The Greek government is threatening to allow Nazi victims to seize German assets

Greece reparationsREUTERS/John KolesidisSurvivors and relatives of the victims of the Nazi wartime Distomo massacre take part in a torchlight rally on the eve of the 69th anniversary of the massacre, in the village of Distomo, about 165 km (103 miles) northwest of Athens, June 9, 2013.

Nikos Paraskevopoulos, the Greek justice minister, is threatening to sign a court ruling from 2000 into law that would allow the relatives of those who suffered under the Nazis to claim reparations by taking German-owned assets.

The claims relate to the infamous World War Two Nazi massacre at the village of Distomo, where 218 people were killed by Waffen SS troops in June 1944. The entire village has remained in mourning ever since.

In 2000, Greece’s Supreme Court ruled that the victims could claim compensation from the German state, and sent bailiffs to the Goethe cultural centre, the German archaeological institute and the German school in Athens in order to collect $US30 million of reparations. It sparked a major diplomatic incident with Berlin and the case was officially put on hold following an emergency review of the ruling.

It now seems that the Syriza-led government is planning to reopen the case, in a move that is bound to infuriate their German counterparts as they continue negotiations over a Greek bailout package. However, the prospect of raising tensions ever further with Europe’s largest economy does not appear to be phasing Paraskevopoulos.

He told Greek TV, according to English-language Greek daily Ekathimerini: “The law states that in order to implement the ruling of the Supreme Court, the minister of justice has to order it. I believe this permission should be given and I’m ready to give it, notwithstanding any obstacles.”

The news comes as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras raised the subject of World War II reparations in a speech on Tuesday. In a provocative passage he accused the German government of using “legal tricks” to avoid paying reparations following the country’s reunification in 1990:

“The reunification of the two Germanies has created the necessary legal and political conditions in order to resolve this issue, but the German governments since then have opted for silence, legal tricks, deferment and dilatory tactics. And I wonder, ladies and gentlemen: is this stance actually ethical?”

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