Nazi Repayments Bring Hope to Greece

The Greek government has calculated the exact amount the Germans owe them in terms of World War II reparations. That sum is exactly €279 billion, according to PM Tsipras. The large sum could help tackle Greece’s major problems, including the sky high rates of youth unemployment. However Germany insists negotiations on the matter ended decades ago.

Roughly one month ago, a German couple walked into the town hall of Greek town Nafplio and handed authorities €875 in cash. They believed that it is the sum each German citizen owes the Greek government for war reparations after the Nazis invaded the country during the second World War. The two, respectively Ludwig Zacaro and Nina Lahge, were just on holiday in Greece and thought it was their duty to make this move.

The mayor of the seaport town in the Peloponnese, Dimitris Kotsouros, emphasised that the couple simply wanted to “make up for their government’s attitude and they had made their exact calculations prior to visiting Greece on the exact amount each citizen is supposed to owe the government”. The money has been then donated to a local charity and it is believed the couple chose to give it to that town specifically as it was the first capital of Greece in the 19th century.

However, the story of this couple is no stand-alone. The Greek government has, just a few days ago, calculated for the first time the exact amount the Germans owe it for the Nazi atrocities during the 1940s. The exact amount asked by prime minister Tsipras is €279 billion.

The Greek government is asking for money at a crucial time, while struggling to stick to massive debt repayment deadlines. A repayment of €448m to the IMF is due this Thursday.

One of the biggest fights the Greek government is facing at the moment is to drastically reduce unemployment rates, especially among the youth. Currently, one of out four greeks are out of work and over half of those aged 16-25 are unemployed. This ranks Greece as the country with the highest rates of unemployment in the European Union after the 2010 crisis led the country into awful financial conditions.

Could Germany, if it was willing to repay the full amount asked by the Greek government, help the crisis and tackle the harsh youth unemployment figures? With the debt crisis continuing to hamper economic growth, any financial aid could help the situation and lower unemployment figures.

In an interview, Greek MEP Emmanouil Glezos emphasised how “We are not living in a thriving society; we do not experience an everyday life that would allow us to plan for the future. Most families barely make it through and among them are indeed the young Greeks”.

So prime minister Tsipras is trying to renegotiate the bailout from the EU and the International Monetary Fund that prevented Greece from going bankrupt and asking Germany for billions of euro in war restorations seemed to be one of the ways to do so.

However, as this debate has been central in German politics recently, politicians made clear how all negotiations about war repayments were peacefully concluded in 1990 before Germany reunified and reminded Greek politicians of the 115m deutschmark payment to the country in 1960.

Moreover, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel regarded the link to Greece’s bailout by the eurozone with the question of war reparations as “dumb”, making it clear that Germany has currently no intention of giving the Greek government €279 billion.