Greece demands €279bn from Germany for WWII occupation


Greece has recently taken a strong stance towards its demand for compensation money from Germany. Greek officials maintain that during the Second World War occupation of Greece, Germany destroyed a large part of the Greek  urban infrastructure and victimised scores of its people.

Greece’s leftist Syriza government claims that Germany owes Greece 279 billion euros (approx. US$303-billion, £204-billion), because of its atrocities and crimes against Greeks from 1941 to 1945. Berlin, on the other hand, has rejected these claims, saying that this matter was resolved years ago between the governments of Greece and Germany.

Alexis Tsipras, who is the current prime minister of Greece, has accused Germany of dodging its responsibility towards paying reparations to Greece.  He also said that Germany is using loopholes in the legal system to avoid the payment of compensation.

These statements by the prime minister came at a very crucial time for Greece. The Greek government is already struggling to persuade the European Union to reconsider the terms for a “bailout” loan of €240-billion, the Reuters reports.

Germany has categorically denied any legitimacy to Tsipras’s demands, saying that the issue of the compensation had been resolved during talks among the world powers when East Germany and West Germany were reunified.

But the Greek prime minister is determined to press this matter and has setup a parliamentary commission to look into it. Tsipras maintains that it is true that after the reunification of Germany, Greece created an environment for the compensation both politically as well as legally. But Germany did not respond to any of the issues and chose silence instead. He also added, while speaking at a parliamentary debate, that whereas Germany liked to teach members of the European Union the morals of good governance, it seemed to lack morals itself.

Although there have always been campaigns and demands for compensation from within the Greek society and some former governments, this time it is very different. In its recent provocative statements, the Greek government has become more vocal and critical of Germany’s denial of responsibility for the compensation. No official from the Greek government has yet filed any official claim for payment of the compensation money.

Berlin has consistently said that Germany has fulfilled all its post-WWII obligations. In 1960, Germany paid a huge sum of €59-million to Greece in compensation for the WWII occupation. Tsipras has said that the money Germany paid in 1960 was for the victims of Nazi atrocities, and not for the large-scale infrastructural damage.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE