Discussions are underway again by the Troika and the finance ministers of the European Union about additional sums to be allocated to cover Greek debt. In addition to the previous 'bail-outs' by the EU the continuation of the stringent austerity plans by the administering Troika have left Greece unable to continue to service its debts without further offsets of their indebtedness by the European Union. An important critic of Greece and its economic and budgetary policies has been the Government of Germany.
An important reason for Greece's penury, beyond Greek corruption and mismanagement over its economy in the post war years, is the failure of Germany to pay to Greece the money its owes Greece for is actions during the Second World War. German activity in Greece resulted in two kinds of debt - a massive program of crimes against humanity and mind-boggling barbarism by the German occupying forces against Greek civilians and villages and by taking money from Greece's Treasury as a forced loan to cover the costs of the German Occupation. Neither of these sums has been repaid to Greece. The Greeks have ended up paying for the German occupation during the war.
It might be useful to examine a few of the German attacks on the Greek people to understand the depth of German depravity in the 1940s. There ae many more.
The Massacres of Kondomari, Alikianos and Kardanos in Crete:
The first of these massacres occurred early in the war. On the second of June 1941 General Oberst Kurt Student ordered his paratroopers to execute all the male inhabitants of the town of Kondomari in Crete as punishment for opposing the German attack on the island two days earlier, where the local inhabitants fought alongside the 21st and 22nd New Zealand Infantry Battalion in defence of Crete. While the New Zealanders were treated a prisoners of war, the Germans decided to set an example to the Greeks. They gathered all the citizens of the town (men, women and children) and machine-gunned all the men; about 60 in all. They then razed the town and burned the fields. The next day the Germans killed another 180 residents of nearby Kardanos and slaughtered all the livestock; all houses were torched and razed Nearby villages such as Floria and Kakppetro a similar fate Two months after the first execution, the Germans gathered 118 more civilians at a bridge over the Keritis River near Alikianos and shot them after forcing them to dig their own graves. The commander of the paratroopers, Horst Trebes was awarded the Knight's Cross for his actions that day and General Student went before a British military tribunal after the war and was sentenced to five years in prison but was given a medical discharge so he had to serve no time. No reparations were ever paid for any of this despite a series of Greek appeals.
Greek Victims at Kondomari
The Viannos and Amari Massacres:
At the Cretan Resistance continued the Germans pursued their policy of atrocities against the civilian population of Crete. On September 14-16 1943 Lt.-General Friedrich-Wilhelm Mueller ("The Butcher of Crete") ordered the mass extermination of the civilians in twenty villages in the Viannos region of Crete. Over 500 civilians were killed in a two-day period and the villages were looted, burned and the crops destroyed. The German soldiers killed everyone over the age of sixteen. General Mueller was captured at the end of the war and tried and executed by the Greeks in 1947. No one else was tried for these killings and the German Government refused to pay any reparations. General Mueller also was held to be the man who commanded the Holocaust of Amari in Crete ion August 22, 1944 when German troops massacred 164 of the males in nine villages in the Amari region and razed and burned all the buildings, killed the livestock and destroyed the crops. Ne reparations have ever been paid.
The Massacres of Mousiotitsas, Kommeno and Lingiades:
On the 16th of August 1943 General Hubert Lanz whose troops were based in Phillipada in Epirus in Western Greece ordered his men to destroy the village of Kommeno, claiming the civilians had threatened two German officers. The Germans started off by massacring one hundred and fifty-three men, women and children between the ages of one to seventy-five in Mousiotitsas on July 25th because of the discovery of a cache of weapons near the village. They then moved to Kommeno. Under the command of Lt. Koviak the German soldiers arrived very early in the morning at the town of Kommeno and surrounded it. They blocked the roads, and erected machine guns at the entrances and exits of the village. The mountain troops then murdered anyone who could not flee: 317 people, 172 women and 145 men were killed. Ninety-seven were under fifteen years of age and fourteen were over sixty-five. Thirteen were only one year old. Thirty-eight people were burnt in their houses. One hundred and eighty-one houses were destroyed.. At the end of the slaughter, the German soldiers assembled in the town square where they ate their lunch and had their beers surrounded by the corpses of the civilians They left their the empty beer cans and rubbish next to the bodies.
Some of The Kommeno Victims
They then moved to neighbouring villages. Over 200 people were massacred. Among them were all those inhabitants of Lingiades who had not fled to the mountains. In this single village 87 civilians were killed, including year-old babies and old people over the age of ninety. Eventually General Lanz was tried at the Nuremburg Court and given a short sentence. When he left jail he became a prominent figure in post war Germany. No reparations were ever paid.
The Massacre at Kalavryta:
In December 1943, the German Army's 117th Jaeger Division led by General Karl von Le Suire ordered harsh and massive reprisal operations across the region for Resistance activity. He personally ordered killing of the entire male population of Kalavryta on 10 December 1943. Wehrmacht 'Kampfgruppe Ebersberger' troops burnt villages and monasteries and shot civilians on their way to Kalavryta.
When they reached the town they locked all women and children in the school and marched all males 12 and older to a hill just overlooking the town. There, the German troops machine-gunned them all down. There were only 13 male survivors. Over 500 died at Kalavryta. The survivors told their story of survival, saying that after the Germans machine-gunned the crowd, some falling bodies were covered by the dead. This way, when the Germans went through again to finish off those still alive, the few lucky ones escaped the coup-de-grace. The women and children managed to free themselves from the school and the town was set ablaze.
The following day the Nazi troops burnt down the Monastery of Agia Lavra, a landmark of the Greek War of Independence. In total, nearly 700 civilians were killed during the reprisals during Operation Kalavryta. Twenty eight communities - towns, villages, monasteries and settlements were destroyed. In Kalavryta itself about 1,000 houses were looted and burned and more than 2,000 livestock were seized by the Germans.
