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Germany rejects WWII Reparations, but Greece has a €162-billion argument

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias took the Greek claim of  World War II Reparation from Germany in his jacket pocket when he visited Berlin for talks with his counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday.

“In my inside pocket, I’ve got that part of the speech from the prime minister who addressed the issue (of reparations),” Kotzias said putting one hand into his jacket, during a joint press conference with Steinmaier.

Greek FM was immediately rebuked by German FM.

“We are firmly convinced that all reparations issues, including forced loans, are judicially settled once-and-for-all,” Steinmaier replied after having said that Berlin was fully aware of its political and moral responsibility for the “terrible events” in Greece between 1941 and 1944 when Nazi German troops occupied Greece.

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A day earlier German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel had said that all matters in that regard had been finally dealt with in major power negotiations that led to German reunification in 1990.

The Greek claim of WWII Reparations was revived anew when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras concluded his speech announcing the coalition government program saying that “the claim of the Occupation Loan and Reparation payments is a historic responsibility.”

Greek claim: €162 billion

In fact the issue was raised by Athens in April 2013, when Finance Ministry committee assigned to investigate the matter got together the total amount of 162 billion euro in outstanding World War II debts Germany ought to pay back to Greece.

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 FinMin investigation lasted two and a half months, 109 archive files were examined.

80-pages Findings
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 the Nazis.
Finding: Only 50%, i.e. 115 million Deutsche Mark – of the reparations claims was given. The rest 100 million DM was never handed out.
Quite insane is the Nazis logic, according to which Greece was enforced to lend money to the occupation forces so that the latter keep on the occupy of the country and the continuation of the war.
Greek ‘enforced loan’ to the Nazis

According to Bank of Greece, Athens was forced to lend money to German occupation forces

1,617,781,093,648,819 Drachmas to German Nazi occupation forces

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 by Germany.

Right after the war, Bank of Greece estimated that the total amount was equivalent to 4.5 million golden British Pound.

German rejections

When the issue was raised in 2013, Berlin rejected the claim with FinMin Wolfgang Schaeuble saying”that was settled long time ago” and the German Foreign Ministry arguing that “The federal government assumes that after several decades, the question of reparations has lost its relevance.”

Berlin first claimed that all compensation claims were satisfied with the agreement of 1961. However, this seems to have been only a part of the truth:

According to the Greek research findings

“the 1961-agreement referred and settled only claims raised by individuals” and further more “the compensation was never paid out in full.”

Recently, Berlin added in its argumentation list also the 2+4 agreement of 1990, after the reunification of West and East Germany. Here, Greece argues that the countries signed the “Charter of Paris” just “took notice of the agreement,” aiming to invite post-communist era countries to join Europe.

Whether it was a Greek Foreign Minister or the Greek President talking to Germans about the WWII Reparations, the claim was always rejected and thus with the fantastic advice to “forget the WWII reparations and look towards a United Europe.”

Populist German newspaper BILD falsely claimed today, Wednesday,  that the Greek claim to “enforced loan” refers to a payment of just €11 billion. However, the newspaper brings an excerpt from the 1961-agreement, confirming the Greek argument that the payment was just to compensate individual victims of the Nazi regime.

German Greece WWII reparations

BILD.de Reparations Agreement: The Adenauer government paid 115 million Mark to Greece, in order to compensate Nazi victims and their descendants.

European Parliament

Veteran politician, WWII resistance fighter and promoter of the Greek claim, MEP Manolis Glezos, 93, asked a special debate in the European Parliament for the German Reparations. EP president, Martin Schulz rejected the request saying “40 MEPs’ signatures have to be collected or the leaders of Left-wing parties have to agree” before such a debate finds place in the EP.

Yet, Germany has found allies in the European Parliament: the neoloberals of ALDE Group. Blindly adopting the German argumentation, ALDE-Chaiman and ex Belgian MP Guy Verhofstadt urged:

 

An angry Spaniard reminded Verhofstatd of “EU’s moral obligations”:


 

KTG’s report on WWII Reparations here, and here.

Charter of Paris for New Europe

 

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11 comments

  1. All the analyses of legal and other experts on the subject which I have read (I particularly recommend Prof. Albrecht Ritschl from the LSE) said that the war reparations are like beating a dead horse whereas the forced loan is a legitimate issue. The German parliament has calcualted the value of that loan around 7 BEUR today and the Greek parliament, so I have read, about 10-11 BEUR. So anyone who talks about 162 BEUR (or even more) is ludicrous and destroys his own credibility.

    Additionally, I would recommend some restraint on the Greek side when it comes to blaming all destruction and suffering during the 1940s on the Germans. I have read quite a bit about the Greek Civil War and the common denominator in all books and video documentations was that the damage of the Civil War was hard to calculate but “suffice it to say that both the material and humanitarian damage were much greater than that of the occupation”.

