Does Germany Owe Greece $95 Billion from WW II?

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Nazi officers at the Acropolis of Athens in May 1941, one month after their troops seized the Greek capital

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And yet payments were made over the years — at different times and from different pots — including as much as $41 billion since 1949, although given the variety of agreements that were reached, it's impossible to say with certainty.

Independent from all other claims, the Federal Republic of Germany did pay compensation to individual victims of Nazi crimes. On March 18, 1960, an agreement was signed between Greece and West Germany to the effect that Germany would pay 115 million deutsche marks to Greek victims of the Nazi occupation. The agreement was made under the stipulation that no further claims for individual damages would be accepted.

However, claims from the descendants of Greek victims continued to be made. The best-known case was made by children of the residents of a village called Distomo who were killed on June 10, 1944, in what the Germans called a "retaliatory strike." In 1997, they received a verdict that they were entitled to €37.5 million in damages from Germany. After much legal wrangling, the case is now before the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Another legal issue that has surfaced concerns the 476 million reichsmarks lent against its will to Germany by the Greek National Bank during the war. If this were to be considered a form of war damage, then in principle it would be subject to reparation — except that according to the 1990 treaty, Germany would not have to pay it. If the money were, however, to be considered a normal credit, then Greece would be entitled to get the money back.

Without interest, the amount in today's money would amount to $14 billion. With interest at 3% over 66 years, that would come to at least $95 billion. The problem is this: even partial recognition of such a debt would create a precedent that could bring untold claims in its wake.

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