German reparations for Greece and the implications for the rights of Egyptians and Arabs

Ahmed El-Sayed Al-Naggar
Tuesday 28 Apr 2015

International reparations have not been implemented in a consistent and fair way; countries who were brutally occupied by colonial powers also have a right to compensation

Once again, Greece has raised the issue of reparations for the colonial period and its tragedies, demanding Germany pay reparations for the money that the Nazi government looted from Greece, including its gold reserves at the time, and the destruction and devastation it caused during the Second World War.

It was Nazi Germany that sparked this war, during which it committed horrific crimes against those peoples who were subjected to occupation.

The Greek justice minister has threatened to sue Germany in order to collect the demanded reparations. Although this Greek standpoint is old as the Second World War, what's new is that there is a Greek prime minister (Alexis Tsipras) who strongly supports this demand.

The Greek Auditing Agency has formed a committee to study the case of reparations from Germany to Greece. Estimations so far put the figure to be requested at 162 billion euros, ie more than half Greece's external debt of 319 billion euros, and far exceeding Germany's share of these debts.

Included in this figure is 16 billion euros that the Greek state is demanding in compensation for the compulsory loan which Nazi Germany seized and did not return, or £4.5 million in gold coins. The value, with interest from the 74 years since the money was seized, is equivalent to tens of billions of euros.

The rest of the money is reparations for the destruction Germany inflicted on Greece and compensations for the families of victims of those killed by the Nazis in Greece.

Reparations and possible debt relief could allow Greece room to recover economically, especially in the frame of the current leftist government's economic programme which is based on linking development with social justice and stimulating growth.

At the Paris Conference held in 1945 immediately after the Second World War, Greece demanded 10 billion dollars in reparations. However, it only received a meagre cash figure and some commodities worth 25 million dollars. This measly sum was totally different from the amount requested by Greece and did not address the looted gold reserves. The limited German reparations were frozen according the London Agreement in 1953. Another agreement was signed between Greece and Germany in 1960, by which Germany should pay 115 million marks (equivalent to 30 million dollars at the time) for the Nazi's victims in Greece.

It's worth mentioning that there has been a history of strife between Greece and Germany since the split between the Orthodox and Catholic churches almost a thousand years ago. There is also the looting and vandalism Greece was subjected to during the crusade led by Germany towards the Arab Orient through Greece in 1204, and finally, the criminal German occupation of Greece by the robber Nazi German Empire.

This matter does not concern Greece alone, but all the countries which were subject to occupation, both direct and indirect systematic plunder, by colonial countries in modern history after borders of states and tribal societies were demarcated.

Egypt and most of the Arab countries are among those countries that were looted and drained for the benefit of the colonial capitalist countries, either directly or for the benefit of their robber capitalist companies.

Looting in the colonial period was not restricted to natural resources and exploiting the workforce in the form of slavery or forced labour, but also included mass abduction and slavery in order to turn the wheel of agricultural economy in some colonial countries.

This was the case of the USA, where nearly quarter of the youth from the African continent were seized to be enslaved in its agricultural sector.

This looting was a significant factor in accelerating the accumulation of capital in these capitalist colonial countries at the expense of the countries afflicted with occupation. Hence, it has contributed in widening the gap of wealth and power between the two sides.

In an almost synchronised move with the Greek demand of reparations from Germany, the latest annual gathering for the Kuwaiti magazine Al-Arabi has declared "tolerance and peace culture" as its focus of discussion. I presented a study entitled "Tolerance and Peace: The Role of Institutions and the Governing Importance of Development, Justice and Reparation" to this gathering.

In order to establish the values of tolerance and peace on firm grounds internationally, the reparations the occupied countries deserve from the occupiers for their victims and for all the tragedies they caused, the money, resources and riches they plundered come at the forefront. This will create the opportunity to build real tolerance between the peoples of these countries and their former colonisers.

Flagrant double standards in international standpoints regarding reparations

The case of imposing reparations on the states which attacked other states and peoples constitutes one of the mechanisms for compensating the countries which were attacked and to build historical reconciliation between them and the aggressor state.

However, this mechanism was not founded on an ethical basis; it was only linked to punishing the vanquished states by the victors, without affecting the victorious states in any way, even if they were the aggressors.

