In Athens, Merkel Makes Mea Culpa for WWII, But No Reparations

Greece's President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, right, shakes hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their meeting at the presidential palace in Athens, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after laying a wreath at the Unknown Soldier site outside the Parliament, cited her country’s responsibility for the occupation of Greece and atrocities committed by Nazis during World War II but avoided talk of reparations.

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who was at the ceremony with her, told her at a short meeting that, “As Greeks, we consider these demands legally active and (can be) judicially pursued and should be solved in the competent European forum, judicial forum,” the news agency Reuters said.

Merkel responded that, “We are aware of our historical responsibility, we know how much suffering Germany caused Greece during the era of National Socialism so the lesson for us is to do everything we can to ensure good relations with Greece and to support each other for the benefit of both countries,” essentially ignored the question of more reparations.

Hitler’s forces occupied Greece in 1941-1944 and forced Greece to give a so-called “occupation loan” used to help finance its campaign in North Africa, leading to unstoppable inflation and a famine that caused thousands to starve to death.

The loan was for 476 million Reichsmarks, which Greek officials have estimated to be worth as high as $11.54 billion.

In December, Pavlopoulos said that Greece’s demands on the loan and any kind of reparations over the victims of the German occupation army are “legally active and legally pursuable,” still.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel places a wreath at the monument of the Unknown Soldier during her visit in Athens, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

He made the demand during an event in Kalavryta, the village where the Nazis massacred much of the population, saying the demands have not expired, and were supportable by specific regulations of international law,”, citing the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907.

Greece is seeking $317.75 billion in damages for World War II when the Nazis ravaged the country, looted gold and art treasures, committed atrocities and destroyed infrastructure but German officials, including Merkel, nixed that idea.

In a statement during a meeting with Pavlopoulos, Merkel described the apology for what the Nazis did as a “heartfelt issue to support Greece towards the benefit of both countries,” the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.

The request has been repeated many times and rejected every time with Germany saying the 115 million Deutschmarks paid in 1960, equivalent to $317.69 million today, settled the matter once and for all although it’s just a smidgen of the damage done.

Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras brought up the reparations question although Germany has said for years it had paid all that it would, noting 115 million Deutschmarks paid in 1960, equivalent to $317.69 million today.

Germany is the biggest contributor to three international bailouts to Greece of 326 billion euros ($375.8 billion) and as part of that, Merkel insisted up and got successive Greek governments, including Tsipras, to whack workers, pensioners and the poor with harsh austerity measures, drawing the ire of the Greek citizenry that has now cooled off.

Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk during their meeting at the presidential palace in Athens, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Merkel is widely blamed in Greece for the austerity that the country has lived through for much of the past decade, which led to a sharp and prolonged recession and a consequent fall in living standards. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are seen before their meeting at the presidential palace in Athens, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Merkel is widely blamed in Greece for the austerity that the country has lived through for much of the past decade, which led to a sharp and prolonged recession and a consequent fall in living standards. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk during their meeting at the presidential palace in Athens, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Merkel is widely blamed in Greece for the austerity that the country has lived through for much of the past decade, which led to a sharp and prolonged recession and a consequent fall in living standards. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seen during a meeting with Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos at the presidential palace in Athens, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Merkel is widely blamed in Greece for the austerity that the country has lived through for much of the past decade, which led to a sharp and prolonged recession and a consequent fall in living standards. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk during their meeting at the presidential palace in Athens, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Merkel is widely blamed in Greece for the austerity that the country has lived through for much of the past decade, which led to a sharp and prolonged recession and a consequent fall in living standards. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk during their meeting at the presidential palace in Athens, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Merkel is widely blamed in Greece for the austerity that the country has lived through for much of the past decade, which led to a sharp and prolonged recession and a consequent fall in living standards. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel walks before their meeting at the presidential palace in Athens, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Merkel is widely blamed in Greece for the austerity that the country has lived through for much of the past decade, which led to a sharp and prolonged recession and a consequent fall in living standards. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)