Thursday, July 23, 2015
Greek Pain, German Shame
When Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini invaded Greece (through Albania) on 10/18/1940, he imagined a victory to rival the military successes amassed by his Axis partner in crime—the Fuhrer of the Thousand year Nazi Reich—Adolf Hitler. Instead, the Greeks defeated the Italian army and pursued them into Albania. Hitler was temporarily forced to divert his attention away from his plans to stab Russia in the back (which he still managed to do in June of 1941) and bail out Mussolini. With the bulk of the Greek army in pursuit of the Italians in Albania, Nazi Germany launched a brutal blitzkrieg into Greece (joined by an opportunistic Bulgaria) on 4/6/1941. The Germans invested 680,000 troops, 1200 tanks, and 700 aircraft. Greece fell in a matter of months. During the ensuing “triple occupation”, there was widespread starvation (an estimated 40,000 people died in Athens alone), and the Greek economy was destroyed. In addition, between 60-70,000 Greek Jews (81% of their original population) were murdered as Hitler pursued his deranged attempts to eliminate all the Jews in Europe.
Tens of thousands more Greeks died as a result of Nazi reprisals against freedom fighters and at the hands of collaborators. Ironically, many Nazi collaborators escaped punishment for their crimes and became a part of the ruling class in Greece following the defeat of the communists in the bloody civil war that followed on the heels of World War II.
In 1942, the Greek Central Bank had been forced to provide a 476 million Reichsmarks loan (at 0% interest) to Nazi Germany. In 1960, Greece accepted 115 million Marks as what they viewed as partial payment for Nazi crimes. However, in 1990, immediately preceding the unification of East & West Germany, those two German entities signed the Two Plus Four Agreement with the U.S., Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. The Germans claimed that all matters concerning World War II—including further reparations due to Greece—were closed because Germany had surrendered to the Allies and no one else!
However, the Germans and the Troika (European Central Bank, European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund) recently unleashed a second blitzkrieg against Greece, this time in the form of severely punitive austerity measures (for the privilege of remaining in the Eurozone) guaranteed to have a devastating effect on the entire population—except the oligarchy and the banks.
Angela Merkel’s favorite punching bag, the much beleaguered Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, recently renewed Greece’s demand for reparations from Germany—somewhere in the amount of 269-332 billion Euro.
Leading French economist Thomas Piketty has noted that Germany has “no standing” to lecture other nations about debt repayment, never having paid back its own debt after World War II. Instead, Piketty argues that the same debt relief extended to Germany following the war ought to be extended to Greece now. If this doesn’t happen, let’s at least hope that Greece takes their reparations case before the World Court, and prevails. Imagine a humbled Wolfgang Schauble and Angela Merkel visiting Athens to finally hand over such a check: from justice deferred to justice secured.