Distomo case opens in Germany

KARLSRUHE, Germany (AP) – Lawyers for four Greeks whose relatives were killed by Nazi forces in 1944 brought their case for compensation from the German government before Germany’s highest criminal court yesterday. The Federal Criminal Court opened consideration of the claim almost 59 years to the day after the June 10 massacre of 214 civilians in Distomo, some 140 kilometers (87 miles) northwest of Athens, in reprisal for an attack by partisans. The court’s verdict is expected on July 9. At issue is whether the Greeks, who did not travel to yesterday’s hearing, have a right to individual compensation beyond the 115 million marks (58.5 million euros at current rates) the German government paid Greece in the 1960s to compensate victims of the Nazi occupation. Yesterday, government lawyer Achim Kraemer argued that Germany already had fulfilled its obligations, although the killings «symbolize a particularly brutal, although unfortunately not unique, action by German soldiers in World War II.» «The German government deeply regrets the large loss of life, health, freedom and wealth,» he said. The relatives’ lawyer, Joachim Kummer, argued that there was an «unbearable contradiction» between Germany’s recognition that wrong was done to the victims and its refusal to countenance compensation. The relatives are appealing a 1998 ruling by a lower court in Cologne that they weren’t entitled to further payments, but their appeal has been delayed by a legal tussle in Greece over a Greek court’s decision in 1999 to grant a 9.4-billion-drachma (27.58-million-euro) damages award. Athens refused to allow the sale of German state properties to compensate relatives, and Greece’s Supreme Special Court subsequently ruled that families cannot sue Germany for reparations through Greek courts.

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