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Germany owes Greece nearly €279 billion ($303 billion) in war reparations for the Nazi occupation during World War Two, the Greek government says.
It is the first time Greece has officially calculated what Germany allegedly owes it for Nazi atrocities and looting during the 1940s.
However, the German government says the issue was resolved legally years ago.
Greece’s radical left Syriza government is making the claim while struggling to meet massive debt repayment deadlines.
PM Alexis Tsipras raised the reparations issue when he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin last month.
The new figure given by Greek Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas includes €10.3 billion for an occupation loan that the Nazis forced the Bank of Greece to pay.
“According to our calculations, the debt linked to German reparations is 278.7 billion euros,” Dimitris Mardas told a parliamentary committee investigating responsibility for Greece’s debt crisis.
Dimitris Mardas said the reparations calculation had been made by Greece’s state general accounting office.
Berlin paid 115 million Deutschmarks to Athens in 1960 in compensation – a fraction of the Greek demand. Greece says it did not cover payments for damaged infrastructure, war crimes and the return of the forced loan.
Germany insists the reparations issue was settled in 1990 legally and politically before Germany reunified.
Syriza politicians have frequently blamed Germany for the hardship suffered by Greeks under the tough bailout conditions imposed by international lenders.
PM Alexis Tsipras is trying to renegotiate the €240 billion EU-IMF bailout that saved Greece from bankruptcy. Greece has not received bailout funds since August last year, as the lenders are dissatisfied with the pace of Greek reforms.
A Greek repayment of €448 million to the International Monetary Fund is due on April 9.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said that Greece “intends to meet all obligations to all its creditors, ad infinitum”.
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Greece has threatened to seize German property as compensation for a Nazi atrocity in World War II.
Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos said he was ready to approve a Supreme Court ruling from 2000 backing payment to relatives of the 218 victims.
The debt-ridden government is already calling for Germany to pay billions of euros in wartime reparations.
Germany insists the issue of compensation was settled in 1990, before the country was reunified.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said on March 11 it was Germany’s firm belief that the question had been resolved legally and politically.
“We should concentrate on current issues and, hopefully what will be a good future,” he said, referring to Greece’s financial crisis and the Athens government’s proposals for a renegotiation of its bailout package from the EU and IMF.
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras told parliament late on March 10 that he had a duty to pursue reparations dating back to the Nazi occupation of 1940-1944, arguing that Germany had adopted “silence, legal tricks and delays” since reunification in 1990.
However, the justice minister went further, saying he was prepared to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2000 relating to the massacre of 218 civilians in the central Greek village of Distomo on June 10, 1944.
The court ruled that Germany should pay €28 million to the relatives of those killed, although the decision was not enforced, and the dispute effectively reached stalemate in international courts in the following years.
The ruling allowed for German-owned property to be seized as compensation but it was never acted on by then-Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos.
Among possible assets are property belonging to Germany’s archaeological school and the Goethe Institute, a cultural association.
Greek relations with Germany have deteriorated in recent years because of the financial crisis, with Germany one of the big contributors to the eurozone bailout that began in 2010.
German ministers have been among the most vocal advocates for budget and income cuts in Greece, which has led to growing resentment among Greeks.
The new leftist government in Athens argues that austerity measures be relaxed, a demand opposed by Germany and other eurozone creditor nations.
Germany did pay compensation of 115 million Deutsche marks in 1960, as part of an agreement with several European countries for the Nazi occupation.
Greece says the 1960 deal did not cover key demands, including payments for damaged infrastructure, war crimes and the return of a forced loan exacted from occupied Greece.
PM Alexis Tsipras said Greece would honor its bailout creditors, but that he would not “abandon its irrevocable demands'” for World War II reparations.
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President Joachim Gauck has become the first German senior dignitary to visit Oradour-sur-Glane in France, where 642 people were killed by Nazi troops in June 1944.
The ruins of the village are preserved just as they were after the massacre.
Joachim Gauck said that he had accepted a French invitation to visit the site with “gratitude and humility”.
More than 200 children were among the victims of the World War II atrocity that left deep scars in France.
