Greek Lawmakers Reviewing Renewed Demand for WWII Reparations

(Photo by Eurokinissi/Yorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS – In a rare show of bipartisanship, most Greek parties in Parliament are behind calls for Greece to again demand World War II reparations from Germany – whose banks put up the bulk of 326 billion euros ($368.82 billion) in three international bailouts.

A parliamentary committee report will go before the lawmakers for debate but has the backing already not only of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA but its major rival New Democracy as well as the Union of Centrists and center-left Movement for Change.

The KKE Communists are expected to make their own proposal although the discussion could largely be symbolic as Germany has repeatedly refused to make any more payments, saying the issue was settled long ago.

In January, a visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel 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 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.

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.

DIPLOMATIC TALK

The proposal before Parliament calls on the government to “take all the necessary diplomatic and legal action in order to claim and fully satisfy all the demands of the Greek state for World War I and II.”

Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis spoke of “a historic moment for the Greek Parliament,” saying the government – which didn’t do it the last four years – should now sent a note verbale to the German government, the first step in demanding reparations according to international law.

The European Parliament and the parliaments of European Union member-states will be  informed, he added, although they are powerless to do anything beyond non-binding resolutions or press releases.

Seeking the damages is a “moral, political and historic obligation which the current Parliament could not but honor,” Voutsis said, adding that the demands were never forfeited and remain “active.”

The report estimates the amount at between 270-309 billion euros ($305.46-$349.59 billion) but will be debated two years after it was submitted with Voutsis admitting at the time the government wouldn’t push it while seeking aid from Germany.

While supporting the idea of reparations, the government’s rivals and critics said Tsipras is bringing it up now in a bid to revive flagging fortunes with New Democracy holding big leads in surveys with elections required to be held by October.

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