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Greece to demand WWII reparations from Germany

March 10, 2015

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has accused Germany of using "legal tricks" to avoid paying World War II reparations. Germany has repeatedly said it has honored all of its obligations resulting from the war.

German soldiers raise Nazi flag at Acropolis
Image: cc-by-sa/Bundesarchiv/Bauer

Greece announced Tuesday it is moving forward with a demand to seek World War II reparations from Germany, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused Berlin of avoiding repayment of damages stemming from the Nazi occupation.

"Germany has never properly paid reparations for the damage done to Greece by the Nazi occupation," Tsipras told the Greek parliament Tuesday. "The crimes carried out by the Nazis are still vivid, and we have a moral obligation to remember what the forces did to the country."

"After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the legal and political conditions were created for this issue to be solved. But since then, German governments chose silence, legal tricks and delay," Tsipras said.

Berlin, for its part, has said repeatedly that the question of war reparations was legally settled in the treaty that unified Germany in 1990, and that it has already honored all of its war obligations with a payment of 115 million deutschmarks (59 million euros) to Greece in 1960.

But Tsipras contends the 1960 payment only covered compensation for the individual victims of Nazi horrors, not the structural damage caused by the Nazi occupation of Greece from 1941-1944.

The 1990 settlement, Tsipras said, "does not include a forced loan given to the Nazis by Greece's central bank or the destruction of the country's infrastructure and economy at the time."

A Greek flag in front of the German Bundestag
Berlin has repeatedly rejected Greek demands to pay WWII reparations, saying it has honored its obligationsImage: Reuters

Greece is seeking 160 billion euros in compensation to cover the loan and damages resulting from the occupation.

The Greek prime minister's comments come as his debt-stricken nation struggles to renegotiate the terms of a $240 billion euro ($260 billion) bailout, and are likely to raise tensions between Greece and Germany.

The demand for reparations was first launched by Greece's previous conservative government in 2013, but it was never followed up on. The movement to seek compensation for World War II crimes has gained momentum in the wake of harsh austerity measures imposed on Greece under its international bailout deal.

Germany, as the eurozone's largest economy, funds the largest part of the Greek bailout package.

bw/gsw (Reuters, dpa)