Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, referring to Nazi Germany’s four-year occupation of Greece and a forced war-time loan during World War II that saddled the Greek economy in huge debt, wants Berlin to pay reparations.
Tsipras, leader of the anti-austerity Syriza party, said Athens had a “historical obligation” to claim from Germany billions of euros in reparations for the physical and financial destruction committed during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Greece.
Beyond the historical obligation, he said Greece had “a moral obligation to our people, to history, to all European peoples who fought and gave their blood against Nazism,” he said in a keynote address to parliament on Sunday.
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The Greek leader’s comments have resonated far beyond Athens as they place the issue of his country’s recent massive bailout at the behest of international creditors in a whole new light.
After Nazi forces took control of Greece in 1941, the stage was set for one of the bloodiest confrontations of World War II as Greek resistance fighters put up a fierce struggle to end the occupation.They were powerless, however, to prevent the Third Reich from extracting an interest-free 476 million Reichsmarks loan from the Greek central bank, which devastated the Greek economy.
A 2012 report by the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, estimated the value of the loan at US$8.25 billion. Greece, however, puts the value of the loan at €11 billion, the To Vima newspaper reported in January, citing confidential financial documents.
Tsipras claims Germany owes Greece around €162 billion ($183 billion) – about half the country’s debt load, which is estimated at over €315 billion.
The figure is said to cover €108 billion for infrastructure damage wrought by the occupying Nazi forces between 1941 and the end of the war, and €54 billion as compensation for the unpaid loan.
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