    Now, to preempt the accusation that I am a Nazi in disguise, let me say that I am Austrian (a country first excluded by Bismarck from the German Nation and then occupied by Germany). More importantly, I have spent about half of my adult life in America and/or with Americans. There it was engrained on me that playing the victim’s role, always blaming others for one’s misery, etc., is nothing but a self-inflicted disorder. And whenever there was discussion about that at College, ancient Greeks were cited with “know thyself; accept thyself”. I rest my case.

    • “Greek Civil War damages bigger than Nazi occupation”? Nix da, Klaus!

      • I know, and I can understand, that one has tried to eradicate this tragic period from memory. Austria did the same thing with its Nazi-past. Of all the books I have read, I have quoted from C. M. Woodhouse’s “The struggle for Greece 1941-49”. Woodhouse seemed to me the most objective source. He had been Britain’s liason with ELAS/EDES from the start. He clearly sympathized with ELAS during their first years and even later he tried to explain ELAS in the context of social unfairness. Not to mention the fact that he was an eternal admirerer of Greece and Greeks. He obviously defended Britain’s policies officially but when one listens to his interviews, one can hear between the lines that he thought the Brits were wrong. I could buy the argument that without the occupation there might not have been a Civil War but I cannot accept the position that all which matters happened in the first half of the 1940s and the second half should be ignored.

        • So Mr Woodhouse sat down and made a list of 1)Nazi damaged 2)EAM damages and came to his famous sentence” blahblahblah”. Come on, Klaus! forget this argumentation is biased and weak.

        • after end of the WWII the problem of UK, USA & allies was keep Greece away from USSR. it was a balance of powers in the Balkans, with all neighboring countries in the North been under Russia’s communism.

        • Woodhouse made a fairly detailed calculation. Look up his book. It’s towards the end of it, if I recall, in the last few pages. As I said, I can fully sympathize with the intent to erase a dark part of one’s history from memory. When I grew up, we learned in school that “Austria was the first victim of National Socialism”. Only later in life did I see the pictures and movies of frenetic crowds (including Austria’ Catholic Cardinal!) welcoming Hitler in March of 1938.

          The Greek Civil War fasinated me. Normally, one knows who the good guys and the bad guys are/were. To this date, I don’t have the answer for that in the Greek case. But in the last couple of years, when I had lengthy discussions with Greek leftists about economic policies, I often had the impression that we might now be seeing the Fourth Round because, ideologically, these leftists reminded me so much of the ELAS mindset.

          I once discussed this with Yanis Varoufakis. To my great surprise he answered: “The civil war is in us, deeply embedded in our cultural and spiritual DNA”.

          I had very superficial knowledge of the Civil War until I started researching it with a passion about 4 years ago, just like I didn’t know much about the occupation. I didn’t even know that it was the Italians who started all of it and that part of the forced loan went to the Italians (who are not being asked about that). And, obviously, I knew that the Nazis had ‘overperformed’ in their cruelty in Greece (remember: Waldheim was an Austrian).

          About the Civil War I knew that the bad guys were the Communists and all the rest were the good guys. Well, I was very surprised when I learned how it really was. At the same time, I learned that there were not only the Distomo’s but also the Meligala’s. And there are still colonies in what used to be Communist Eastern Europe with decendants of the paidomazoma.

          I cannot argue whether Woodhouse was right or wrong in his calculation but I do argue that it is not smart to create the illusion that all damage done in the 1940s was done by the Germans. You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time. But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time (Lincoln). I truly think that it would be beneficial for Greek society if the dealt wth all the history of Modern Greece (including the various bankruptcies during the 19th century).

    • austria ‘occupied’ by germany?

      take a look at the welcoming parades during the announcement of anschluss in 1938…it looks like EVERYONE is on the streets heiling away…

      if you are quoting from woodhouse – you will learn a very one sided history of the greek civil war…in english, try reading the book by domenique eudes, kapetanios-to really understand the duplicitous nature of the british role in greece…

  2. “The federal government assumes that after several decades, the question of reparations has lost its relevance.”

    Does that mean the Greek debt will also lose it’s relevance after several decades??

    Guy Verhofstadt’s remark leaves one speechless at it’s inanity!

  3. Klaus, just because you read whatever you read does not mean you have much of a point. To be quite honest, you don’t have much of a point at all. Your last comment is also quite insulting. And what does the self regarding the Greeks look like to you? I agree with esperance perhaps in a few years the debt too will lose its relevance. It is unbelievable just how much Germany assumes it could bully Greece and neglect its own past dues. Germany acts all mighty and moral yet is exceptionally contadictory itself .

  4. Being neutral on the question whether it is right or wrong to ask for reparations, I think it is a bad moment. Greece can try it in the court, but in the best case it will last years. Greece waited for them 60 years, can wait 1 year more. And Greece needs money now.
    Or… does Tsipras want to resign the reparations in the debt deal ?

  5. The key to this discussion is the Merkel government commitment to amnesia-forget it, they say. Forget all about the past.

    Whatever good will Germany, as a nation, has secured in the past decades is now melting under the weight of this commitment to vergessen…its like a cultural trope-forget forget

    except the part about owing me money.