By Mehreen Khan 11 March 2015
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras revives claims for compensation in return for the crimes carried out by the Third Reich
PM Tsipras spoke during a debate reviving a parliamentary committee that would seek German World War II reparations Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Greece's prime minister has demanded Germany pay back more than €160bn (£112bn) in Second World War reparations as his country is squeezed by creditors to overhaul its economy in return for vital bail-out funds.
In an emotive address to his parliament, Alexis Tsipras said his government had a "duty to history, to the people who fought and to the victims who gave their lives to defeat Nazism."
The Leftist government maintains it is owed more than €162bn - nearly half the value of its total public debt - for the destruction wrought during the Nazi occupation of Greece.
"The government will work in order to honour fully its obligations. But, at the same time, it will work so that all of the unfulfilled obligations to Greece and the Greek people are met," said Mr Tsipras on Tuesday at a parliamentary debate on the creation of a reparations committee.
Syriza's leader added the atrocities of the Nazi occupation remained "fresh in the memory" of Greek people and "must be preserved in the younger generations."
Greece's demand for reparations centres on a war loan of 476m Reichsmarks the Greek central bank was forced to make to the Nazis. Athens is also calling for wider compensation for the destruction and suffering caused by the occupation.
The country's justice minister went further, threatening the seizure of German assets in order to compensate the relatives of Nazi war crimes.
Nikos Paraskevopoulos told Greek television he was willing to back a supreme court ruling which would lead to the foreclosure of German assets in Greece.
A spokesman for the German Finance Ministry dismissed the threats, saying there would be no negotiation over the war-time debts.
“We won’t be conducting any talks or negotiations with the Greek side,” said Germany’s Martin Jaeger when asked about the latest Greek demands.
“Making these emotional and backward-looking allegations doesn’t help in the context of the work we need to tackle together with the Greeks.”
The Third Reich famously subdued Greek resistance in a matter of weeks in 1941, after the country had held out for months against Mussolini’s Italian army.
The occupation that followed saw more than 40,000 civilians starved to death in Athens.
Germany maintains it has paid up all of its reparations to Greece in a post-war accord agreed in 1960.
The rhetoric comes as Athens prepares to open its books to its lenders in a bid to release €7.2bn in bail-out funds the country desperately needs to stay afloat.
Inspection teams from the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Commission, who have now been officially renamed as the "Brussels Group", are due to cast their eyes over the country's finances and begin technical work over the terms of the bail-out extension in the coming days.
Athens is scrambling to pay €1.3bn in loans to the IMF before the end of the month.