73 years since World War II officially ended, two European countries are still seeking satisfaction from the German government over damages caused by the Nazi regime. According to a report from DW, both Greece and Poland are officially asking that Germany pay reparations to the two states for invading their countries during the war.
Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, and Greece in 1941. According to DW, officials from Athens place the total number of Greeks who died during the Nazi occupation at 300,000. In Poland, Nazi units set up concentration camps to purge the country of anyone deemed an enemy of Hitler.
The human suffering endured by civilians under Nazi occupation is almost immeasurable. However, Hitler also damaged the economies of both countries as well. The Bank of Greece was forced by the Nazi occupation forces to pay Germany a loan — for the “cost of occupation” — worth about $11.5 billion today. This loan, Greece claims, has never been repaid.
“We consider Greece’s demands over the occupation loan and war reparations legally active and judicially claimable,” said Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos while he was meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Athens this week, according to a report from Reuters.
The loan helped Hitler fund his war in Africa, and did fatal damage to the Greek economy and caused the collapse of its currency. According to Reuters, many Greeks became impoverished and died of starvation as a result.
When the Greek economy faced extreme hardships from 2010 to 2015, the old wounds of World War II came back to the surface. A committee of Greek officials tasked with examining the original German war-loan released its findings and estimated that Berlin still owes $12.48 billion, according to a report from MSN.
However, many in Germany considered the matter settled. In 1960 the countries signed an agreement and Germany paid Greece 115 million Deutschmarks.
“We think that the issue of German reparations has been finally settled legally and politically,” said Steffen Seibert, a German government spokesman when asked about possible reparation payments. “The Greek government has not yet officially pushed for them.”
“Of course, this doesn’t mean that we must forget or that we can sweep any of our differences from the distant past under the carpet,” said Steinmeier when briefing reporters.
While visiting Greece, Steinmeier toured the site of a Nazi concentration camp near Athens.
“Unimaginable atrocities were committed under German auspices in the Haidari camp,” the German president said at the camp, “We bow before the victims.”
Despite the economic tensions, the diplomats expressed interest in working together for a better Europe. Both countries are members of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) and will have to work together to solve issues like regional defense the migration.
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