Germany owes Greece €162 billion in World War II reparations, according to a leaked top-secret report commissioned by Greece’s Finance Ministry. That amounts to roughly 80 percent of Greece’s GDP, and could go a long way towards helping the country right its finances. Der Spiegel reports:
[T]he commission arrived at a clear conclusion: “Greece never received any compensation, either for the loans it was forced to provide to Germany or for the damages it suffered during the war.” […][C]alculations from Greek organizations have set the total owed by Germany at €108 billion for reconstruction of the country’s destroyed infrastructure and a further €54 billion resulting from forced loans paid by Greece to Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944. The loans were issued by the Bank of Greece and were used to pay for supplies and wages for the German occupation force.
Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble responded defiantly, saying “I deem that such statements are irresponsible. Instead of misleading the people in Greece it would be better to show them the road to reform…The issue was settled a long time ago. Paying reparations is out of the question.” The Greek foreign minister, Dimitris Avramopoulos, fired back, saying that the subject of reparations would be decided by international law.A problem for both governments: Greek public opinion has fastened on stories about the report, adding to the bitterness among many Greeks about the economic catastrophe that the “bailout” has been. Greek politicians seen as not pushing the claim aggressively enough will face trouble from their constituents.It’s one thing to commission a report on unpaid debts; it’s quite another to collect. But however this pans out, this is just one more sign that the euro, meant to cement Europe’s unity, is tearing the EU apart. We continue to think that some kind of orderly disassembly of the eurozone is now Europe’s best bet.