In April of 1941 during the Second World War, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy invaded and occupied Greece and was separated into three occupation zones. Forty-thousand Greeks living in Athens died of starvation after the Hitler-led army quashed any sort of rebellion. This occupation lasted for three years until Germany and Bulgaria withdrew from the mainland. German garrisons did remain in control of Crete and other Aegean islands until the end of WWII when the Axis Powers surrendered to the Allies in June of 1945.
Both Athens and Berlin have been on cordial terms for decades, but the relationship has somewhat deteriorated, particularly since the financial structure of Greece collapsed. Now, the relationship could strain even further after the Greek government suggested it could seize German assets as part of compensation for the Nazi occupation.
Greek Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos first brought up the matter and presented the case that German property should be confiscated in order to pay for the damage done by Nazi troops and compensate victims of the war.
Additionally, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras concurred and accused Berlin of employing “legal tricks” to avoid paying WWII reparations.
“Germany has never properly paid reparations for the damage done to Greece by the Nazi occupation,” Tsipras said during a parliamentary debate (via CNBC). “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 added that the crimes perpetrated by the Nazi leadership remain “vivid” and “fresh in the memory” today and defended his government by arguing Greece maintains a “moral obligation to remember what the (German) forces did to the country.”
Paraskevopoulos told Greek television he was mulling over supporting a supreme court ruling that would eventually lead to the foreclosure of German assets across the country.
Reuters reported Wednesday that Germany has dismissed the recommendations and accusations. Germany contends that it has paid all war reparations.
Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told reporters that the issue of compensation and reparations has been resolved both legally and politically. “We should concentrate on current issues and, hopefully what will be a good future.”
In addition, Finance Ministry spokesperson Sigmar Gabriel noted there was really no need to initiate discussions regarding reparations because ultimately it would be a distraction from the present dire financial negotiations. Overall, according to Gabriel, the “likelihood is zero.”
This strife comes as the German government is weary about providing Greece with another bailout. Conservatives within the Merkel government, including the Christian Social Union (CSU) and Christian Democrats (CDU), feel that if the community extends Greece with a third bailout then it will continually come back for more without making any significant progress.
Some of the suggestions being put forward to turn around Greece’s fortunes include better preparing budgets, instituting officials to overlook tax evasion, improving welfare and energy to the country’s poorest families and launching an Office for Fiscal Responsibility to monitor the government’s policies.