After a long debate that ended in the early morning hours of Wednesday, the Greek Parliament decided to establish a committee in order to demand World War II reparations from Germany. And if this is not enough challenge towards the country’s biggest creditor, the Justice Minister assured, he was ready to put his signature under a Highest Court decision that may lead to confiscation of German state property in Greece like the Goethe Institute in Athens and Thessaloniki.
The decision comes amid a frozen atmosphere between Greece and Germany over bailout reforms and a series of insults spoken by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble against his couPnterpart Yanis Varoufakis.
M Tsipras: despite Hitler’s hordes German debt was written off
In his speech at the Parliament, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused Germany of using legal tricks to avoid paying reparations for the Nazi occupation of Greece and said he would support parliamentary efforts to review the matter.
“After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the legal and political conditions were created for this issue to be solved. But since then, German governments chose silence, legal tricks and delay. And I wonder, because there is a lot of talk at the European level these days about moral issues: is this stance moral?” Tsipras said and added that
“despite the crimes of the Third Reich and Hitler’s hordes, the German debt was written off”.
Germany has repeatedly rejected Greek calls for WWII reparations claiming that “war compensations to individuals was settled with the Agreement of 1960” and the “Agreement of 1990.”
However, “the Agreement of 1960 covered only compensation for the individual victims of Nazi horrors, not the destruction wrought on Greece during the 1941-1944 occupation and the enforced loan,” Tsipras said.
The Greek claim
The Greek claim of war reparations from Germany has been on the agenda of previous Greek governments as well, but it was never materialized. The issue gained momentum due to the bad financial situation in Greece and Germany’s leading role in the eurozone. A special committee investigated the Greek claim in 2012 and 2013 but despite Greek warning’s the previous government did not proceed to pursue Germany on legal level.
The issue is highly political and legal, with the Greek High Court considering how potential sanctions claims against Germany could be levied.
In April 2013, after the investigation committee concluded its work, newspaper To Vima reported that the Greek claim was 162 billion euro.
To Vima stressed to have seen the findings and reports that the experts found that Germany should pay Greece 108 billion euros for damage to infrastructure and 54 billion euros for a loan that the Nazi occupation forces obliged Greece to take in order to pay Berlin during the war.
The reparations are equivalent to about 80 percent of Greek gross domestic product.
The report is based on 80-pages findings and 109 archive files
93% of the cases refers to reparations for damages during WWI – when Greece was neutral
91% refers to hostage taking and deaths during WWII
90% in total refers to individual cases
Law 4781/1961: agreement between Greece and Germany on the compensation of individuals who suffered damages from National-socialism.
Finding: Only 50%, i.e. 115 million Deutsche Marks – of the reparations claims was given. The rest 100 million DM was never handed out.
Greek ‘loans’ to Nazi occupators. According to Bank of Greece, Athens borrowed to German occupation forces
1,617,781,093,648,819 Drachmas to German Nazi occupation forces and
220,479,188,480 Drachmas to Italian fascist regime during the first years of WWI.
According to the “loan” agreements of March and December 1942 these amounts should be returned to Greece after the end of the war. The loans were never paid back neither by Germany, nor by Italy. (more on KTG’s report April 2013)
More on WWII reparations from Germany
Confiscation of Goethe Institute?
Also on Tuesday, Greek Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos said that he was ready to sign an older decision issued in year 2000 by Greece’s Highest Court Areios Pagos that enables confiscation of German state property in Greece. The court decision confirmed the First Instance Court decision of 1997 that had ruled that Germany had to pay €28 million to descendants of the Distomo massacre.
On 10 June 1944, Waffen SS killed 218 men, women and children of Distomo village, in reprisal for attacks by resistance fighters.
“The confiscation of German property in Greece would affect the Goethe Institute and the German Schools in Athens and Thessaloniki,” Greek media report.
Speaking to ANT1 TV this morning, Paraskevopoulos said that the court decision needs only the signature of the Justice Minister in order to go in effect. However he implied that this will not be done immediately.
According to Greek media, already in 2000, PASOK Justice Minister had signed the court decision and a justicial clerk appeared at the door of Goethe Institute in Athens.
“However, the Justice minister withdrew his signature. after a couple of days later Germany approved the entrance of Greece to the Euro zone,” notes Proto Thema.
But the Justice Minister and every Justice Minister has to take into consideration the impact on bilateral relations.
Also on Tuesday, deputy Defense Minister Kostas Ysichos said that the ministry has the so-called Wehrmacht- Archive, an archive of 400,000 records of the German occupation, that is currently in the process of digitilization.