In 1960, the then Federal Republic of Germany paid Greece 115 million Deutschmarks in compensation for Nazi crimes. Greek governments stated that this was only a fraction of what is due on account of loss of life, damaged infrastructure, and the repayment of a forced loan the Nazis extracted on Greece in 1942. Recent statements by leading German politicians seem to indicate that reparations are now a possibility. Both the law and fairness suggest such a payment is the right thing to do.
On Feb. 8, Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeared in front of the Greek Parliament, officially demanding Germany's payment. Tsipras spoke about Athens's "historical obligation" to claim reparations from Germany for the death and destruction resulting from Germany's occupation of Greece. "Greece has a moral obligation to our people, to history, to all European peoples who fought and gave their blood against Nazism," he added.
Greece's claims, allegedly amounting to some $303 billion, have been recognized by the Greek and Italian highest courts, as well as by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Yet, collecting such debt is obstructed by Germany’s immunity of jurisdiction, a principle of international law impeding, under most circumstances, a country from sitting in judgment on the misdeeds of another. But it is the historical and political legitimacy of the claim that counts, beyond the plausible legal arguments that support the claim for reparations.