Greece's Unsettled WWII German Reparations
A Stain in the International Legal System
Frustrated with the persistent refusal of Germany to settle the decades long pending WWII German reparation obligations, ordinary Greek citizens have organized a petition and are collecting signatures to demand the long delayed settlement.
The ongoing petition at www.greece.org/blogs/wwii/ is receiving support and solidarity from people around the world (over 188,000 signatures by now), which proves the clamor for justice by the global community.
To preempt skeptics and critics, although presently Greece is suffering a temporary economic crisis, she should not relinquish her right to demand settlement and shouldn't be asked to resign from her obligation to seek justice for her people.
On October 1940, North-west Greece was attacked by Germany's ally, Italy, which was repelled by the Greek army. In April 1941, Germany came to Italy's rescue, invaded and occupied Greece for four years committing massive crimes against the people of Greece and total destruction of Greece's infrastructure.
At the end of WWII Greece had lost 13 percent of its population, more than 1700 villages and towns had been burned, most of their inhabitants had been executed by the German occupiers, and the country virtually resembled a pile of debris.
On top of that, while the occupied Greeks were dying by the thousands from starvation, Germany forced Greece to provide an onerous US $3.5 billion loan which still remains unpaid. Moreover, from the US $14 billion well documented claim for war damages presented by Greece at the Paris Conference in 1946, only US $7.1 billion were officially accepted, which remain unsettled until today.
Italy's Mussolini complained to his minister of foreign affairs Count Ciano "The Germans have taken from the Greeks even their shoelaces."
Despite the non-stop Greek efforts for settlement in 1945-47,1964-66, 1974, 1987 and 1995, Germany is systematically avoiding responsibility and delays the settlement. In 1964, German Chancellor Erhard promised settlement after the unification of Germany, which took place in 1990, but the settlement is still pending.
In the presence of the indefensible massive evidence, Germany has never denied or disputed the damages, but is systematically using artificial legal obstacles to delay settlement. On the other hand, the international legal system has failed to seal legal loopholes and has allowed injustice to be perpetuated.
A clear example is the case of Distomo (a town in central Greece) where on June 10, 1944 the German occupiers following their policy of brutal collective punishment, executed 218 civilians (men, women and children) as retribution for the killing of three Germans by the local guerrillas, even though the villagers had no relation with the resistance movements.
Decades later, a Greek court awarded restitution to Greek victims, but the German government pressed Greece politically to nullify that decision.
To enforce the decision by the Greek court, this case was brought before an Italian court where the judges awarded to the families of the victims the Villa Vigoni in Menaggio, Italy, a German government-sponsored non-profit foundation but the German government appealed the decision of the Italian supreme civil court at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) claiming State immunity.
After 15 years of trials, the ICJ slammed the relatives of the 232 Distomo victims in this case with the following catastrophic verdict: "Distomo victims cannot seize German property in Italy."
Unfortunately, the case of Distomo underscores the very serious defects in the fairness of the international justice system. With this verdict, the ICJ has set a scandalous discriminatory precedent contradicting its own rulings and moral authority when it prosecutes individuals for crimes they have committed in other countries, proven by the granting of state immunity to Germany for such massive crimes.
Clearly in the case of Germany the Court has used double standards. Observing the justifiable eagerness for prosecution of wrongdoers like Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, Omar al-Bashir, Charles Taylor, Uhuru Kenyatta and others, further demonstrates of how unfairly the Distomo and the rest of the Greek cases are treated by the international legal system.
Loosening the rigidity of the law and bending it to accommodate Germany's baseless arguments, it is equivalent to allowing a powerful nation to remove the blindfold from "Themis," the ancient Greek goddess, founder of justice, and replace her balanced scales of justice with a tilted one. In effect, the ICJ converted itself into a safe harbor for a powerful nation.
Germany, who claims to be a strong advocate of the rule of law, must accept responsibility, settle her obligations to Greece and close this dark chapter of her history. Failure to do so will be equivalent to leaving unattended the bleeding wounds it inflicted on Greece and will stain forever the history book of global justice.
The just resolution of the case of Distomo presented a legacy-setting opportunity to the international legal system to demonstrate the essence of justice by removing Germany's obstructionist technicalities in her effort to evade her responsibility for the war crimes committed against the people of Greece.
Only few months ago, three Mau-Mau Kenyan tribesmen, tortured by their British colonizers during the early 1950's, won a landmark case for compensations in English courts, while the Greek victims of Germany, despite the incontestable proofs of the damages, for the last sixty years are failing to obtain justice not only in the German courts, but also in the International Court of Justice.
- Register Now
- 2,000 Aussie babies born thanks to Greece
- Behind the scenes: Tom Koutsantonis
- Taking new orders
- The Lobster grabs the limelight at Cannes- wins Jury Prize
- Stylianos' 40 years of service
- Where is the Work and Holiday visa?
- Uber loses out in ATO crackdown
- Young professionals let their hair down
- Eurovision votes buck the trend
- Hollande Says Tsipras talks to pave way for Greece deal
- Cyprus pins hopes on Australian solar technology
- 2,000 Aussie babies born thanks to Greece
- Goody's coming to Oakleigh
- The Water Diviner slammed at US release
- 'The Greek islands rightfully belong to Turkey'
- SYRIZA and the end of modernisation in Greece
- 5th place for Guy Sebastian
- Breaking the ice through rowing
- Dancing till the end
- Greece confident for deal despite delay
While government spokesman Steffen Seibert insists Germany's position remains unchanged.
At the inaugural annual HACCI Young Professionals Network (HYPN) cocktail ball.
Melbourne Victory's Archie Thompson says he won't be hanging up his boots after the A-League final on Sunday.
AFL vs soccer: No one won in the Melbourne stadium wars.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has assured his ministers that an agreement can be reached with creditors by the end of the month.
Farewell to George Poulos, the man who made milkshakes in Summer Hill for 63 years.
Whether it's on the bench or in the starting line, Terry Antonis is coming back to the team. Will he make the difference against a feisty Adelaide United?
Greek Australian Dr Kostas Pantos is leading the way to make Greece an IVF hub and has helped thousands of Australians conceive despite the odds, including Mary Coustas.
Panathinaikos is now alone on top of the mini-league, vying for a Champions League spot.
Austin is being promoted as one of the premiere destinations in the United States for start-ups.
Artist Con Emmanuelle expresses his love for his mother in a short story, written before his mother developed dementia.
As a teacher, Eleni Athinodorou wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. Her wish came true when she found herself working for the Orthodox mission in Sierra Leone.
An acclaimed Greek photographer makes famous an ancient Greek tradition of Macedonia.
Frank Apostolopoulos has just celebrated 40 years of cutting hair in Northcote. He threw a big bash recently to say thanks to his loyal customers.
Trail-blazing personalities in the National Archives.
Greeks in the Australian diaspora are finding new ways to connect with their culture thanks to the internet.
Professor Anastasios M. Tamis launches Macedonian Hellenes in Oceania in Adelaide.
There were no reports of anyone missing.