Focus / International

Wales chance to ask for WWII compensation is passed

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Greece demands reinforce the hostile relationship between Athens and Berlin.
Image: ionline.pt

Wales chance to claim reimbursements from Germany for the damages caused during World War II has passed, but Greece is now demanding billions of euros in compensation.

Greek experts have concluded that the country should receive 162 billion euros for damages caused by the Germans during World War II in order to help recover its debts. They will also claim the 54 billion euros, which Athens loaned to the Nazis to pay back for the reconstruction of Berlin.

It supposedly adds up to 80 per cent of Greek gross domestic product. This might cause a rift in already hostile relations between Berlin and Athens.

Similarly, Wales also suffered huge losses during the war with 33,000 houses damaged, over 500 houses demolished and more than 15,000 Welshmen killed.

However, no financial claims have been made by Wales until today.

Gerald Hughes, a lecturer in military history of Aberystwyth University told The Archer “Wales was supposedly entitled to reparations from the British occupation zone of Germany. Unlike the Soviets in their zone, they took little of the entitlements as Germany was ruined. Indeed, Britain found itself having to put money into Germany.”

However, some people are more sceptical about Wales possible opportunities to claim reimbursements for its losses.

Toby Thacker, a lecturer in modern European history of Cardiff University expressed that the issue is rather complicated.

“I would say that Wales was damaged in WWII, but took part as part of Great Britain. Wales was not then a sovereign state, and therefore I do not think there could be any case for a separate claim for compensation for damages,” Mr Thacker said.

“Greece suffered very greatly during the war as a result of unprovoked Nazi aggression and occupation, there might indeed have been a case for compensation. I think the difficulty is that any damage or harm caused between 1941-1945 is now almost 70 years back, and that the time has probably passed when it might have been reasonable to claim compensation,” he said.

Associate Professor of history at University of Texas, Brownsville, United States, Dr Helmut Langerbein told The Archer “I think that the idea of compensation for WW II damages is part of Greece’s populist agenda. It’s very much in line with the cartoons showing Chancellor Merkel with a Hitler moustache. I reckon that the supposed logic behind it is that the Germans destroyed much of Greece during WW II (true) and they are now behind the EU’s enforcement of tight budgetary rules (also true); therefore they should be held responsible for paying for the damages they had caused in WW II and thereby ease the current burden on Greece. To me, these are two unrelated issues, but they will certainly find a lot of popular support in Greece.”

He added “I guess that Wales is in a different situation because the EU is not imposing any monetary restrictions. There may also be other reasons having to do with the status of Wales within Great Britain.”

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The compensation for the Second World War remains a delicate topic not only in Wales but also Greece and Germany.
Image: incartoons.wordpress.com

The Federal Republic of Germany as well as individual German companies paid compensation to various groups of people and different nations since 1945, including the Jews.

Toby Thacker asked: “If it were judged that Germany was still liable, when would this liability end? In 100 years? 200 years? Would you have the Danes claim compensation from the British for the damage done to Copenhagen in an act of aggression during the Napoleonic Wars?”

The questions remain unanswered.

In Cardiff over the course of the World War II 30,000 bombs were dropped, 355 civilians were killed and 575 businesses were burnt down.

Swansea suffered the most intense attack in Wales when a raid that lasted three nights in February 1941 destroyed half the town’s centre.

Greek citizens living in Wales feel that it is “natural” for any country to demand for damage suffered in the past.

Margarita Kalogeropoulou, a Greek student at Cardiff University told The Archer “I’m not sure if the compensation is feasible after so many years. Especially in the situation Greece faces today. However, it could be an important help for the debt.”

Mr Thacker said “See it from the German side. If they admitted liability today for damage done in Greece during World War II, they would lay themselves open to claims. Some of them are much larger, from a host of other countries. Who would be the judge of these claims?”

James Whitley, Professor specialising in Greek studies of Cardiff University told The Archer “Wales would certainly not stand a chance of gaining compensation from Germany as the British did not claim anything in 1945. One reason is that the cases of Wales and Greece are not comparable.”

Shruti Kedia & Tymoteusz Chajdas

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