Greece demands billions in wartime reparations
Calling it a “moral and material issue”, Greek parliamentarians overwhelmingly voted in April to launch a diplomatic campaign to press Germany to pay billions of euros in damages.
The figure includes €171 billion for damage sustained by Greece during the war and €10 billion for a compulsory, interest-free loan the defeated government was forced to make to Nazi Germany to pay for the costs of its own occupation. It was never repaid.
Germany refuses to discuss the issue, saying the issue of wartime reparations was settled by the 1990 international agreement on German reunification.
The agreement was signed by the four main allied powers, Britain, the US, France and Russia, and declared the issue of reparations resolved.
The agreement was recognised by Greece.
“Germany is fully aware of its historic responsibilities,” a spokesman in Berlin said.
“The federal government is doing everything to ensure that Germany and Greece have good relationships as partners and that they support each other for the good of both countries.”
Greece surrendered to the Axis powers in 1941 and suffered greatly under Nazi rule as the Wehrmacht looted towns across the entire peninsula.
In the winter of 1941-42, a great famine brought death to tens of thousands of Greeks after a blockade by the Nazis in an attempt to break Greek resistance.
Germany and its ally Bulgaria retreated from Greece in 1944 but did not surrender control of Crete and some other Aegean islands until after the war.
The issue of reparation payments surfaced during the Greek debt crisis in 2010 with many Greeks blaming Germany for the strict austerity measures imposed in return for bailout loans.
A parliamentary committee in 2016 estimated Greece could claim minimum reparations of €292 billion for the Second World War and €9.2 billion for the first.
Greece became one of the few countries that were paid wartime reparations when, in 1960, West Germany paid 115 million Deutschmarks. But Greek parliamentarians say the sum was far too small and little went to the victims of the conflict.
Recently, Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice government called for almost €800 billion in wartime compensation from Germany.
The Nazis approach Athens, the ancient seat of European learning and birthplace of democracy. Picture credit: Wikimedia