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Greece and Poland demands war reparations from Germany

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Greece says it will pursue its quest for second world war damages and repayment of a loan forcibly extracted during Nazi occupation with renewed zest, despite Germany openly rejecting the claims, reported The Guardian (UK).

Less than two weeks after German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, used a state visit to apologise for atrocities committed by his forefathers, Athens vowed to relaunch the campaign while hailing the onset of a new era in bilateral ties.

“This is an issue that psychologically still rankles, and as a government we are absolutely determined to raise it,” said Costas Douzinas, who heads the Greek parliament’s defence and foreign relations committee.

“Obviously Greece couldn’t do that when it was in a [bailout] programme receiving loans from the EU and Berlin. It would have been totally contradictory.”

The leftist-led government is expected to press ahead with the claims after MPs debate what has been described as the first all-inclusive parliamentary inquiry into the damage wrought under Nazi occupation.

The report, compiled by a cross-party committee over several years, estimates that compensation of €288bn (£256bn) remains outstanding for the destruction Greece sustained between 1941 and 1944, the years the country was subject to Third Reich rule. It also calculates that a further €11bn is owed for a 476m Reichsmark loan Hitler’s forces seized from the Greek central bank in 1943.

Historians argue that by triggering an economic and currency collapse, the interest-free loan – which was used to finance the regime’s Africa campaign – played a central role in impoverishing large sectors of the population overnight.

“What we now have is a complete reading of the situation with a report that looks at the total damage inflicted on the country and its people during Nazi occupation,” said Douzinas, who is also a professor of law at London University. “In the past there were appraisals of the destruction wrought in individual incidents but never on this scale.”

Officials have scoured more than 400,000 pages of records obtained from US national archives chronicling the atrocities, and other records secured from Russia. Axis forces, as elsewhere in Europe, had been methodical in dispatching reports that listed massacres, the destruction of homes and shooting of victims.

Greeks put up heroic resistance to their German occupiers, but the price was heavy. Tens of thousands were killed in reprisals for a guerrilla campaign against the Wehrmacht, and at least 300,000 died of famine. About 40,000 people are thought to have starved to death in the first year of occupation alone, and Greece’s Jewish community was almost entirely wiped out.

“Germany has never properly assumed its historical responsibility for the wholesale destruction of the country,” said Stelios Koulouglou, who represents Greece’s governing Syriza party in the European parliament. “It was a catastrophe that was so complete it played a major part in delaying our country’s development as a modern European state.”

The spectre of the emotive issue being reopened surfaced as Athens marked the 74th anniversary of liberation from Nazi rule earlier this month.

The German government strenuously rejects charges that it owes anything to Greece, or Poland which also suffered greatly, for the wartime horrors. It says the chapter was closed in 1960 when it paid Athens 115m deutschmarks, roughly equivalent to £205m today.

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The president of Poland repeated his country's demand for Germany to pay reparations over World War II, days before ministers from Berlin and Warsaw will sit down for bilateral talks, reported Press TV (Iran).

"In my view, reparations payments are not a topic that's been dealt with," Andrzej Duda told the Sunday edition of Germany's biggest-selling newspaper Bild.

Citing two reports, one from former president Lech Kaczynski and another from the Polish parliament, Duda said that "the damage caused during the war was never compensated for".

He pointed especially to the capital Warsaw, which was "razed to the ground" by German troops.

"It's a question of truth and responsibility," Duda said.

Berlin has often rejected claims for war reparations in the past, saying Poland officially renounced such demands in August 1953.

But the conservative party that holds power in Warsaw argues that their country was forced to sign the document by the Soviet Union.

The two governments will hold a joint meeting in the Polish capital.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and several of her ministers will meet Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki and his cabinet.

In private, German diplomats suggest that Poland understands there is little chance of securing cash reparations.

Instead, Warsaw hopes to strong-arm Berlin into backing it in debates over the European Union budget or Brussels' threats to punish Poland for failing to uphold the rule of law.

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