Secret Athens Report: Berlin Owes Greece Billions in WWII Reparations

By Georgios Christidis in Thessaloniki

Details of a Greek report on the amount of World War II reparations still owed by Germany leaked to the press over the weekend. Zoom
REUTERS

Details of a Greek report on the amount of World War II reparations still owed by Germany leaked to the press over the weekend.

A top-secret report compiled at the behest of the Finance Ministry in Athens has come to the conclusion that Germany owes Greece billions in World War II reparations. The total could be enough to solve the country's debt problems, but the Greek government is wary of picking a fight with its paymaster.

The headline on Sunday's issue of the Greek newspaper To Vima made it clear what is at stake: "What Germany Owes Us," it read. The article below outlined possible reparations payments Athens might demand from Germany resulting from World War II. A panel of experts, commissioned by the Greek Finance Ministry, spent months working on the report -- an 80-page file classified as "top secret."

Now, though, the first details of the report have been leaked to the public. According to To Vima, the commission arrived at a clear conclusion: "Greece never received any compensation, either for the loans it was forced to provide to Germany or for the damages it suffered during the war."

The research is based on 761 volumes of archival material, including documents, agreements, court decisions and legal texts. Panagiotis Karakousis, who heads the group of experts, told To Vima that the researchers examined 190,000 pages of documents, which had been scattered across public archives, often stored in sacks thrown in the basements of public buildings.

The newspaper offered no concrete figure regarding the possible extent of reparation demands outlined in the report. But earlier calculations from Greek organizations have set the total owed by Germany at €108 billion for reconstruction of the country's destroyed infrastructure and a further €54 billion resulting from forced loans paid by Greece to Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944. The loans were issued by the Bank of Greece and were used to pay for supplies and wages for the German occupation force.

Bad Time to 'Pick a Fight'

The total sum of €162 billion is the equivalent of almost 80 percent of Greece's current annual gross domestic product. Were Germany to pay the full amount, it would go a long way toward solving the debt problems faced by Athens. Berlin, however, has shown no willingness to revisit the question of reparations to Greece.

Athens too is wary of moving ahead with the demands. The government sees the report as being particularly sensitive due to the fear that it could damage their relations with Europe's most important supplier of euro-crisis aid.

The Greek public, however, has a different view. To Vima reflected the feelings of many by arguing that "the historical responsibility now falls on the three-party coalition government. It should publish all the findings and determine its position on this sensitive issue, which has detonated like a bomb at a time we are under extreme pressure from our lenders."

But political analysts believe that the Greek government is disinclined to raise the issue with Germany. The official government position, most recently expressed by deputy finance minister Christos Staikouras, is that Greece considers the issue open and "reserves the right … to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion."

The report is no longer in the hands of Finance Ministry officials. It was delivered in early March to Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulous and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. "It will be a top level, political decision regarding how to use it, and Mr. Samaras will be the one to decide," a senior government official told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "This is no time to pick a fight with Berlin."

