After an unprovoked attack, a bloody invasion followed by the collapse of the heroic resistance of the Greek armed forces, a devastating occupation with numerous mass executions in every part of the country by Germany’s Nazi forces and despite almost seventy years of constant demands for the settlement of reparations, Germany denies anew her long overdue obligations to Greece.
In a recent visit to Greece, German President Joachim Gauck stood witness at the Lingiades village massacre memorial in north-western Greece, one of the numerous such sites erected in memory of the victims of that illegal invasion and occupation, which resulted in massive executions, death by famine and total devastation of the entire country of Greece
In denying recognition of the legitimate demands of Greece for the reparations, all Mr Gauck could say to the families of the victims was to shamelessly ask them for forgiveness and reiterate that Berlin would not be issuing any further reparation payments.
In October 1943, German soldiers under Adolf Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship wiped out the entire village, located in Greece’s northwest, killing more than 90 civilians. The motive for the obliteration of Lingiades was revenge for the assassination of a German commander.
“With shame and pain I ask in the name of Germany the families of the victims for forgiveness … I bow in front of the victims for this monstrous crime,” Gauck said after laying a wreath at a memorial site. “We have to do everything in our power so that what happened is not forgotten.”
The end of that ugly war and occupation found Greece with almost 13 per cent of the total population lost, forced to provide a US$ 3.5 billion loan to the occupiers despite the fact that Greeks were dying of famine in the streets of Athens by the thousands every day, with the entire country in a pile of debris.
Of the total US$ 14 billion estimated damages for reparations presented at the Paris Conference in 1946, only US$ 7.1 billion were accepted and remain unpaid today, together with the US$ 3.5 billion occupation loan.
All these claims are fully documented, never denied by Germany and cannot be brushed aside or be erased with a Berlin made eraser.
Greeks are not demanding anything more than what is legitimately due to them, and while they are pursuing peacefully their cases through international accepted legal means, in fairness to all concerned, they do not object to a transparent public accounting, in full view of the global media and representatives from the international community.
Efforts by Germany to evade responsibility to rectify the injustice committed against the Greek people have even reached the point of providing the silly and baseless argument of saying that, if the Europeans didn’t force Germany to pay reparations for WWI, probably they could not have started WWII. Using the same argument of not forcing Germany to pay the reparations in order to avoid WWIII, it lacks logic and credibility. In fact this reasoning is equivalent to pure blackmailing and similar to “stop demanding from us to pay for our crimes or else we will start another world war”.
Adding insult to injury, when Greek citizens presented the German president with the decades old petition – a reminder of long overdue obligations, to the disappointment of the petitioners he reiterated: Berlin was not willing to discuss reparations. I believe the legal way for it is closed.
The answer of the Greek people to the German president, as well as to all those who are supporting this injustice is: Greece has a huge responsibility to deliver final justice to the victims and will never allow any legal technicality to acquit Germany of this obligation. The unprovoked war against the Greek people, the atrocities, plundering, executions and the devastation all over the country had lasting effects on every aspect of Greek people’s lives, the consequences of which are felt even today.
If a survey was taken today, 70 years after the end of the occupation, probably 90 per cent of Greek families would report in more than one way that their life was negatively affected by the war and almost everyone would have a painful story to tell about a loved one who fell victim to the German atrocities.
Germany knows well that the demands of Greece are not based on mere allegations because all the claims are fully documented and supported with indisputable evidence.
Therefore we appeal to every justice loving German to abandon the unproductive path of non-cooperation which until now has produced only negative results, and join Greece’s quest to resolve this historic injustice in a friendly and civilised manner.
We are also appealing to the international community to join the legitimate battle of Greece to obtain justice for the victims through the fair application of the Rule of Law. Attempts to dismiss or diminish the rights of the victims must be condemned by every member of our society. The German president, Mr Gauck, must not forget that the same memorials which he visited in Greece recently will be also visited by future German officials and he cannot afford to leave the stain of injustice on these memorials.
Equally, Greeks urge every peace and justice loving person of the world to show respect to the Greek victims who have been crying for justice in their graves for seventy long years and to avoid associating this issue with the present financial condition of the Greek economy. The victims were not part of this crisis and if they had not been executed in their peaceful towns and cities at that time, they would be continuing to help the Greek economy and probably Greece today could be in a much better financial situation than many other European countries.
Country-loving Greek volunteers dedicated time and effort to organise a demand for justice petition and they are inviting all of us to click here www.greece.org/blogs/wwii/ and offer support to the Greek victims.
*Ilias Sourdis is a freelance Greek expatriate and businessman. He has lived outside Greece since 1976 – with most of his experience in Asia.