For quite some time, Greece has been under massive pressure by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and the EU under German auspices. Winfried Wolf1 correctly compared this situation with a war “The Greek economy is literally shot up with the ‘Troika’s savings package attacks consisting of the IMF, the ECB and the European Commission.” The current Greek government, and also that of 2012, proposed a political opposition. The Greek Parliament resorted to a sterner action that was long overdue. The Greek Finance Ministry in Athens was commissioned to research its archives, how much Germany currently owes Greece up to today. The debt is primarily due to reparation payments from the time of the Second World War. In September 2012, Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras oriented the Greek Parliament about the ongoing investigation: The archived material will be gathered, scrutinized and evaluated by a group of experts. On 7 April 2015, the new Vice-Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas submitted a preliminary result of the investigation to the Greek Parliament: Germany’s debt for reparation payments to Greece amounts to 278.7 billion euros.
To really understand the Greek financial crisis and the overdue German reparations, one must go back to the 1940s and consider not only the German war crimes, but also the post-war crimes of the Allies.
In the fall of 1940, the Greeks had repelled an attack by Mussolini’s troops and were now supported by a British expeditionary force. Hitler saw that Germany’s access to the Romanian oil and the planned attack on the Soviet Union was jeopardized. Therefore at the beginning of April 1941, German troops additionally invaded Yugoslavia and Greece, which they rapidly occupied.
The small, well-functioning Greek economy was immediately and systematically plundered by the occupiers. All assets that were not nailed down, were shipped to Germany. Then the Greek economy was focused on the war economy of the “Reich”: supply of raw materials for the Axis powers, the supply of the occupation forces and the payload of the occupation costs. Following an investigation2, the historian Karl Heinz Roth assumes that annual raw materials in value amounting to 45 to 50 million Reichsmarks had had to be delivered to the “Reich”, such as bauxite, lead, chromium ore, copper, coal, manganese, petroleum, molybdenum, nickel, iron pyrites, zinc and tin. Also agricultural products such as cotton, resin, olive oil, rice, raisins, silk cocoons, tobacco and sugar went to the “Reich”.
Greece also served as the base for the German access to North Africa and the Suez Canal. The Greeks also had to shell out corresponding costs for logistics and supplies.
During the winter 1941/42 the Greek population had to bear the devastating consequences of the German occupation policy. Due to famine and its consequences, especially in the medium and large cities more than 100,000 people lost their lives, primarily children and the elderly, even though the ICRC did its best to meliorate the disaster with food supplies.
With the growing Greek resistance, the occupying power intensified its unsparing approach even further. Whole villages were destroyed and their inhabitants killed. Also according to Roth, the retreat of the German army in Greece from the autumn of 1944 was lined by widespread destruction: 1,600 villages, 350,000 houses, commercial vessels, port facilities, road and railway bridges, stations, transport networks and the demolition of the Corinth Canal. He assumes that the German occupation policy cost about 520,000 lives (with a Greek population of 6,933,000).2
One is vastly mistaken to think, that with the expulsion of the German occupation, the Greek people had regained their freedom. Although in September 1944, the Greek People’s Liberation Army ELAS (its majority consisting of communists and socialists, but also many others) had independently driven out the German occupiers on their own, the Allies thwarted the creation of a free, sovereign Greece. In October 1944, Churchill and Stalin had divided the spheres of influence in the Balkans in a secret agreement: a 90% majority in Romania for Stalin, a 90% majority for Churchill in Greece. Yugoslavia would be controlled 50% to 50% by the USSR and the British. USSR would control 50% of Hungary and 75% of Bulgaria.3
Churchill planned a right-wing government with a Greek king for Greece. To suppress the former members of the Greek resistance, Churchill created a Greek secret army of royalists, anti-Republican and former Nazi collaborators. As a consequence the Greek resistance in 1946 took up the armed struggle against the British and the right-wing government. The British, who found themselves in dire straits, called on the US to come to Greece.
In March 1947, President Truman appealed to the Congress, inter alia, with the argument that Greece was among the free nations “whose support must be included in the policy of the United States.” With the approval of the Congress, American troops landed in Greece. By the end of 1948 the Greek partisans4 were defeated, who had previously freed Greece from the Nazis at the cost of high casualties and then also defeated the British. “The end of the civil war meant total victory for the Greek Right and its patron, the United States,” said British journalist Peter Murtagh in “The Rape of Greece”.5 Following in the footsteps of the British, the US could now build their future military power in the Mediterranean at the beginning of the Cold War. Athens – so Daniele Ganser – was “the hub of all CIA activity in the Balkans and the Middle East, as far as Iran.”6
This is the historical background against which the question of reparation has to be discussed. •
1 Winfried Wolf. Kahlschlag: Sparprogramme zielen auf Staatsbankrott, in: “lunapark21, zeitschrift zur kritik der globalen ökonomie”, 15/2011, page 56
2 Karl Heinz Roth. Kahlfrass: Die Zerstörung der griechischen Volkswirtschaft 1941–1944, in: “lunapark21”, pages 42–51
3 David Horowitz. Kalter Krieg: Hintergründe der US-Aussenpolitik von Jalta bis Vietnam, Berlin 1976, page 49
4 Also, using chemical weapons (Napalm). cf. Daniele Ganser. NATO’s Secret Armies – Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, London 2005, page 215
5 Peter Murtagh, quoted in: Ganser, p. 215
6 Ganser, p. 217
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