider Warsaw's legal opinion to be wrong, because:

  • Poland gave up reparation claims as early as 1953. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said: "There is absolutely no reason for the Federal Government to doubt the effectiveness of the 1953 reparations waiver under international law."
  • This waiver confirmed Poland in 1970, when Warsaw and Bonn as part of the so-called Ostpolitik of Chancellor Willy Brandt's the agreement on the normalization of their relations closed.
  • In 1990 Poland made no demands in the two plus four negotiations . It is assumed in this context that the final recognition of the Oder-Neisse border by the then unified Germany should not be jeopardized.
  • The Polish position does not take into account, or not enough, that Poland was de facto compensated with German territory after the Second World War . The victorious powers had agreed to add parts of East Prussia, Silesia, Pomerania and eastern Brandenburg to Poland.
  • Cash benefits: Until 1991, Polish victims received the equivalent of 225 million euros in reparations. One billion went to former Polish slave laborers. Concentration camp prisoners and victims of pseudo-medical experiments by the SS received almost half a billion euros in the 1970s.

The Polish government has so far left it open whether it really wants to take this to an international court or to approach the Russian or German government with additional claims.


  • Werner Otto Reichelt: The dismantling list. A complete overview of the reparations operations as well as the official declarations of the military commanders of the British and USA zones . Three Towers, Hamburg 1947. ( digitized )
  • Written report of the Committee for the Occupation Statute and Foreign Affairs ... regarding the investigation into German foreign assets . Negotiations of the German Bundestag, 1st electoral period 1949. Vol 17. Printed paper 3389 of May 16, 1952. (Reparations Agreement of 1946 / German estimates / IARA estimates)
  • Jörg Fisch : Reparations after the Second World War. CH Beck, Munich 1992. ISBN 978-3406359842 .
  • Rainer Karlsch , Jochen Laufer, Friederike Sattler (eds.): Soviet dismantling in Germany 1944–1949. Background, goals and effects (= contemporary historical research; FZS 17). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-428-10739-X .
  • Helmut Rumpf: The German question and the reparations . In: ZaöRV , Volume 33 (1973), pp. 344-371 (PDF file).

Web links

Wiktionary: Reparation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Negotiations of the German Bundestag, 1st electoral period 1949, volume 17, printed matter 3389 of May 16, 1952.
  2. Ursula Rombeck-Jaschinski: The London debt agreement. The settlement of German foreign debts after the Second World War . Munich 2005, ISBN 3-486-57580-5 , p. 178.
  3. ^ Conrad Franchot Latour, Thilo Vogelsang: Occupation and Reconstruction. The activity of the military government in the American zone of occupation in Germany 1944–1947 . DVA, Stuttgart 1973, p. 159 f.
  4. ^ Siegfried Wenzel: What was the GDR worth? And where has this value gone? 7th edition. The New Berlin, Berlin 2006.
  5. Lothar Baar, Rainer Karlsch, Werner Matschke: Studies on economic history . Berlin 1993, p. 100.
  6. ^ Dierk Hoffmann, Michael Schwartz , Hermann Wentker (eds.): Before the building of the wall: Politics and society in the GDR in the fifties . Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2003.
  7. ^ Siegfried Wenzel: What was the GDR worth? And where has this value gone? 7th edition. Das Neue Berlin, Berlin 2006, p. 43 f.
  8. Konstatin Akinscha, Grigori Koslow: booty art. On a treasure hunt in Russian secret depots. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-423-30526-6 , p. 33 ff.
  9. Expert opinion confirms Polish demand for reparations from Germany. and does Germany have to pay billions to Poland now? In: Spiegel Online of Sept. 11, 2017, subtitle: Waiver of 1953 unconstitutional
  10. Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz in an interview: Our losses were much greater " In: Spiegel Online from September 4, 2018 and on August 19, 2019 to dpa : Poland sees itself discriminated against when it comes to world war reparations.