Greece has formally requested talks with Germany on the touchy subject of reparations from the World War II era.
Athens claims it is owed billions of euros from damages by German occupiers during World War I and World War II.
The Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Greece’s ambassador to Germany submitted a formal request on Tuesday to the relevant authorities in Berlin.
A Greek parliamentary committee in 2016 estimated that Greece could claim almost 300 billion euros ($328 billion) for WWII and an additional 9.2 billion euros for WWI.
A motion for the Greek government to act on the committee’s findings received overwhelming support from lawmakers in April.
Germany has repeatedly denied that it owes Greece reparations, saying the country’s wartime debts were resolved a long time ago.
In April 1941, Nazi Germany invaded Greece, and raised the swastika flag on the Acropolis in Athens. The Wehrmacht occupied the country until 1944, with troops marauding and looting towns across the entire peninsula. The economic fallout from the war and the years of occupation have been a matter of controversy ever since.
Damage done during the war, including destruction, looting and murder, is one issue. In accordance with a 1960 agreement, the German government paid 115 million deutschmarks in reparation payments to Greek victims of the Nazi regime. The sum was regarded as covering all demands for individual damages.
But the other issue is a loan Greece was forced to make to Germany. In 1942, Nazi Germany forced the Greek national bank to pay out an interest-free loan to the tune of 476 million Reichsmarks. The Nazis used the money to finance the the “cost of occupation” of Greece as well as military operations. The loan was never repaid. A Greek committee has thus come to the conclusion that Germany still owes Greece about €11 billion ($12.48 billion).
The first conference on reparations, in Paris in the fall of 1945, granted Greece a percentage of Germany’s reparation payments for WWII damages. Athens received non-cash benefits worth up to €2 billion.
In the 1953 London Debt Agreement, the Western allies not only postponed settling further demands for reparations until the signing of a peace accord – they also granted Germany a debt reduction.
However, there never was an official peace treaty after WWI. Instead, the Two Plus Four Agreement on the final settlement with respect to what were then East and West Germany took effect in 1990. The agreement was recognized by Greece and provides for no further reparation payments.
Featured photo: Athens, winter 1941-42 during the great famine that brought death to tens of thousands of Greeks. The famine was brought on by a blockade by the Nazis in an attempt to bring the Greek people to their knees. Original photo from the collection of Gregory C. Pappas.
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