There is a contemporary video (in Greek) which illustrates the massacre:
Despite the fact that the Federal Republic of Germany has publicly acknowledged the Nazi atrocity at Kalavryta, war reparations have not been paid. On 18 April 2000, the then-president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Johannes Rau, visited the town of Kalavryta to express his feelings of shame and deep sorrow for the tragedy; however, he didn't accept responsibility on behalf of the German state and did not refer to the issue of reparations, As reparations, the federal Government of Germany has only offered free school books and scholarships for orphans of this particular massacre and they have also built a senior citizens home. To this day, Germany has yet to compensate the few survivors. Also, no German commanders, (e.g. Major Ebersberger who supervised the massacre and the destruction of Kalavryta and others like Hauptmann Dohnert who led the firing party), were ever brought to justice.
The Distomo Massacre:
On June 10, 1944, the Waffen-SS troops of the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division under the command of SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Fritz Lautenbach went to Distomo, a small Greek town near Delphi to punish the Greek civilians for supporting the Resistance. For over two hours they went door to door and massacred Greek civilians. A total of 214 men, women and children were killed in Distomo. According to the testimony of survivors the SS forces "bayoneted babies in their cribs, stabbed pregnant women, and beheaded the village priest."
In the case of Distomo, four relatives took the German Government to court in Livadeia, Greece. The court found in their favour on October 30, 1997 and awarded damages of 28 million Euros. In May 2000 the Greek High Court confirmed this decision which was being appealed by the Germans, but the plaintiffs could not enforce the judgement in Greece. They went to the German courts for enforcement.
The plaintiffs brought the case to court in Germany, demanding the aforementioned damages be paid to them. The claim was rejected at all levels of the German judicial system, citing the 1961 bilateral agreement concerning enforcement and recognition of judgments between Germany and Greece, and Section 328 of the German Code of Civil Procedure. Both required that Greece have jurisdiction, which it does not as the actions in question were sovereign acts by a state. According to the fundamental principles of international law, each country is immune from another state's jurisdiction[i]
In November 2008, an Italian court ruled that the plaintiffs could take German property in Italy as compensation that was awarded by the Greek courts.[ii] The plaintiffs were awarded a villa in Menaggio, near Lake Como, which was owned by a German state non-profit organization, as part of the restitution. In December 2008, the German government filed a claim at the International Court of Justice in The Hague against this action. The German claim was that the Italian courts should have dismissed the case under the international law of sovereign immunity.
In January 2011, the Prime Minister of Greece, George Papandreou, announced that the Greek Government would be represented at the International Court of Justice in relation to the claim for reparations by relatives of victims. In its 2012 final judgment, the court ruled that Italy had violated Germany's state immunity, and directed that the judgment by the Italian courts be retracted.[iii] In the end no reparation was ever paid.
Despite these massacres the Germans have not only not paid the reparations due but have fought in all the courts in Europe to absolve itself of any liability for it vicious and barbarous behaviour. During the German occupation of Greece more than 460 villages were completely destroyed and approximately 60,000 civilian men, women and children were massacred. Germany has refused to pay them the reparations it was adjudged to have owed these people.
The Ultimate Hypocrisy:
In addition to the Germans' refusal to pay any reparations for its actions in Greece the Germans have placed the cost of their occupation of Greece on the Greek people. During the war the Nazi Government forced the Greeks to make a loan to the Reichsbank to pay for the costs of occupation; about 500 million Reichsmarks .
After the Allied invasion and the collapse of the Nazi regime, the first thing the occupation authorities did was to block all kinds of claims by and against the German government, under the legal fiction that that the German government and the German state didn't exist anymore. Moreover any country wishing to receive Marshall Aid from the Americans under the Marshall Plan had to sign a waiver waiving all kinds of financial claims against Germany from World War II against Marshall Aid. This means that it would not be entirely blocked, but it would have to [be] put on hold until post-war Germany had paid off its Marshall Aid from the United States. In technical terms what that did was to make reparation and credit claims against Germany from World War II junior, second rank, lower in rank to Marshall Assistance to Germany. And since everybody wanted to get Marshall Aid from America, everybody grudgingly signed these waivers. So the situation during the Marshall Plan period was that all these debts still existed on paper, but they were worthless in the sense that the debt was blocked.[iv]
Since then the Germans have refused any claim for reparations. It was put most clearly by Helmut Kohl when pushed for an answer about Germany's debts. He said "look, we claim that we cannot pay reparations, because if we open this Pandora's box, then given the viciousness and brutality of Nazi warfare, the genocides - there were several genocides that the Nazis carried out - given these absolutely horrific facts and the unbelievable scale of these horrific crimes, any attempt to quantify this and translate it into claims against Germany will either come up with ridiculously low compensation or it is basically going to eat up all of Germany's national wealth." Germany has never budged from that position.
So, the Greeks are owed massive sums for reparations. They are owed massive sums for the forced debt the Nazis imposed on Greece to offset the costs of the Occupation. Now they are being hounded by the Germans to press on with an austerity program which will permanently enfeeble Greece and lead to tremendous social friction in the country. Surely it is now time for the Greeks to say that they will not pay a drachma to the new German economic gauleiters which have been impoverishing their country; that they will pay out of the massive sums accruing to it from Germany. If the Europeans ask there is only one sensible reply, st'arxidia mou.
[i] German Supreme Court: Distomo Massacre Case, BGH - III ZR 245/98 (June 26, 2003)." International Law In Brief, American Society of International Law. 25 July 2003.
[ii] "Greece to join Distomo trial". Kathimerini. 2011-01-12..
[iii] International Court of Justice Ruling." International Court of Justice 3 February, 2012.