The Greek Parliament will receive in early September 2016 the findings from a parliamentary committee which it established to study the claims of Greece for war reparations from Germany. The conclusion is reported to be that Greece is entitled to 269 billion euros and that Greece should pursue all diplomatic means and, if necessary, legal means for payment. In response, the German government has stated that the issue of reparations is closed.
The issue is hardly closed. Under international law, reparations claims do not expire by implied or constructive waiver. Reparations claims expire only if and when the claimant nation has affirmatively released and waived the claims, which Greece has never done.
In addition to the atrocities which give rise to the reparations claims, Germany forced Greece to “lend” Germany a sum of money which Germany ostensibly used to defray the cost of its occupation of Greece. As our partner, Nicholas G. Karambelas, has written in the below article, which was published last year, the remedy for the forced occupation loan is restitution.
Because the occupation loan does not have the attributes of a commercial loan, it can only be characterized as a wrongful taking of property. Germany has a legal obligation to pay war reparations and to restitute the money it wrongfully took which has been erroneously characterized as a loan.
A legal view of Germany’s wartime occupation loan
he unlawful taking of property is considered ‘conversion,’ a civil wrong whose remedy is restitution, as opposed to reparations.
By: Nicholas G. Karambelas, is a partner in law firm Sfikas & Karambelas, LLP in Washington DC, Baltimore, Maryland and New York City. He is legal counsel to and a director of the American Hellenic Institute, also in Washington DC.
In some of the darkest hours of the Second World War, the Axis powers massacred the people of Distomo, Kalavryta and other parts of Greece. The Germans deported Greek Jews to the death camps in Poland and made them pay for their rail tickets. The Greek Jews are seeking reparations from Germany for these atrocities. Greece, like any nation that is made the victim of death and destruction by an aggressor nation during wartime, is entitled to reparations. Reparations is a financial remedy paid to the victim nation by the aggressor nation, after the aggressor nation loses the war. Reparations are meant to compensate the people of the victim nation, in this case Greece, for the death and destruction caused by the aggressor nation, which was Germany. The concept of reparations has been a principle of international law ever since the creation of the nation-state in 1648 after the 30 Years’ War.
In addition to the massacres, Germany perpetrated another atrocity, which was the occupation loan. By 1942, the Axis powers had invaded and occupied Greece. Germany forced Greece to “lend” money to Germany, purportedly to pay for the costs of occupying Greece. The amount of the loan was about 500 million reichsmarks, which, reportedly, was equal to one-third of Germany’s gross national product in 1938. The purpose of this article is to present a different legal perspective on how the occupation loan should be characterized.