Interview: Former Polish FM Radosław Sikorski on restitution claims

Radosław Sikorski, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Donald Tusk’s cabinet between 2007 and 2014 concluded today in an interview with the Polish online weekly “Kultura Liberalna”, that United States has a weak position on the restitution issue. “All claims of US citizens had been satisfied back in the ’60s. The agreement (between Poland and the USA), which was then signed, states clearly, that from now on all claims of US citizens should be directed to the Department of State” – Sikorski said.

Sikorski is absolutely right. The Article 4 of the agreement stipulates: After the entry into force of this Agreement the Government of the United States will neither present to the Government of Poland nor espouse claims of nationals of the United States against the Government of Poland to which reference is made in Article I of this Agreement. In the event that such claims are presented directly by nationals of the United States to the Government of Poland, the Government of Poland will refer them to the Government of the United States.

Sikorski stressed also: “When US diplomats started raising this issue again (of restitution), I said publicly that if the United States wanted to do something for Polish Jews, then the years 1943-1944 were the right moment for it, when a significant part of them was still alive and when Poland, via Jan Karski, begged for it. Today, these interventions are somewhat belated.”

Mr. Sikorski is right again, but with a small exception: the United States could hinder Nazi German-made extermination of Jews, Poles and other Slavic nations significantly earlier, in 1939, when after Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland in September 1939, IBM New York established a new Polish subsidiary — Watson Business Machines (Edwin Black, “IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation”, 2002):

“According to Black, The new subsidiary was completely separate from IBM Germany’s Dehomag and was directly controlled by IBM’s headquarters in New York. Its sole purpose, Black claims, was to service the Nazi occupation of Poland, including the categorization of victims transported to Auschwitz.

In the new edition, Black relates the recollections of Leon Krzemieniecki, a forced laborer for the Polish railway office in Krakow during the war. Krzemieniecki remembers fifteen machines in the railway office, each staffed by a female employee who tabulated information through these IBM machines. Three German officials supervised the operation. The collected information was then shipped off in secrecy to an undisclosed location. According to Black, Krzemieniecki now realizes that the office he worked in was used to coordinate the extermination of Jews and other victims at nearby Auschwitz. The machines, according to Krzemieniecki, bore the seal “Watson Business Machines” written in English.” (Michael J. Bazyler Amber L. Fitzgerald, “Trading With The Enemy: Holocaust Restitution, the United States Government, and American Industry”, Brooklyn Journal of International Law, Volume 28, Issue 3).

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