Greece to take on Germany at ICJ over WWII atrocity: PM

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Greece on Wednesday said it would contest an appeal by Germany at the International Court of Justice targeting an Italian ruling that gave compensation to Greek victims of a German wartime atrocity.

"I have decided that Greece will intervene at the International Court of Justice on this specific case," Prime Minister Gorge Papandreou told the cabinet, adding that the issue has "particular symbolism" for Athens.

"We are fulfilling a debt to honour with deeds the memory of those who sacrificed themselves for the homeland," he said, according to his office.

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 surfaced again last year, when Germany's resistance to a loan bailout for debt-hit Greece sparked an ugly exchange of recriminations between Greek and German media, while some Greek politicians also noted that Nazi forces had looted state gold reserves and that Berlin should be less smug over money.

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 in 1944.

The plaintiffs had turned to the Italian courts after their attempts to win compensation in Greece stalled.

After Germany appealed to the ICJ, Greece had until Friday to state its position, Papandreou said.

In 1997 a Greek court ordered Germany to pay 28.6 million euros (37 million dollars) to the Distomo plaintiffs but opposition from Berlin and reluctance from Greek justice ministers meant the ruling was never enforced.

The massacre at Distomo on June 10, 1944 left 217 people dead.

Germany has always refused to pay, arguing that the issue of compensation was settled by a bilateral agreement with Greece dating from 1960.

© 2011 AFP

1 Comment To This Article

  • Demetri posted:

    on 14th January 2011, 08:53:13 - Reply

    Why were the prior comments removed? Censorship is something one would expect from communist censors not some media outlet that claims to report the news.