Does Germany owe indeed Greeks billions of euros in World War II reparations for the damages and the enforced loan during the occupation of the country by the Nazis? So far, Berlin has vehemently rejected any Greek claims. However, two German researchers dug into the documents of the dispute. have discovered and calculated that the German state owes Greece 185 billion euros. Of this not even a 1% has been paid to Greece.
In their book “Reparation debt. Mortgages of German occupation in Greece and Europe” publishers Karl Heinz Roth, a historian, and Hartmut Rübner, a researcher, unfold the documents of the dispute and come to the conclusion that the reparations issue was not solved in 1960, as Berlin has been claiming.
According to the book review published in German conservative daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Roth and Rübner have researched German documents only and came to the conclusion that:
USA allies and “the power elites of West Germany” have systematically ignored Greece’s demands for WWII reparations.
In SZ article “Athens – Berlin: Open Bill, Open Wounds” it is said among others that:
At the Paris Reparations Conference in 1946, the Greek government presented a damage record of $ 7.2 billion – eventually earning a share of $ 25 million.
The leitmotiv of the book is that an alliance between the US and the “West German power elite” has systematically ignored Greek demands for decades.
“Undeniable, however, is the diplomatic arrogance with which the Federal Republic rejected the Greek demands for decades. If you do not believe it, you are welcome to make your own impression in Hartmut Rübner’s carefully edited extensive documentary appendix,” SZ notes.
In the first part of the book, Roth analyzes the decades-long efforts of Athens to receive reparations. When the Wehrmacht withdrew from Greece in October 1944 after three and a half years of occupation, it literally left behind “scorched land”: the economy, currency and infrastructure were completely destroyed.
The health of the surviving population was catastrophic – by the end of the war about 140,000 people had died as a result of malnutrition. And finally, the Germans had sown the seed for the civil war between communist and monarchist-conservative groups, which became bloody after the liberation.
However, the selection of the documents Roth/Rübner used is almost exclusively limited to German documents, so that no insight can be gained into the interior of Greek diplomacy and its share in the failed reparations policy. For a long time, the Greek government relied on a special relationship with the Federal Republic, which, however, was based on asymmetric power relations.
On this bilateral route, Athens only achieved failures, except for a total compensation of 115 million marks in 1960, based on London Treaty of 1953. However, the compensation came about through a joint action with other West European former war opponents of Germany.
The authors make a special reference to former Chancellor Helmut Kohl who managed to avoid reparation payments when the two German states were reunified in 1990 and the 2+4 Treaty.
Before the reunification, Kohl was claiming that reparation demands were premature. After the reunification, he claimed they were too late.
Roth and Rübner now plea for the recognition of the German “reparations debt” towards Greece.
So far, Greece has tabled two proposals: one referred to 287billion euros, and one, the official one to 162 billion euros.
More on Greece-Germany dispute on WWII reparations here.