“It’s the right thing to do for a history-conscious country like ours to consider what possibilities there might be for reparations,” German president Joachim Gauck stated last Friday, expressing his support for Athens’ demands regarding WW2 reparations for the Nazi occupation of Greece.
“We are not only people who are living in this day and age but we’re also the descendants of those who left behind a trail of destruction in Europe during World War Two – in Greece, among other places, where we shamefully knew little about it for so long,” Gauck added.
In April, Greece’s demand to receive 278.7 billion euros ($312 billion) in reparations was officially called “stupid” by Germany’s Minister of Economy and Vice Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel.
It was seen as a leeway out of the tough austerity measures Greece’s biggest creditor, Germany, is promoting.
Meanwhile, the country is reaching a record unemployment rate following its 240 billion euro international bailouts.
Gauck is not the only person to believe Greece may have a standing case against Germany, as only a 115 million Deutschmark payment was made to Greece in 1960.
Whilst the amount paid in compensation was a fraction of the present Greek demand, the Greek government at the time signed an agreement stating there would be no further claims.
The SYRIZA-ANEL Greek government is questioning the 1960 deal as the reparations did not include key demands for damaged infrastructure, war crimes and the return of a forced loan exacted during the Nazi occupation.
Greek Deputy Finance Minister, Dimitris Mardas, submitted an official demand of 278.7 billion euros on 6 April, based on calculations by Greece’s General Accounting Office.
Several legal officers agree that Germany should consider its historical responsibility to Greece, as Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reports.
Steffen Seibert, on the other had, made clear that German President Joachim Gauck’s statements were misinterpreted.
According to the government’s representative, Germany remains adamant in its views and there is no “opening” for a possible payment of WW2 reparations to Greece.
“Gauck’s interview made clear that the German presidency fully shares the legal view expressed by the government on this issue,” he highlighted, explaining that the president had referred to cooperation between Greece and Germany through various initiatives and institutions in Greece.
“Germany has recognised its responsibility for the victims of National Socialism, and wanted to further develop its bilateral relations with Greece in this spirit,” he added.
“The injustices of that period could not be cancelled out,” he said, “but 70 years after the end of the war and 35 years after Greece joined the EU, we want to look to the future together but do not want to forget the past.”