08 June, 2014
To: Members of German Parliament
Reference: War Reparations – Petition
During his three day visit to Greece starting March 5, 2014, the German president Joachim Gauck, in an interview to the Greek newspaper Kathimerini and on the question of WWII reparations, said: “During World War II, Greece suffered an especially violent German occupation…. Greek Jews were systematically exterminated, and Greeks were shot, hanged, killed in a brutal manner, and many Greeks died of hunger. This … burdens us with a particular responsibility…I would not like to discuss the legal issue of reparations, but allow me to say this: We do not want to deny our moral responsibility … However, although many Germans are aware of the crimes in other countries, events in Greece escape them to a large degree.”
War reparations awarded at the Paris Conference of 1946 were deferred by the London Agreement of 1953 “until the final settlement of the problem of reparation.” Greece has demanded payment of the war reparations, as well as of the forced occupation loan, in 1945, 1946, 1947, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1974, 1987, and 1995. Germany has steadfastly refused payment. German officials make public statements like: “there is no legal base for Greece to claim reparations from Germany. The legal reasons are complex and I would not like to elaborate..”; “as Germans we always accepted our moral responsibility for what happened in Greece”; “the question of war reparations is no longer an issue” ; “this matter has been resolved long ago”. No specifics are provided on what, when, and for what has been paid.
The London Agreement of 1953 dealt not only with the WWII reparations, but also with reparations due from WWI, which had been cancelled by Hitler. Germany made its last payment to American claimants of WWI reparations on October 3, 2010, nearly 92 years after the end of this war.
The president of Greece, Karolos Papoulias, raised the pending issue of war reparations and the repayment of the occupation loan with the visiting German president. President Gauck acknowledged that Germany carried a “moral debt” for massacres committed by German soldiers in anti-guerrilla reprisals, but reiterated that Germany was not willing to discuss reparations. “I believe the legal way for it is closed,” he said, but he did not explain, although this issue has been raised repeatedly the last few years in the Greek, German, and international press.
It has been reported that president Papoulias responded to president Gauck that it was “a paradox” that Greeks are saddled with painful austerity measures and commitments while Germany refuses to discuss “responsibilities” arising from WWII. “Your position that ‘there is no issue’ is something that you claim. It cannot be unilaterally projected as a final conclusion.”
Payment of the reparations and of the occupation loan is a legal obligation dictated by the Agreement of the Paris Conference of 1946 and the London Agreement of 1953, as well as by the contractual provisions of the loan. This is not a moral obligation that can be satisfied by acceptance of moral blame.
One of the fundamental principles of justice is that of symmetry. As president Papoulias alluded to president Gauck, while Germany demands from Greece to fulfill its obligations, does not justice also require Germany to fulfill her legal obligations arising from the war reparations and the occupation loan?
We would greatly appreciate your support of our effort to resolve this pending issue of justice between the peoples of Germany and Greece. Over 200 000 Greeks and people from all over the world have signed our petition which is posted with the signatures at http://www.greece.org/blogs/wwii/ and requests the German government to honor its long-overdue obligations to Greece by repaying the forcibly obtained occupation loan, and by paying the World War II reparations awarded to Greece by international agreements.
Constantine Tzanos, PhD
For the Forum of Hellenic Professors and PhDs