German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected Greece’s plea for Berlin to deliver hundreds of billions of euros in reparations for the Nazi occupation of the country during World War II, declaring the question to be “legally and politically closed” in a comment to local media on Thursday.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis disagreed, however, insisting during a meeting between the pair that the issue was “not yet settled.” The Greek Ministry of Finance believes Germany owes at least €269 billion – part of which constitutes repayment of a loan Greece was forced to extend to the German Reichsbank while under occupation in 1942.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias revealed earlier this month that the issue of reparations “remains open” for both the government and Greek society, calling it “a matter of principle.”
Greek officials have been meeting with their Serbian and Turkish counterparts to draft a proposal, to be presented to the Council of Europe, on wartime reparations for Eastern European countries that have thus far been unable to secure what they believe is their due compensation for German war crimes.
Greece has been attempting to secure repayment of the forced loan since 1945, only to be rebuffed by Germany every time. Berlin has offered several arguments to explain why it does not need to repay the loan, from claiming its repayment was already settled in a previous treaty to alleging a previous PM had renounced the claim. Athens has dismissed all these arguments as invalid.
The Nazis invaded Greece in 1941 and remained there until 1944, leaving hundreds of thousands of Greek civilians dead – as much as 13% of the population, by some estimates. The occupying army conducted brutal massacres and razed entire villages while an estimated 40,000 Greeks died of famine exacerbated by the invaders’ confiscation of crops and other food supplies for themselves.
Germany has paid out tens of billions of euros in reparations to Israel and Poland since the end of World War II. The country declared the “question of reparations” for Poland concluded last month, arguing Poland had renounced its claim to further payouts in 1953, even as Warsaw demanded €1.3 trillion from its former occupier. Last month, Berlin even announced a €1.2 billion wartime reparations payment to Ukraine, though factions in that country collaborated with the Nazis during the war.