After the war General Charles de Gaulle – who later became France’s president – ordered the village not to be rebuilt but instead remain a memorial to the evils of Nazi occupation. A new village was built nearby.
“I want to reach out to the victims and tell them: I am at your side,” President Joachim Gauck told Europe 1 radio ahead of the visit.
“I am 73-years-old, I was born during the war, I was steeped in the discussion of our guilt… I will tell the victims and their families: <<We know what was done>>.”
President Joachim Gauck has become the first German senior dignitary to visit Oradour-sur-Glane
Joachim Gauck said on Tuesday that he would not refrain from making the point to others during his visit that “the Germany that I have the honor of representing is a different Germany from the one that haunts their memories”.
He was joined in Oradour-sur-Glane by his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, and together they visited the village square, where residents were rounded up by Nazi troops ostensibly to have their identity papers checked.
They also walked around a church where women and children were incarcerated before it was set on fire. The village’s men were taken to a barn where they were shot with machine-guns.
The two presidents were accompanied by two of the three living survivors, including 88-year-old Robert Hebras.
He was 19 at the time of the massacre, and survived because he was buried under the bodies of other men who had been shot.
“I was consumed by hatred and vengeance for a long time,” he was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
At a joint news conference on Tuesday, Francois Hollande praised Joachim Gauck’s decision to go to the massacre site as a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation.
In 2010, Germany reopened a war crimes case into the attack when a historian discovered documents implicating six suspects who were now in their 80s.
Prosecutors said 12 members of the SS-Panzer Division “Das Reich” – which had spent three years on the Russian front before being deployed to the Normandy battlefields to fight Allied invasion forces – were suspected of involvement in the massacre.
The reason for the mass killings is unclear. One theory is that the Nazis sought to avenge the kidnapping of one of their officers, but another is that Das Reich troops were angered by what they believed was theft of a large amount of gold by villagers.
President Joachim Gauck, a former East German human rights activist, has paid two other visits to the sites of Nazi mass killings in Europe – the Czech village of Lidice, near Prague, and the Italian hamlet of Sant’Anna di Stazzema in Tuscany.
In 1984, French President Francois Mitterrand and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl joined hands while attending a memorial service for fallen soldiers at the World War I battlefield of Verdun.
Catholic and veterans groups in Poland are protesting against Madonna’s concert in the Polish capital because it falls on the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.
Some are urging ticket-holders to boycott Wednesday’s show, which comes 68 years after the city’s failed revolt against Nazi occupation began.
Organizers of the concert have agreed to show a short clip about the events of 1944 before the performance.
Every year, Poles commemorate the 200,000 lives lost during the uprising.
One Catholic group called Krucjata Mlodych (Youth Crusade) has started an online campaign urging people not to attend the concert.
They say more than 50,000 people have signed up to their Don’t Go To See Madonna campaign.
Catholic and veterans groups in Poland are protesting against Madonna’s concert in the Polish capital because it falls on the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising
The group also says anti-Madonna Mass services and street prayer sessions have been held.
They accuse the singer of offending their faith through her use of burning cross and crown of thorns imagery, and say she promotes pornography and sexual deviation.
Billboards around the capital promoting the concert have been defaced with the sign of the Polish Home Army, the largest underground army in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Every year, at 1700 on 1 August, sirens wail across Warsaw and people stand still to pay their respects to the victims of the 63-day uprising.
Conservative opposition MP Stanislaw Pieta has appealed to the government not to allow the concert to go ahead in Warsaw’s National Stadium, Polish Radio reports.
Concert organizers have agreed to a proposal by city officials to show a short film about the uprising in the stadium before the show, in an attempt to appease the protesters.
Ania Pietrzak, a spokeswoman for concert organizer Live Nation, told the Press Association: “It is an important moment in Polish history, so we have decided to remind people of that moment.”
It is the latest controversy to hit the 53-year-old singer’s MDNA tour.
In Paris, some fans booed her when she ended the show after only 45 minutes.
Madonna also angered supporters of France’s right-wing National Front party, by showing a swastika imposed on the face of the party’s leader, Marine Le Pen.