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GREECE/ Could Merkel’s errors bring a new Hitler to Europe?

FRANCESCO ESPOSITO comments on the violent protests in Greece against the austerity measures being imposed on them by the EU in exchange for the aid money they need to avoid bankruptcy.

Clashes in Greece  (Infophoto) Clashes in Greece (Infophoto)

Before the harsh treatment began to cure the Greek sovereign debt (150 thousand people will be laid off by 2015, no more bonuses, and the minimum wage will be lowered to 500 euros a month), it would have been unthinkable to see scenes like the ones happening today. There were protesters in Syntagma Square burning a German flag next to a person holding a swastika in front of the monument to unknown soldiers, as if to say that a new occupation, like that of the Nazis in World War II (one of the most brutal occupations of the war) is taking place in Greece now.

An extreme act, certainly, but one that is emblematic of the impatience the Greek people feel with Frau Merkel, guilty of putting too much pressure on Athens, up to the paradox of demanding extreme austerity measures while at the same time recommending that Papademos’ government purchase arms to help the German war industry. Think about the sensational case last March of the four submarines produced by Thyssenkrupp that were graciously reduced to two for 1.3 billion euros (but in 2012 the Greek budget for military expenditure would exceed 7 billion, and of course most of it going to orders from Germany and France).

The tension between the two countries seemed to have reached the danger level in May 2010, when the Greek newspapers screamed about "financial Nazism" and the then Vice premier Theodoros Pangalos, annoyed by Berlin’s attitude, recalled that, in the forties, "the Germans stole the Greek gold in our central bank and never returned it... they could at least have said thank you".

Sparking the controversy was the issue of the German weekly Focus that had a cover photo of the Venus de Milo with her middle finger raised and an unequivocal title: "Greece robs us of our money? Cheaters in the euro family".

Since then, the war of stereotypes continued with cartoons, articles and posters, where for once Germany was the one assuming the role of the defaulter when the mayor of Athens, Nikita Kaklamanis said: "Ms. Merkel, you are the ones indebted to Greece! You owe us 70 billion for the ruins that you left".

This is a reference to the calculation of the financial damage inflicted by the Reich published by the German weekly Die Zeit. This is a bill that has never been paid, since the London Agreement of 1953 postponed the settlement of reparations to when Germany would be reunited, and a new treaty signed in 1990 definitively closed the question of reparations.

It is not just a question of money, said the former communist partisan Manolis Glezos, a legendary figure who climbed the Acropolis in 1941 and tore down the Nazi flag and replaced it with the Greek one, paving the way for the resistance. Almost ninety years old, Glezos participated in the tough clashes of last Sunday, ending up in the hospital.