A Trojan Horse in Berlin

Whatever you might think about the Greek ‘profligacy’ of recent years, it’s quite surprising that we haven’t heard rather more about the debt that Germany owes Greece.

After the German invasion of Greece in 1940, the Greeks were forced to give the Germans a loan of 476million Reichsmarks, a figure that translates to about £60bn (€74bn) in today’s money, if you include interest. It was an inter-governmental loan, not theft, although the German occupation of Greece, of course, was characterised by theft, murder, genocide, brutality, all of it particularly extreme. Those crimes would have led – and did – to reparations claims. But the loan is a different kettle of calamares.

None of it has ever been paid back to the Greeks. That’s partly thanks to the London Debt Agreement of 1953, which relieved West Germany of 50% of its debt/reparations obligations, part of an American-inspired political settlement that ensured the so-called economic miracle of post-war West Germany in its role as book-end to Soviet Russia – with Japan, strange to relate, at the other end. Is that history telling us it’s good to lose?

Leaving aside the reparations debate, which is highly controversial, the matter of the loan is very clear-cut. Greece requested repayment of the occupation loan in 1945, 1946, 1947, 1964 (when German chancellor Erhard pledged repayment after the reunification of Germany), 1965, 1966, 1974, 1987, and in 1995. And?

Nothing. Nichts. τίποτα. The towels on the beach remain the only evidence of German repayment to Greece.

If I was Greek, how would I respond to the thinly disguised, moralising finger-wagging I’m now receiving from Angela Merkel? With something rather sharp, I think, inserted upwards. My hope – a forlorn one, I admit – is that the war loan the Greeks were forced to make in 1940 sits there in the vaults of the Deutsche Bundesbank like that horse the Trojans hauled into Troy and that some time soon, the Germans reap their just reward. I can wish, can’t I?

If you feel like it, get in touch with some Greek friends and sign a petition: http://www.greece.org/blogs/wwii/

No comments: