Greece has renewed its calls for negotiations with Germany on reparations for damages and losses caused during the Nazi occupation of World War II.
Athens revived its demand for talks with Germany on wartime reparations just ahead of the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Greece by German troops in World War II, which is widely commemorated in memorial events throughout Greece.
“The question remains open until our demands are met. These demands are valid and active, and they will be asserted by any means,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexandros Papaioannou told the German news agency DPA in an interview.
Greece last made an official call for negotiations with Germany in 2019, under the administration of then Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
The government of current Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in January 2020 that Athens still considered the issue an open one, although it had so far refrained from pressuring Berlin on the matter– until now.
Billions in damage
The cost of the damages and losses caused by Nazi Germany’s brutal occupation of Greece has been estimated at €289 billion ($339 billion) by a Greek parliamentary commission. That amount includes a loan that Greece was forced to grant the German central bank and was never repaid.
After invading Greece on April 6, 1941, German armed forces went on to carry out numerous massacres in the country, with tens of thousands of civilians dying during the conflict. Millions of tons of food were requisitioned and farms across the country were forced to give their products to German troops occupying Greece, leaving millions to starve.
Germany has said it considers the issue to have been resolved and has, to date, refused to discuss the matter with the Greeks.
A Bundestag report in 2019 found that Greece’s claims did have legal weight, calling the German government’s position “acceptable” but “by no means compulsory” under international law.
Germany’s Green and Left parties have strongly criticized the government’s refusal to be drawn into negotiations. At a recent parliamentary debate on the invasion that took place in the presence of Greek Ambassador Maria Marinaki, they called for a change of course, but the call was rejected.
The vice president of the Bundestag, the Greens’ Claudia Roth, said she was ashamed of Germany’s attitude, while Left lawmaker Heike Hänsel called the government’s position “neither morally nor legally acceptable.”
The German government says that, rather than paying reparations, it wants to promote reconciliation with Greece by means of commemorative and educational projects.
Photo: From the collection of Gregory Pappas dating to the Great Famine in Athens, winter of 1942-43, when trucks roamed the city streets picking up bodies of famine victims.
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