27 / 02 / 2010
“The German government must pay” wartime reparations to Greece for the 1941-44 Nazi occupation and the atrocities committed by the Nazi’s in the country during World War II, according to an eminent German professor of international law.Professor Norman Paech, who teaches International Law at Hamburg University, said in an interview in the German weekly periodical “Stern” that the German government was liable for compensation to the victims of the Nazi atrocities in Greece.“The German government must pay” wartime reparations to Greece for the 1941-44 Nazi occupation and the atrocities committed by the Nazi’s in the country during World War II, according to an eminent German professor of international law.
“The time has come for the German government to “declare its willingness to discuss, with the Greek government, the victims and their relatives, what can be done to make amends for the deeds of this dark chapter in Germany’s history”.
In the interview, appearing in the issue of Stern that hits the newsstands Thursday, Prof. Paech said that Germany must “reconcile itself with the idea” that a recent Greek supreme court ruling recognizing the competence of Greek courts to rule on demands for compensation over the Nazi atrocities “will have substantial consequences” as some 10,000 such lawsuits were outstanding, and the total compensation involved was tens of billions of deutschemarks.
The Areios Paghos (Greek Supreme Court) ruled on April 13 that Germany must pay compensation to Greek victims of Nazi oppression, upholding a 1997 decision by a court in the city of Livadia to award 9.45 billion drachmas (about 35 million dollars) compensation to relatives of persons killed in the Distomo massacre by German troops in World War II.
The ruling, which recognizes the competence of Greek courts to order Germany to pay compensation to victims of Nazi oppression, will allow individuals to file claims against Germany.
But Germany has refused to entertain the possibility of more compensation payments, saying that no private citizen can sue a state and that Germany has already paid blanket compensation under postwar reparations to Greece.
In 1960, Germany paid a total of 115 million German marks to Greek victims of Nazi racial discrimination. The relevant treaty signed between Germany and Greece did not, however, exclude other Greek citizens with claims from coming forward and seek compensation.
In a historical first visit by a German president, Johannes Rau visited the northern Peloponnese town of Kalavryta last month to commemorate the mass execution of 1,300 boys and men there by Nazi troops in 1943 in retaliation for the Greek Communist resistance groups’ execution of 81 German prisoners.
Paech, a respected lawyer who served as an advisor to the survivors and relatives of the Distomo massacre and is also well-known for his studies on the Kurdish issue — championing the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination and even secession from Turkey — stressed the moral dimension of the German war reparations to Greece.
He criticized the “arrogant stance” of all the German governments to date, regardless of political party composition, that have repeatedly refused to discuss the reparations issue with Greece.
“It is not only the money that the victims are concerned about, but also the German side’s acknowledgement of its responsibility for the crimes committed. The SS executioners, who executed 218 villagers (of Distomo) in retaliation against an attack by Greek guerrillas, still celebrate each year in Marktheinfeld (a town in Bavaria) their adventures in Greece and have still not given account for their deeds…” Paech said.
The time has come, he said, for the German government to “declare its willingness to discuss, with the Greek government, the victims and their relatives, what can be done to make amends for the deeds of this dark chapter in Germany’s history”.
The Helmut Kohl-Klaus Kinkel government in 1995 rejected a Greek diplomatic “note verbale” calling for the commencement of dialogue on the matter of the reparations, beginning with the repayment of a forced war “loan” exacted by the Nazi occupation forces during WWII. The same policy line was followed by the Gerhard Schroeder-Joskua Fischer government, which rejected a similar request, by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
On April 14, the day after the Supreme Court ruling, German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told the German parliament that the issue of the war reparations–which, under the German government’s rationale, includes the indemnities to the victims of the Nazi atrocities in Greece–was definitively closed.
But the German President, Johannes Rau, presented a different stance during his visit to Greece in early April, when he expressed “deep grief and shame” as he laid a wreath at the monument for the victims of the Kalavryta massacre. And in Thessaloniki, during a visit to the German School, Rau had said that, “as an ordinary citizen”, he believed that Germany should make a “symbolic gesture”, although he did not know whether the German government would make such a move.
Source: Athens News Agency, 27 April, 2000