Category: War Debt

26 Sourmeli St., Chania, Crete

By , November 10, 2017 9:22 pm

This street corner in Chania is a living monument of Nazi barbarity.
Photos by Yannis Ikonomou.
Click image to enlarge and read the text.

Germany’s Moral Obligations

By , June 2, 2017 4:13 pm


President Trump and several of his administration’s officials have recently pointed out that Germany has been shirking its 2 percent of GDP defense budget target agreed to as recently as 2014. To be sure, Germany is not the only European nation which chooses to finance national defense on the cheap. Clearly, it is a great comfort to the Europeans that the United States watches their backs, while picking up the tab on roughly 22 percent of NATO’s expense budget.

As the largest economy on the continent, however, one might expect a less tightfisted commitment than the current 1.3 percent of GDP which Germany spends on defense. This is a puny sum indeed. In fact, on a per capita basis, Germany spends no more on defense than does the economic basket case that is Greece. Incidentally, as impoverished as the nation of Greece is, it is one of only four countries of the NATO alliance that does meet its 2 percent obligation.

The niggardly German defense budget has onerous security consequences: fewer than half of Germany’s fighter jets are able to fly their missions for lack of parts, and German soldiers are moved to hide their army’s lack of materiel by using broomsticks in lieu of non-existing heavy machine guns during war games. The German argument for its lack of financial commitment to NATO’s defense is as specious as it is creative. It goes something like this: national defense goes beyond military spending. Some types of development aid, the German government says, should count as defense spending. In a nutshell, this is a way of saying that the harboring of more than a million Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees is tantamount to protecting Europe’s borders!


It is curious that Germany’s apparent magnanimity does not extend to owning up to the disaster and carnage it caused with its aggressive militarism during the better part of the 20th century. Greece represents a tragic case in point.

During WW II, Greece lost more lives than the United States and the United Kingdom combined. Roughly, ten percent of the population of Greece – in excess of 500,000 souls – perished at the hands of the Butchers of Berlin largely through executions or the famine caused by the destruction of crop fields and animal stock. What is more, the Nazis looted Greek banks, took out sham loans, and confiscated all of the available gold, silver, nickel, and copper in the nation.

The Nazis destroyed houses, farms, public buildings, schools, hospitals, ports, canals, roads, train tracks, and bridges. Similarly, most Greek shipping and all telephone communications were destroyed. In addition, over 1,700 villages were burned to the ground many with the elderly, women, and children hunkered down in their infernal dwellings unable to escape. Beyond these atrocities, the Nazis appropriated much of Greece’s antiquities from a number of public and private museum collections as well as from archeological sites. German officers, and before them Italian soldiers of one stripe or another, had a field day boxing and crating antiquities which they then shipped back to their countries of origin. Antiquities which could not be carted off, were wantonly destroyed as to preclude any possible restoration.

The German devastation was so complete that Greece became devoid of the infrastructure, the institutions, and the systems, essential to properly function as a modern nation. In the aftermath of the war, Greece predictably descended into civil war, chaos, and more death. The de-Hellinization of the country was now complete.


It is clever double-dealing that Germany, in league with the Troika – the triumvirate of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank – dishes out a crippling dose of austerity and browbeats the small nation on the international stage to meet its loan commitments while it steadfastly refuses to acknowledge its own obligations. We have seen this movie before: Germany made its last payment to American claimants of WW I reparations in 2010.

In 2015, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dimitris Mardas, announced that Greece is owed roughly $305 billion according to calculations made by the country’s general accounting office. This is a sum that includes actual damages, interest, and inflation. This marks the first time the reparations claim has been formalized with such precision and it’s entirely credible. The Germans, of course, have scoffed at the notion that any monies are due inasmuch as there is no strict legal basis on which Greece can press its claim.

The key, however, is whether the Holocaust visited on the Greeks by its Nazi occupiers hinges on legal niceties or on the moral and ethical behaviors expected of civilized nations. Ironically, Germany was the principal beneficiary of moral largesse as approximately two-thirds of its war indebtedness, much of it provided by the Marshall Plan, was forgiven. If ever you wondered what explains the German economic “miracle” in the aftermath of the war this is a good place to start looking.

President Trump and his administration should not fall prey to Germany’s dilatory approach to meeting its financial commitments to NATO. If the Germans are not concerned about staring down the barrel of a Russian tank the United States should not be either.

Raul Pupo - Author (source)

Letter to Members of German Parliament

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By , June 9, 2014 1:01 pm

Letter sent to the members of the German Parliament. View in: German | English | Greek

Legal versus Moral Responsibility

By , May 30, 2014 8:59 pm

by Costas Tzanos, PhD.

On his three day visit to Greece starting March 5, 2014, the German president Joachim Gauck visited the village of Ligiades, near the town of Ioannina, where German troops massacred 92 of its 96 residents in 1943, and the Ioannina synagogue where he met the only two surviving members of the Jewish community from 1944, Esthir Cohen and Janet Sevi.

