Newly appointed German Ambassador to Greece Ernst Reichel went to the Achaia mountain town of Kalavryta on Aug. 7, the site of a massacre by the Nazis in World War II, to show his respects, and also regrets at what his country had done.
“Today in Kalavryta, I paid tribute to the hundreds of villagers massacred by German occupants in WWII,” Reichel said in a post on Twitter, along with a photograph of him in front of a memorial to the estimated 1,200 townsfolk who were killed in reprisal executions on Dec. 13, 1943.
“This is only one small part of the horror and grief Nazi Germany brought over Greece, and all of Europe,” added Reichel, who took up the post of German Ambassador in Athens last month.
Today in Kalavryta, I paid tribute to the hundreds of villagers massacred by German occupants in WW II. This is is only one small part of the horror and grief Nazi Germany brought over Greece, and all of Europe. Many thanks to mayors Lazouras and Papadopoulos for their kindness pic.twitter.com/2Idfwtygpw
— Ernst Reichel (@ReichelErnst) August 7, 2019
Despite the visit, there’s still tension between Greece and Germany, whose banks put up the bulk of 326 billion euros ($365.42 billion) in three international bailouts since 2010 to prop up a Greek economy weakened by generations of wild overspending and runaway patronage by successive governments.
On Dec. 13, 2018, marking the 75th anniversary of the massacre and the village’s destruction, Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos went there for a solemn and sad commemoration of what had happened.
“The danger of the Nazi atrocity is not over, and European democracies must never allow such ‘ideologies’ to determine the future again,” he said.
The Nazis killed nearly all male citizens over 12 years of age and burned the town down. Greeks honor the memory of the victims of “the greatest and most abominable war crime in Greece during World War II,” Pavlopoulos said, by sending the message, “We will not forget. Never again.”
He added that “we must not overlook that the danger of this Nazi atrocity is not over. Europe is seeing today the rise of entities which are fundamentally and unfortunately continuing this atrocity and inhuman ideology,” and called for the defense of humanitarianism and the European culture.
In April this year, in a rare show of bipartisanship, most Greek parties in Parliament backed calls for Greece to again demand World War II reparations from Germany.
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.
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.