German president considering World War II reparations for Greece

German President Gauck calls for Greek reparation claims to be examined

Updated Jul 28, 2015

German President Joachim Gauck has said he is considering Greece’s demand for reparations for damages caused during the Second World War.

Speaking to German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Gauck said he understands Greece’s compensation claims, and called on his country to examine the demands.

"We are not only people who are living in this day and age but we're also the descendants of those who left behind a trail of destruction in Europe during World War Two - in Greece, among other places, where we shamefully knew little about it for so long," Gauck said.

"It's the right thing to do for a history-conscious country like ours to consider what possibilities there might be for reparations."

According to figures presented by the Greece's Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas last month, Germany owes the country up to €287.7 billion in reparations, €10.3 billion of which are for forced loans taken by the Nazis.

Greek governments and private citizens have pushed for war damages from Germany for decades but the Greek government has never officially quantified its reparation claims.

Germany has repeatedly rejected Greece's claims and says it has honored its obligations, including a 115 million deutschmark payment to Greece in 1960.

German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel dismissed the demands as "stupid," but a number of German lawmakers from the Social Democrat (SPD) and Green parties have supported the payment of reparations

"We should make a financial approach to victims and their families," Gesine Schwan, a respected member of the Social Democrats (SPD) who share power with Merkel's conservatives, told Spiegel Online.

"Victims and descendants have longer memories than perpetrators and descendents."

SPD deputy chairman Ralf Stegner, representing the party's left, also told Spiegel Online reparations should not be linked to the euro crisis, "but independently, we must have a discussion about reparations."

Meanwhile, Greens co-leader Anton Hofreiter said the issue could not be brushed off as it was "neither morally nor legally closed."

Last month, Greek Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos warned German property could be seized by the government in compensation for wartime atrocities after the chamber unanimously approved a motion to reactivate a special committee examining the issue.

The issue of reparations was originally brought up by former Greek President Karolos Papoulias, who asked President Gauck to begin repaying Greece during his visit to Athens last year.

At the time, Gauck replied saying the “the legal route is closed,” in reference to certain provisions in the 1990 "Treaty on the Final Settlement with respect to Germany," also known as the "Two plus Four Treaty," which prevents Greece from making further claims for damages.

Under the terms of the treaty, which was signed by the former states of West and East Germany and the four World War II allies just before German reunification, the four powers renounced all rights they formerly held in Germany.

For Berlin, the document, also approved by Greece among other states, effectively drew a line under possible future claims for war reparations.

Germany thus denies owing anything more to Greece for World War II after the 115 million deutsche marks it paid in 1960, one of 12 war compensation deals it signed with Western nations.

But Athens has said it always considered that money as only an initial payment, with the rest of its claims to be discussed after German reunification.

TRTWorld and agencies