Over 90 villages and towns suffered the same fate as Ligiades during the German occupation of Greece from 1941 to 1944. Over 1 700 villages were looted and burned, many of them to the ground, as reprisals for the Greek resistance. The whole country was plundered and starved. During WWII Greece lost 13% of its population mostly from starvation and German war crimes.

Around 60 000-65 000 Greek Jews were deported to Auschwitz, most of them from Thessaloniki and Ioannina. In September 1944, only 2 469 Greek Jews were still alive in Auschwitz.

On March 25, 1944, 1 725 men, women, and children from the Jewish community of Ioannina were piled on trucks for the journey to Auschwitz – among them 17-year-old Esthir and her family. Less than 50 survived, among them Esthir and her sister.

Germany, in addition to charging Greece exorbitant sums as occupation expenses, obtained forcibly from Greece a loan (occupation loan) of $ 3.5 billion. Hitler himself had recognized the legal character of this loan and had given orders to start the process of its repayment.

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, awarded by the Paris Conference of 1946, 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” .

In an interview to the Greek newspaper Kathimerini and on the question of WWII reparations, president Gauck 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 nor relativize it… However, although many Germans are aware of the crimes in other countries, events in Greece escape them to a large degree. Education on … the persecution of Greeks is, in my opinion, the most important task in the immediate future.”

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. In response, 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.

It has been reported in the Greek press 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.”

On the issue of reparations to Greece and on the repayment of the occupation loan, as president Gauck said, the Germans are accepting “moral responsibility” and their “moral debt”. What do “moral responsibility” and “moral debt” mean here?

Accepting moral responsibility, as opposed to legal responsibility, means acceptance of blame or praise for taking or failing to take a moral action while there was no legal obligation to take this action. “For example, one who encounters a car accident may be regarded as worthy of praise for having saved a child from inside the burning car, or alternatively, one may be regarded as worthy of blame for not having used one’s mobile phone to call for help.”(… )

The Germans are accepting the moral blame (moral responsibility) for the war crimes committed during WWII in Greece, for the destruction of the country, and for the loan that they forcibly extracted. But 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 forced loan. This is not a moral obligations that can be satisfied by acceptance of moral blame.

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 (… ).

In 2010, Greece signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that specifies in detail the criteria to be met for the release of bailout funds. Since then German officials are consistently reminding to the Greeks their obligations arising from the MoU, which as Peer Steinbrueck, the last Social Democratic Challenger of Angela Merkel, said has imposed on Greece a “deadly dose of austerity”( since 2009 Greece’s GDP has dropped by 27 percent and unemployment has grown to 28%).

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 debt obligations, does not justice also require Germany to fulfill her legal obligations arising from the war reparations and the forced occupation loan?

Source: Posted in Daily Kos, April 22, 2014.

Wartime Reparations/Forced Loan Issue Remains Open

By , March 8, 2014 11:54 am

German president told wartime reparations/forced loan issue remains open

Karolos Papoulias in calls for talks to resolve outstanding wartime financial claims

German President Joachim Gauck (L) and President Karolos Papoulias - (Photo: AFP)

Updated At: 19:16 Thursday 6 March 2014
President Karolos Papoulias tells his German counterpart, Joachim Gauck, that Greece has never ‘ceded its claims’ over wartime reparations and the repayment of a forced loan from the Bank of Greece to Nazi Germany

Greece has never abandoned its claims for reparations for its occupation by Germany during the second world war or for the repayment of a forced wartime loan, President Karolos Papoulias has told his visiting German counterpart.

Speaking at a joint press conference following his meeting with Joachim Gauck at the presidential mansion, Papoulias said: “I raised the issue of German reparations and the occupation loan with President Gauck. I want to point out that Greece has never ceded its claims and it requests that talks to resolve the issue should commence at the earliest opportunity.”

In reply, Gauck, who is on a three-day visit, said that he could only express the official line of the German government on the matter.

“You know of course that I am a member of the federal government, and you know that I cannot offer any position other than the legal position taken by the German government. I cannot express another opinion. What I can do, however, and I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so today and tomorrow, when I will accompany you to your native city [in Ioannina] … is to find the right words to express Germany’s guilt for the people and the victims of that region.”

He added that he was honoured to be able to accompany Papoulias, who he described as “a fighter who fought against the barbaric invaders who inflicted so much suffering on the country”.

On Friday, the two heads of state will visit the village of Ligkiades outside Ioannina, the site of a massacre of 92 people by German troops on 3 October 1943, where the German president will lay a wreath.

He will also meet with representatives of Ioannina’s Jewish community. On 25 March 1944, the entire Jewish population, numbering 1,850 men, women and children, were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only 163 would survive.

Before his meeting with Papoulias, Gauck mentioned that the aim of his visit was to demonstrate solidarity with an historic place. “I would like to confirm the long-standing friendship between the two countries, which may have be overshadowed by recent incidents and discussions, but it still remains strong,” he said.

“I would like to talk with people on a different modern Germany, as the ties beteen the two peoples have a long history. This history yesterday was confirmed at the Acropolis,” the German president said.

“I want you to know, when I was 15, in what was then a communist and dictatorial East Germany, I learnt ancient Greek.”

Source: Enet