Germany Says No More WWII Reparations for Greece

Αssociated Press

FILE - A military truck carries an unexploded World War II bomb which was defused by Greek Army personnel in Thessaloniki, Greece Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

Declaring the matter over and done with, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said there will be no more WWII payments to Greece for damage done by the Nazis despite repeated calls from Greek governments, including the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition.

“The reparations issue was legally and politically settled,” he said at a news conference in Berlin, adding that “nothing has changed” in that position and that apart from some public statements and bluster that the Greek government hasn't even officially asked for reparations.

That came as German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was expected in Athens on Oct. 11 for a two-day official visit, after an invitation by his counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos and as he's expected to meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who said previously Germany should pay more.

The two presidents are to travel to Kalamata on Oct. 12 on the anniversary of the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Athens from German occupation, considered as the end of the Nazi occupation of Greece, a brutal period that saw scores of thousands of people die, the country's infrastructure ruined and the banks looted of gold and art treasures stolen.

With German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visiting, Greece’s government said it would again demand World War II reparations for atrocities and destruction suffered under the hands of the Nazis.

Germany was the biggest contributor to 326 billion euros ($384.01 billion) in three international bailouts that began in 2010 to prop up Greece’s economy that was undermined by decades of wild overspending and runaway patronage by successive governments, but insisted on harsh austerity measures in return. The rescue packages ended on Aug. 20.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly ruled out paying any more in damages to Greece, saying the issue was settled decades ago. The Greek Court of Audits put the claims at 309.5 billion euros ($364.58 billion) the German newspaper Handelsblatt said in a report on the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition and Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, from the major rival New Democracy, still wanting Germany to pay.

Greek Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis said the government would debate compensation when a committee report reaches the body before the end of the year and would “enforce our demands in bilateral negotiations and through legal channels.”

The Nazi occupation from 1941-44 was brutal, with hundreds of thousands of Greeks dying from starvation or freezing or in a number of massacres of villages, some of which saw every resident killed, including women and children.

Around 70,000 Greek Jews were deported to extermination camps, the economy was ruined, banks raided of money and gold, art treasures stolen and half of Greek industry and roads destroyed by the time the occupation ended.

In 1960, Germany transferred 115 million deutsche marks (worth about 200 million euros today) to Athens for Greek victims of Nazi rule, which Germany’s government today ended any more chance of paying out.

After winning election in 2015, Tsipras – who later backed off, needing Merkel’s support – said that Germany needed to “finally acknowledge these crimes,” and pay up.

In September, on a visit to the village of Chortiatis, site of a 1944 massacre where 146 Greeks were murdered – most of them women and children, Pavlopoulos said Greece’s demands were justified and “non-negotiable.”