Beware of Greeks Bearing Lists
The Greek government, flailing around in a debt crisis partially of its own making, has played the ‘German guilt card’ and is making headway.
It has a long list of demands of the German government stretching all the way back to WWII and the three and half year Nazi occupation. The demands related to the war are not new; they have surfaced several times since the 1946 Paris agreement which partially settled some of the claims made by Athens.
More money was forthcoming in 1960, from West Germany, and again in 1990 when the reunited Germany signed what was called a ‘Final Agreement’. Germany then regarded the matter as closed, Greece kept quiet so long as the EU money flowed in, but when the going got tough, it began to publicly remember its version of the agreement which was that reparations had not been fully dealt with.
Greece wants billions of Euros from Germany not just in compensations for the horrors of the occupation, but also in what it regards as debt repayment based on the Nazis forcing the Greek government to lend them money to pay for operations in the Balkans.
Some of the Greek political discourse has been unedifying with insults to the German state, and several newspapers have gone so far as to use images of the SS and the swastika superimposed on the Parthenon. One published a photograph of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in a Nazi uniform with the caption, “We want soap from your fat.’ a reference to the concentration camps.
In a mark of how deep German guilt went into the body politic of Europe’s most populous nation, the Greek claims are hitting home.
In the German parliament the Greens and the SDP support the idea of negotiating on the Greek claims and the Bundestag is examining ways of linking increased aid to reparations.
Last week Der Spiegel published a story about a German couple on holiday in Greece who stopped off at the village of Nafpolio and handed over 875 euros as their share of what they felt was still owed to the Greek people.
However, Merkel is unlikely to follow suit at a national level. She has never shirked from her belief that Germany must play its part in keeping the memory of the Nazi crimes alive, but she is also a politician who knows that a majority of the electorate is unhappy with the tone of the debate in Greece and still feels that the German tax payer should not be bailing out the Greeks for their utter failure to abide the rules of the Eurozone or to balance the books. She also knows that if she is to give in to demands currently being made by Prime Minister Alex Tsipras she opens the route for many other EU nations, formerly inside the Third Reich to follow suit.
What price ‘Ever Closer Union’ now?