ATHENS – 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 January, 2015, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras – who later backed off, needing Merkel’s support – said that Germany needed to “finally acknowledge these crimes,” and pay up.
Earlier this month, on a visit to the village of Chortiatis, site of a 1944 massacre where 146 Greeks were murdered – most of them women and children, many burned alive inside a house – Pavlopoulos said Greece’s demands were justified and “non-negotiable.”
Free from German demands with the bailouts, Tsipras this month went to the Cretan village of Kandanos, where 189 men, women and children were shot in 1941 in revenge for a raid on a German convoy. He said reparations were an “historical debt to the victims, but also to future generations,” Handelsblatt reported.
Voutsis said earlier of the committee’s work that, “This exceptional report by the special committee on all aspects of the matter relating to German reparations will come before Parliament’s plenary session and a decision will be made. Claims will be made on the transnational and legal level.”