Why Germany Should Pay Reparations to Greece

In 1960, the then Federal Republic of Germany paid Greece 115 million Deutschmarks on account of compensation for Nazi crimes. Greek governments stated that this was only a fraction of what is due on account of loss of life, damaged infrastructure, and the repayment of a forced loan the Nazis extracted on Greece in 1942. Recent statements by leading German politicians seem to indicate that reparations are now a possibility. Both the law and fairness suggest payment is the right thing to do

On February 8, 2015, Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeared in front of the Greek parliament, officially demanding Germany’s payment. Tsipras spoke about Athens’s “historical obligation” to claim reparation from Germany for the death and destruction resulting from Germany’s occupation of Greece. “Greece has a moral obligation to our people, to history, to all European peoples who fought and gave their blood against Nazism,” he added.

Greece’s claims, allegedly amounting to some $303 billion, have been recognized by the Greek and Italian highest courts, as well as by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Yet, collecting such debt is obstructed by Germany’s immunity of jurisdiction, a principle of international law impeding under most circumstances for a country to sit in judgment for the misdeeds of another.  But it is the historical and political legitimacy of the claim what counts, beyond the plausible legal arguments that support the claim for reparations.

Greece’s demands stand on two different factual grounds. In 1942, the occupying Nazi regime forced the Greek Central Bank to loan Nazi Germany 476 million Reichsmarks at 0% interest. On October 3, 1943 Nazi soldiers murdered 92 people, including 34 children, in the city of Liguiades. In June 1944, Nazi troops slaughtered 281 men, women and the elderly at Diostomo, a small town near Delphi.

The rule that a State’s violation of international humanitarian law is a compensable wrong constitutes a long-standing principle of customary international law, crystallized in the 1907 Hague Convention (IV) and its Additional Protocol I. This long-standing principle has been put into practice in numerous post-conflict settlements, subsequently codified in the Draft Articles on State Responsibility as an international obligation “to compensate for the damage caused…insofar as such damage is not made good by restitution.” Numerous official statements and a good a number of resolutions by the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly have confirmed its binding force.

Germany argues that the 1990 Two-Plus-Four Agreement, a treaty concluded between  both Germanies immediately prior to German reunification and  the former Allied countries (United States, Great Britain,France and Russia) had put a formal end to all WWII claims for reparations against united Germany. Greece disagrees, asking for discussions between Greece and unified Germany. Even if Greece’s total claims are not accepted, Germany should not refuse to engage in further discussions, seeking an acceptable settlement. This is also Germany’s historical obligation, which is also morally owed to the millions of Germans still seeking to close this still inconclusive chapter of their past.

As German President Joachim Gauck stated recently, “We are descendants of those who, during WWII, left a path of destruction, in Greece, among other places. Something that, to our shame, we ignored for a long time.”

Dr. Cesar Chelala is the co-author of “Missing or Dead in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims,” a New York Times Magazine cover story, for which he shared an Overseas Press Club of America award. Dr. Chelala is the foreign correspondent for the Middle East Times International (Australia).

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring