A German couple visiting Greece were hailed as heroes by the local press Wednesday after paying 875 euros ($945) to a town hall in what they said were World War II reparations.
“They came to my office on Tuesday morning, saying they wanted to make up for their government’s attitude. They made their calculations and said each German owed 875 euros for what Greece had to pay during World War II,” Dimitris Kotsouros, Nafplio mayor, told AFP.
The mayor of the seaport town where the tourists deposited their cheque, said the money has since been donated to a local charity.
He said they chose his town “because it was the first capital of Greece in the 19th century.”
Greek media reports named the pair as Ludwig Zacaro and Nina Lahge. They say he is retired, and that she works a 30-hour week. They did not have enough money to pay for two, one paper said.
Athens is struggling under a crushing debt mountain that amounts to around 175 percent of the country’s annual economic output.
The country has long claimed Germany owes it payment for a forced wartime loan and other reparations, and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras recently said Greece had a “moral obligation” to claim payment.
Germany’s economy minister last week rejected the calls however. “The likelihood is zero,” said Simgar Gabriel.
Nearly 70 years have passed since the end of the war during which the Nazis occupied Greece for four years and forced the Greek central bank to give the Third Reich a loan that financially ruined the country.
The dispute has grown in intensity because of tensions between Athens and the rest of the eurozone as Germany leads demands for economic austerity that Greece and other southern European countries are struggling to handle.
Figures from some sources in Athens put the amount still owed by Germany at around 162 billion euros ($183 billion), or more than half the level of debt that Greece is currently struggling with.