Germany Rejects Greece's Bid For Holocaust Reparations
Germany rejected a fresh Nazi-era reparation claim by a Greek city's Jewish community, according to AFP, but offered the group cooperation on future projects.
"With regard to issues of reparations, there are no new developments and all these questions are answered," a German finance ministry spokesman told a press conference.
The Jewish community of Thessaloniki said Tuesday it had sued Germany at the European Court of Human Rights for compensation over a forced ransom paid to Nazi occupation forces.
It said Jewish residents had paid 2.5 million drachmas to a Nazi commander in July 1942 to secure the release of thousands of Jewish men submitted to brutal forced labor.
Despite the payment, raised from donations and property sales, most of the victims were later transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland where they perished.
Current community leader David Saltiel told AP that about 10,000 men were used as slave laborers, building roads and fortifications or repairing railways, and brutal conditions led to 12.5 per cent mortality in the first two-and-a-half months.
Community officials eventually struck a deal with a regional Nazi commander, paying him 1.9 billion drachmas (about 69 million today) for their release. Soon after, however, the city's entire Jewish population was sent to German death camps.
About 96 percent of Thessaloniki's 50,000 Jews were murdered in Nazi camps.
A German foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday that Berlin was ready to work on unspecified new projects with the city's Jewish community, independent of the legal bid.
"It's our express proposal to pursue forward-looking projects with the Jewish community of Thessaloniki," he told reporters.
The finance ministry spokesman said Germany has always indicated an awareness of its historical responsibility for World War II crimes.
"In the relationship with Greece, questions about the future play the fundamental role," he said.
Greece has said in recent years it reserves the right to claim more wartime reparations, arguing it was forced to accept unfavorable terms during negotiations with Germany in the 1950s.