In short, reparations constituted a double punishment for the defeated states, and we find that the colonial powers that controlled much of the globe – and achieved this through slaughtering, occupying and plundering for the benefit of avaricious capitalism -- did not pay any reparations for this terrible period.

These countries do not even want to speak about this matter. France, which slaughtered more than 300,000 Egyptians during the French occupation of Egypt under Napoleon through horrific massacres, did not think for once to apologise for its crimes against a country established thousands of years before the emergence of the Gauls and their state.

This is the same country which occupied Algeria for 130 years and looted its resources and slaughtered more than 1.5 million martyrs during the Algerian revolution. It did not pay any reparations for its crimes.

Britain established an empire on which the sun never set by occupying a number of countries, at the top Egypt, India and North America, and practised the most extreme form of systematic pillage, slaughter and genocide. It paid nothing in compensation for its bloody, criminal and thievish history against other peoples.

Japan occupied China, Korea and Indochina, ferociously ransacked and committed criminally horrible atrocities. It also did not pay a thing in compensation to the peoples who were subjected to Japanese occupation, in spite of the fact that it was defeated in the Second World War. This was because the USA, which occupied it and has ever since maintained military bases there, treated it as a tool in the Cold War against the Soviet Union, preventing any reparations  from being paid.

The same goes for all the colonial countries like Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands.

When Germany was defeated in the First World War, harsh reparations were forced on it, giving way to the rise of extreme nationalist tendencies in the humiliated country. Eventually, the Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler, took power and sparked the Second World War. When the Second World War ended with the defeat of Germany, the issue of reparations was raised once again. In this respect, the German and Western behaviour constituted an example of double standards and the absence of both consistency and conscience.

We are therefore called upon to examine this topic of reparations and the extent of consistency, or double standards, in their application. 

Permitting Israel and prohibiting Greeks, Russians and Arabs

After the Second World War ended, the Paris Conference was held immediately to look into the reparations demanded from Germany by the countries subjected to Nazi occupation and crimes.

However, the USA, which the largest part of Germany surrendered to in order not to fall in the hands of the Soviets who occupied East Germany and the capital Berlin, rejected the imposition of huge economic reparations on West Germany, reminding that large reparations after the previous world war resulted in the rise of the Nazi extremism.

But this standpoint, which was sold to the former Soviet Union, Poland and Yugoslavia, who collectively lost around 35 million civilians and soldiers at the hands of Nazi Germany, was totally different to the stance related to the Zionist entity.

This entity has received, through American sponsorship, massive reparations to the extent that it is considered one of the most prominent and biggest reparations in international relations.

These reparations were decided in the light of what Israel proclaimed to be the death of several million Jews as a result of Nazi persecution. Estimations of those killed range between 4 and 6 million Jews, while some see this issue as an extortionist myth and argue that the issue is not about religion whether Judaism, Christianity or Islam but about those who were with the Nazis and those who were not.

For instance, anti-Nazi Germany communists were subject to abuse and slaughter that surpasses that which any others were subject to, even in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany.

In order to receive reparations from Germany, the Zionist entity announced in March 1951 that Israel is the state that represents "the Jewish people". Thus, it is entitled to receive reparations for all that befell the Jews at the hands of Nazi Germany.

In September 1952, West Germany signed a treaty with the Zionist entity through which it pledged 3 billion marks to this entity as well as 60 ships, which constituted the bulk of the Zionist merchant fleet.

The reparations included enormous sums for projects in irrigation, water supply and drainage, and road network, communication and the infrastructure in general. By 1965, West Germany has executed all its commitments and made a gigantic monetary and in-kind contribution for the so-called reparations in support of the Zionist entity; reparations which were not equivalent to those received bythose who were subjected to ten times what the Jews suffered. In addition, the personal reparations for individual Jews who were killed during the Second World War are continuing until now. Israel also receives the reparations for those who have no heirs.

