On 4 March, Kateřina Králová (Charles University, Prague) spoke on the theme “Jews, Communists and Germans: Greece's handling of its post-war legacies". Renee Hirschon chaired.
|Deportation of the Jews in Thessaloniki by the German occupiers, July 1942|
Post war reconstruction presented a huge challenge, enormously complicated by the Greek Civil War (1946-1949). Immediately after the occupation, survivors sought to return to normal life and to re-establish themselves. Soon after, the process of retribution, punishment of the perpetrators and compensation was overshadowed and interrupted by the devastating Civil War, which put Greece in the globally changing political climate on the side of West. Many of the Nazi terror victims, both Jews and non-Jews, were waiting for decades for reconciliation with hardly any chance to succeed.
In post-war Europe, some generals charged with mass killings in the Balkans were tried in Nurnberg but set free based on the McCloy amnesty in 1951. In Greece, about 1800 occupiers (Germans, Italians and Bulgarians) were listed as war criminals; however, very few of them (46) were captured. Only 8 out of 18 Germans were found guilty. This included three high officers involved in the Battle of Crete (1941), two officers charged for participation in retaliatory measures, namely in Chortiatis and Distomo, two high representatives of the German administration and the military administration counsellor of Thessaloniki, Max Merten. He was arrested in 1957, sued for administering Jewish deportations, tried in 1959 and sent to Germany soon after. In 1961, he accused some Greek political leaders including Prime Minister Constantine Karamanlis of collaboration. Later on, the FRG compensated him for the time spent in Greek prison.
Until 1960, only private initiatives led to any compensation of individuals. Due to the traumatic war experience and Greece’s anti-Communist policy, many people involved in the leftist resistance as well as Holocaust survivors were imprisoned or left the country, which often led to the loss of their Greek citizenship and therefore termination of their right to claim compensations in Greece. Only the Bonn Agreement on the compensation of victims of Nazi racial, religious, and ideological persecution (1960), which allotted to Greece compensations totalling 115 million DM, excluding however the armed resistance, provided at least for some relief for Greek survivors of German atrocities.
Based on the London Debt Agreement (1953), German Reunification in 1990 opened the way for further compensation, but in case of Greece this route was not taken by the German government. Current talks about the Greek debt have become entangled with the discussion of unsettled Greek claims. Germany has voiced its regret of the dismal past: In April 2000, for example, German President Johannes Rau visited Kalavryta, whose inhabitants became victims of the Nazi massacre in December 1943, and spoke of his deep “sadness and shame”. But Berlin seems to be clearly against renegotiations as regards further financial reimbursement for any damage caused by the wartime occupation.