Greek bailout crisis: Athens threatens to seize German assets 'as compensation for Nazi war crimes'

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras claimed Greek victims of the Second World War occupation by Germany had never been fully compensated

Adam Withnall
Wednesday 11 March 2015 17:28 GMT
Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (AFP/Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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Greece has threatened to seize German assets as compensation for Nazi war crimes – 70 years after the end of the Second World War.

The threat, made by the Greek justice minister and reported in the daily Kathimerini newspaper, has been supported by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who told the Greek parliament he would pursue the “very technical and sensitive” matter.

Justice minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos has reportedly called for “war reparations, the repayment of a forced loan and the return of antiquities” from Germany, and said that an old court ruling gave him the power to sanction “the foreclosure of German assets in Greece” as a form of compensation.

The issue was dismissed out of hand by Germany, with Angela Merkel’s spokesperson rejecting questions about reparations that “have been legally and politically resolved”. “We should concentrate on current issues and, hopefully, what will be a good future,” Steffen Seibert said.

“Germany is very aware of its moral obligation to keep alive the memory of Germany's guilt for the Second World War and the suffering it caused in many countries. That doesn't change anything about the legal and political assessment of the question of compensation and reparations.”

But it represents a further souring of relations between Athens and Berlin, already fraught amid the ongoing wrangling over Greece's financial bailout. Germany has been at the forefront of countries demanding strict austerity measures from Greece in return for financial aid.

“We should look forward together,” German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told reporters in Berlin. “Making these emotional and backward-looking allegations doesn't help in the context of the work we need to tackle together with the Greeks.”

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