In May 1996, Klaus Kinkel, the German foreign minister at the time, said in front of the Jewish Congress that his country had paid 97 billion marks, i.e. the equivalent of 60 billion dollars, in reparations to Jews and Israel from 1953 to 1996. Since the personal reparations will continue until 2030 and their value is around one billion dollars annually, this indicates the enormity of the German reparations to the Jews and the Zionist entity, which receives it on behalf of anyone who is deceased.

That is to say that Greece, which was subjected to a real tragedy -- great numbers of its citizens were killed and it was forced to hand over its gold reserve to Nazi Germany -- received nothing in comparison, whereas the Zionist entity, which did not exist at all throughout the Second World War, has received the reparations for those killed who belonged to other countries just because they were Jewish.

The Arab World and the forgotten colonial crimes

If we looked to the Arab world, which was subjected to British, French and Spanish occupation and saw its resources looted and its sons slaughtered, we will find that no real historical reconciliation between its countries and colonial countries have taken place.

Despite the fact that there are full relations between these two groups, the wounds of the colonial past have not yet healed and apologies have not been made nor reparations paid.

No Arab country that has received any Western reparations except Libya, which received limited reparations from Italy.

Moreover, several Western governments embrace, sponsor, finance and arm extremist religious groups, including Al-Qaida and ISIS, and exploit these groups to ruin stability in some Arab countries or destroy the states themselves, as is happening in Libya and Syria. This has added a new dimension to the reservations Arabs have about the West. 

In addition to the crimes of occupation including slaughter, and plunder resources, labour exploitation, and market monopoly, there are other crimes.

For example, there is the loss of one million feddans of land along Egypt's north coast due to the existence of millions of mines in that area planted by Germany, Italy and Britain. These countries have not providing their maps showing where the mines were laid.

Every year, Egyptians, living in these areas fall victims to mine explosions, and they and their next-of-kin deserve reparations. Those reparations are their right, and cannot be taken away.

In contrast, there are countries which practise injustice, aggression and destruction of peace and tolerance.

However, they are not forced to pay reparations, above all the Zionist entity, which was established by usurpation and continues to practise injustice and aggression with American and Western political, economic, military and technological support.

Even when this entity occupied the Sinai Peninsula and stole oil from the Abou Redis fields and coal from Al-Maghara mines and other diverse natural resources, it did not offer any compensation.

When this entity slaughtered thousands of Egyptian prisoners of war during the 1967 war in a horrific, unethical crime, it did not pay any reparations. The USA provides this entity with protection as its backer, supporter and ally; thus it commits all these crimes without accountability.

Reparation agreements have not materialised

Within the framework of the UN, advanced industrialised capitalist countries and the wealthiest nations committed themselves in the 1970s to give 0.7 percent of their GNP in assistance to poor countries.

The objective of this assistance was to aid these countries to grow economically and to compensate them for the plunder they were subjected to during the colonial period, on the grounds that modern colonial powers are all now among the most advanced industrialised countries.

We should take into consideration that developing the tools of production in rich capitalist countries and their wealth came, in large part, from the looting of the resources of the developing countries, exploiting their workforces, holding total control of their markets, and hindering the development of their economies'.

With the exception of the small Scandinavian countries, no Western country provided the demanded assistance which they themselves agreed to.

Moreover, the assistances given by these countries are always linked to political and economic provisions that encroach on the independence of the recipient countries, and are made according to the provisions of the ideologically rigid capitalist programme promoted by the IMF and the World Bank until now.

Thus, this assistance aimed at building and entrenching vassalage of the poor and developing countries to advanced industrialised capitalist countries, not helping these countries fairly and impartially to achieve development and expiating for the sins of the dreadful colonial period.

Only the Arab Gulf countries and Libya provided more in aid in percentage terms in the 1970s and 1980s than the wealthy countries had committed themselves to. However, this assistance was sometimes linked to the IMF and the World Bank, both institutions characterised by ideological rigidity and unable to assess the different measures required for different levels of development in recipient countries.

This trend made much of this aid simply a form of backing for the plans of industrialised capitalist countries, above all the US.

Respecting rights, reparations and apologies for historical crimes is a more objective gateway for building world peace based on real forgiveness, not on the control and hegemony of a strong party that thinks it enjoys peace while it accumulates strife for crimes it did not atone for.   

The writer is the chairman of the board of Al-Ahram establishment.


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