Important symbolic actions

German President Joachim Gauck’s apology for the atrocities committed by the Nazis in Greece during World War II and his visit to the site of a massacre by German troops in Ioannina are important symbolic actions.

Both Greece and Germany need to place more emphasis on the things that unite them and to show more understanding toward one another. The populist media in Germany have used up a lot of ink disparaging the Greeks and generating despicable stereotypes that fueled anger and suspicion. The German leadership needs to stop punishing Greece and show that it wants to help its citizens, who are being sorely tested by the crisis.

As far as the loan that Greece was forced to give while under Nazi occupation and other historical disagreements are concerned, these can be settled through talks or international arbitration, without fanfare and without stirring populist sentiment.