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1. I welcome all the international readers to this blog
robert kaszinski 04/08/2013
in the following we will see a series of attempts by German readers to reduce the credibility of this report by pointing to the Greek debt crisis. The participants of this forum will completely miss the point that the war reparations refer only to €108 billion and there is an additional amount of €54 billion resulting from forced loans paid by Greece to Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944. They participants believe that no war reparation needs to be based as they are going to refer to the "Two Plus Four Agreement", (in German: Zwei-plus-Vier-Vertrag), which is a contract between Germany, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Sadly, they miss totally the point that Greece was neither a party of this contract or ratified it. I hope you will enjoy this series of amusing comment.
2. Greek Myths
stevej8 04/08/2013
This claim is nonsense. The damage in Greece was caused by all combatants, and charging occupation costs is standard, the Allies did it in Germany after the war, billions per year. Italy and Bulgaria also occupied large parts of Greece, and indeed Italy was the first to invade, against Hitler's wishes at the time. British forces also arrived in Greece before German troops did, and the British blockade played a main role in the subsequent conditions. Greece later received large sums of money from the US which had itself stripped Germany of billions worth of assets, and has subsequently received over 30 billion Euros from Germany in the form of EU subsidies, along with payments for forced labourers, as well as the German share of the 100 billion Euro private debt writeoff to Greece. Greece has borrowed (and spent) the money it now owes from people who had nothing to do with the events of the war, and who lent in good faith, at modest rates, and to seek to wriggle out of further repayment with such arguments is pure bad faith and confidence trickery.
3. Further investigation often falsifies first opinion.
Constantinos 04/27/2013
"Bad faith and confidence trickery" are words too heavy without specific documentation. War reparations and forced war loan have nothing to do with subsidies given to Greece by USA or EU. No Greek politician has refrained from such claims. The issue can be assessed in an international court of justice and is natural to emerge again now that Greece badly needs money. The forced war loan concerns extra funds beyond those for normal military occupation in second world war. Relevant official documentation is available. How can Germany deny it? Probably Mr Soible did not know all relevant data, when he said that there was no hope for the Greek side. War reparations (for Greece and certain nations)is a different issue, frozen after London Agreement (1953). It would be negotiated after reunification of Germany. Thus time counts from 1990 on, claim period has not expired. Issue is quite complex, besides Germany is not willing at all to open it. Germany has only given 115 million DM for Greek Jus victims. Messrs L Erhart and A Papandreou spoke of a much bigger amount (1965). Above is known from Greek mass media. Opinions of Professors H Fleischer and Norman Paech, among others, would be interesting to read. If there is more specific data on the subject, let it be known. A Greek proverb says "sincere bills make good friends". EU cannot have real unity without justice beyond local interests. Greece may start claims from Germany, but all pending issues between member nations should be resolved.
4. erratum in previous post by Constantinos
Constantinos 04/29/2013
Please read "Greek Jew victims", instead of "Greek Jus victims".
5. It is all incalculable
ochreface 05/06/2013
All nations suffered incalculable losses as a result of WW2. For example: No one can say how much the attack and consequences cost Poland, and no one can calculate the value of the German territory 'annexed' which is now part of Poland. It is always the victor, as they say, who writes the history... That is to say, it is never fairly written from the point of view of the vanquished. In any case, there is an insurmountable problem ahead if one would try to settle all the accounts from the suburbs of Hiroshima to the factories of Stalingrad. It simply isn't possible. This war, and all wars before and since, are monumental tragedies in the history of mankind. Secondly, there is a difference in the culpability of those in power and those who simply live somewhere - the people of nations. If Assad of Syria had to fire a missile tomorrow which destroyed a city in Greece, it would not mean that a Syrian girl born in twenty years from now would have to pay taxes deducted from her wages for that city to be rebuilt. Assad is a dictator, not a nation. The Germans as a nation do not owe anyone anything. It is time to stop milking the WW2 cow and move on. And best move on in such a way as to do our collective best as decent civilised people around the world, to prevent such horrors and injustice from ever occurring again. Anywhere. Regarding the current financial problems of Greece, we should remember that it is not the fault of the Greek people, but of certain Greek politicians and officials. Everyone knows they borrowed money they did not really plan (therefore intend) to pay back. That is actually just good old plain fraud. Some people call it creative accounting, some a strategy, some misrepresentation, but at the end of the day, it is, simply, stealing. Now there is a wider problem, because these (Greece's) financial problems affect other nations. So what do they do? They turn around and say...either you give us more money, or we go down and drag you with us. Lovely, isn't it? Not, "Sorry, we borrowed money from you and we are struggling to pay it back, but we will sell our car and pay you asap..." The Greek politician now wants to sell someone else's car to pay the money back...the man on the street of Athens' car. Who would ever want to lend money to such a person again? Germans happen to have been working really hard for a very long time, from scratch almost, to build the economy they have today, and Germany finds herself to be the country most likely to foot the major portion of the bill for Greece's financial rescue. After all the lies and/or deception from certain Greek politicians in power, Germany merely asks for a 'guarantee', an assurance which does not merely amount to words only (like several times before), that this time the money borrowed will in fact be repaid. For this, the Germans are vilified, their leading politician portrayed as a Nazi on placards in Greece. It is ridiculous. Is it not time for the people on the streets of Athens to ask their own politicians a few questions? What about a placard or three depicting a Greek politician dressed as a thief? Come on people of Greece! We know it isn't your fault. Elect some honest people, and fix your own house. Neither the German taxpayer, nor anyone else, should have to pay for the 'crime' (you wouldn't either, would you?). Admit that it was your own leaders (elected, I might add) who got you into this mess - and roll up your sleeves, it is time to get to work, you have an economy to rebuild, and I would suggest welcoming German tourists may be a good start.
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