Already pressing Germany for 240 billion euros ($311.6 billion) for World War II reparations, Greece is also readying a case for the return of antiquities looted by the Nazis during World War II, officials said.
“The entirety of the archaeological service’s archives is under investigation” in a search for photographs and sketches of lost items, the general secretariat for culture said in a statement.
“Final and scientifically documented conclusions on the issue of Greek cultural treasures looted during the (Nazi) occupation will be drawn in the coming months,” the secretariat said.
The search will also cover Byzantine and post-Byzantine relics whose destruction or seizure had not been properly examined until now. The culture secretariat added that tens of thousands of Neolithic shards illegally taken out of Greece during the 1941-1944 occupation are to be repatriated from Germany. “The repatriation procedures are being completed,” it said.
Even after seven decades, the brutality of the Nazi occupation remains firmly rooted in the memory of many Greeks and the country’s psyche of the terror that was wrought. Many Greeks blame German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the austerity measures being imposed by international lenders in return for bailout loans, with Germany the biggest contributor.
Greece has said in recent years that it reserves the right to claim wartime reparations from Germany, saying it was forced to accept unfavorable terms during negotiations in the 1950’s. In April, the Greek finance ministry completed a search of state archives to determine the level of outstanding reparations for Nazi war crimes.
But its report has been classified as secret and has been forwarded to the foreign ministry and the Greek state’s legal counsel for further handling. According to reports, Greece has estimated the outstanding sum at 162 billion euros ($210 billion).
Germany rejects the idea of paying any further reparations. In September, the German government reiterated that it has already paid “substantial sums” to Greece as part of bilateral agreements on war reparations.