A VISIBLY emotional German president laid a wreath yesterday at a monument in northwestern Greece to villagers massacred by German soldiers during the Second World War.
Joachim Gauck paid tribute at the end of a three-day visit that combined talks with efforts to bring closure to wounds from the German wartime occupation of Greece.
Mr Gauck expressed “shame” at the 1943 atrocity at Ligiades, where Nazi troops executed dozens of villagers in reprisal for a partisan attack. He was accompanied by Greek president Karolos Papoulias, who comes from the nearby town of Ioannina.
Anti-German sentiment has increased in Greece in recent years, as Berlin – the largest single contributor to Greece’s bailout – has been one of the most ardent proponents of austerity measures imposed in return for billions of euros in rescue loans.
That resentment has fuelled growing calls for Germany to pay Greece reparations for the brutal 1941-44 occupation and restitution for a forced wartime loan to Germany.
After the wreath-laying ceremony, about a dozen people at Ligiades unfurled a banner reading “reparations and justice,” and chanted “justice, justice”. In a speech on Thursday night, Mr Papoulias said he could not understand the German government’s refusal to discuss Greek reparation claims. Germany insists the issue was laid to rest in the 1960s with a repayment which it considers to have settled all claims.