Germany rejects Greek challenge over WWII atrocity suit
Germany on Thursday slammed Greek plans to contest a German appeal before an international tribunal against a ruling that gave compensation to Greek victims of a Nazi wartime atrocity.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that his Greek counterpart Dimitrios Droutsas had called him late Wednesday to inform him of Athens' decision to challenge Germany's appeal before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
In 2007, a court in Florence, Italy, slapped a financial charge on two buildings owned by the German state at the request of relatives of Greek victims of a Nazi massacre in the central Greek village of Distomo.
The bloodbath on June 10, 1944 left 217 people dead.
The plaintiffs had turned to the Italian courts after their attempts to win compensation in Greece stalled. After Germany appealed to the ICJ in December 2008, Greece had until Friday to state its position.
Westerwelle said the Greek challenge was unfounded and had the potential to set a dangerous precedent.
"I have simply no understanding for the decision of the Greek government," he said in a statement.
"In Germany, we know our responsibility for our history. And we also know about the particular suffering of the Greek people in World War II."
Westerwelle said Berlin was confident the ICJ would rule in its favour.
"In terms of lawsuits against Germany, we expect internationally recognised principles of law and particularly Germany's immunity as a state to be respected," he said.
"If this principle is undermined, the community of nations could face legal insecurity."
The issue of wartime reparation claims over Germany's four-year occupation of Greece, which ruined the country financially and left thousands dead, has complicated relations between Athens and Berlin for decades.
It resurfaced last year, when Germany's resistance to a loan bailout for debt-hit Greece sparked an ugly exchange of recriminations between the countries' media.
Some Greek politicians noted that Nazi forces had looted state gold reserves and said Berlin should be less smug over money.
In 1997 a Greek court ordered Germany to pay 28.6 million euros (37.8 million dollars) to the Distomo plaintiffs but opposition from Berlin and reluctance from Greek justice ministers meant the ruling was never enforced.
Germany has always refused to pay, arguing that the issue of compensation was settled by a bilateral agreement with Greece dating from 1960.
The German government says it has paid out more than 67 billion euros to victims of the Nazis including survivors of concentration camps, ghettos or forced labour programmes.
© 2011 AFP