ATHENS – No longer needing support from Germany – the biggest contributor to 326 billion euros ($363.09 billion) in three international bailouts – the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA now wants reparations for World War II, a move the party’s critics said is designed to try to reverse flagging fortunes in an election year.
The move garnered some international attention as well, although Germany has flatly refused, saying the matter was long ago settled. But the leading British newspaper, The Guardian, picked up on the story as did other media.
Germany invaded Greece in May of 1941. Around 1,000 Greek villages were destroyed, thousands of Greeks died of starvation, and tens of thousands were killed by German forces who were trying to stop Greek resistance fighters, War History Online noted in a story.
The call for reparations was joined by rival parties who, want compensation for the Nazi’s destruction of Greece’s infrastructure, looting of the banks, gold, and treasures and atrocities, but who said Tsipras was taking a stance after kowtowing to Germany.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his party, far behind in polls to the major opposition New Democracy, would file a formal note verbale demand for reparations although Merkel and German officials said it’s a dead issue.
Tsipras said that now Greece has exited its bailout programs, in which Germany was a key creditor, it can’t be accused of trying to offset its massive debt with the reparation demand.
“In a move bound to stir sentiment ahead of crucial European parliament elections, Athens vowed to pile pressure on Berlin, taking legal and diplomatic steps that will throw the spotlight on crimes committed during the brutal Nazi occupation,” The Guardian wrote.
“It is an open issue that must be resolved,” Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Markos Bolaris, told the paper, disregarding Germany’s insistence it won’t pay any more.
“For matters of this kind there is international justice,” he said. “In all disputes the EU abides by it, on principle. Germany may say it has been resolved but what counts is international law.”
Some 300,000 people died from famine and the country’s Jewish community had been almost entirely erased, most from Thessaloniki, sent to concentration camps, while the Nazis massacred people in villages on the mainland and on Crete.
A Greek parliamentary committee report, compiled from records obtained from US archives and Russia, estimated some 11 billion euros ($12.25 billion) was also owed for an interest-free “occupation loan” seized by German occupiers.
Gold taken from Greece’s central bank 1943, was used to fund Germany’s campaign in North Africa and 288 billion euros ($320.76 billion) should be paid as compensation for the destruction to Greece’s infrastructure, the committee reported.
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.
Sia Anagnostopoulou, the minister who will be heading the compensation campaign, said that wasn’t enough. “The agreement did not take into account the occupation loan or reparations … they concerned individuals, victims of the Nazis,” she said, adding that the Netherlands had received a much greater sum despite having “one-hundredth” of the total number of victims of Greece.