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Germany Still Paying Pensions to Spanish Fascists Who Fought With the Wehrmacht (But Nothing for Greece)

It was the second week of October when the bombshell came in Spain: Germany is still today paying pensions to the Spanish fascists who fought alongside the Wehrmacht at Stalingrad! As a result of this revelation, suddenly one after the other almost all the Spanish newspapers spent weeks unearthing the painful past and devoted a number of articles to the infamous Division Azul (Blue Division)  and its 37,000 volunteers who 73-74 years ago, with the blessing of the dictator Franco, fought in Russia alongside the Wehrmacht in order to help Nazi Germany in its efforts to wipe out… Bolshevism!

The person responsible for this unexpected return to a past that was thought to be exorcised is Andrej Hunko, a Die Linke member of the German Parliament, who has exposed this scandal with his initiative to demand an explanation from Chancellor Merkel. Knowing the campaign that our friend Andrej has been fighting in defense of the rights of the Greek people, we dare say that his primary motivation in raising these questions to the German government was to reveal to the general public not one but rather two scandals: not just the blatant payment by the German state of pensions to the Spanish fascists but also another, less visible: that of the continuing refusal of the German state to compensate the Greek victims of Nazi atrocities.

Unfortunately, the news that the German government is paying Spanish fascists who fought alongside the Nazi army (1) at the same time that it stubbornly refuses to pay compensation to Greeks slaughtered by the same Nazi army, does not seem to have caused any uproar in Greece, either in government circles or in the Greek media. There has been no reaction, and worse still, absolutely no attempt to inform Greek public opinion. Just a total and deafening silence…

Yet this scandal of scandals cannot be allowed to remain unanswered. Since it concentrates and combines in itself all the problems of our time – a nightmare from the past with a present and a future no-less threatening – it is up to all those Greek, German and Spanish citizens who feel directly concerned to give it the follow-up it deserves. And the first step in this direction is the interview that follows. By giving the floor to Andrej Hunko we hope that, this time, the wall of silence will be broken and a suitably powerful reaction will be heard…

 

Yorgos Mitralias: Would you like to remind us what have been your parliamentary questions addressed to the German government concerning the pensions it still pays to Spaniards veterans of the Division Azul? And what has been the official answer of the German government?

Andrej Hunko: We asked the German Government about payments to former members of the “Blue Division” regarding the amount paid and the number of people that receive payments. We wanted to know how much Germany is paying to those Nazi-collaborators today and how that amount evolved since the underlying contract was signed in 1962 and ratified in 1965.

The answers brought to light that Germany is still today paying more than 100.000 Euros a year to 41 former members of the Blue Division and nine surviving dependents. It is very likely that the amount was much higher before, because the deployment of the Blue Division was more than 70 years from today and many of the fighters have died. But the Government didn’t give exact numbers for the whole period of time. It will take some investigation in the public archives to get the exact figures.

The Government also told us that it has no intentions to bring those payments to an end.

Y.M.: We know now that the agreement to pay pensions to Blue Division veterans was made in 1962 between the Federal Republic of Germany (Adenauer Government) and Franco’s government which, in exchange, agreed to do the same with veterans of the bloody Condor Legion, responsible for many war crimes during the Spanish civil war. Now, just a few days after the 40th anniversary of the death of Franco (20th November 1975), it would be useful to remember that the same Franco regime that made the agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany in 1962, gave shelter to famous Nazis like Otto Skorzeny or Leon Degrelle till their death.(2) Do you think that the 1962 agreement is emblematic of the “elective affinities” existing between Franco’s regime and the postwar Federal Republic?

Andrej Hunko: I think that is a valid assumption. But not only does it reflect the relations between post-Nazi Germany and the fascist Franco regime; I think it can also be seen as a representation of the continuity of Nazi personnel in the public administration, the armed forces, and the secret services in Germany. In many cases there was no or very limited denazification and even rank and file positions were filled with high ranking Nazis in some cases. One of the most famous cases, to name an example, was Reinhard Gehlen who founded the Federal Intelligence Service BND.

Seen from that point of view, it no real surprise that the German Adenauer Government signed such a contract with Franco’s Spain. But of course that doesn’t make it less repulsive.

Y.M.: What has been the impact in Germany of your parliamentary questions and of the answer of the German government?  Were there any reactions linking this scandalous case with the permanent refusal of the German governments to pay war reparations to Greeks victims of Nazi atrocities?

Andrej Hunko: Of course we tried to make that link in our comments about the Government’s answers. For me it’s a scandal that that until today Germany has refused to pay reparations and indemnifications to the victims. Even the forced loan that Hitler’s Germany imposed upon Greece during the occupation hasn’t been paid back. And if we take a look at the justifications that the German ministry for external affairs has used not to pay, it’s outrageous.

On the other hand, people that voluntarily fought side by side with the German Wehrmacht in the war of extermination in Eastern Europe are still today receiving payments from Germany. That is incomprehensible for me.

But the reactions in German media were quite limited. The answers of the Government were reported, but there was no huge debate about the topic. I think the reaction in the Spanish media was more notable. One reason might be that the end of the fascist dictatorship in Spain is much closer than in Germany.

Y.M.: What about giving follow-up to this scandal by associating Greeks, Spaniards and German activists as well as social movements? Do you think that it would be useful and possible to take such an initiative?

Andrej Hunko: Yes, definitely. One first step we made on a parliamentary level was to take the issue to the European Parliament in cooperation with Josu Juaristi Abaunz from the Basque Country who is member of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left Parliamentary Group (GUE/NGL). Right now we are still trying to gather more data about payments to fascist volunteers and the absence of that kind of recompense to victims of the war and the occupation. But I think that it would be a great symbol of internationalist solidarity to associate those cases and people – and it might help to finally do justice to those who suffered from the fascist tyranny or fought against it.

Notes

1 See (in Greek): http://contra-xreos.gr/arthra/928-1936-2015.html

2 Otto Scorzeny was an officer of the Waffen-SS known for his audacious missions, one of which has been the rescue of Mussolini from imprisonment after his overthrow in 1943. Leon Degrelle was the founder and leader of the Belgian fascist movement REX before leading the “Walloon Legion” which fought in Russia alongside the Wehrmacht. 

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Yorgos Mitralias is a founding member of the Greek Committee Against the Debt, which is affiliated to the international network of CADTM.

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