The Foam of German Diplomacy

THESSALONIKI/BERLIN/FLORENCE | | griechenlanditalien

THESSALONIKI/BERLIN/FLORENCE (Own report) - When the German foreign minister appeared in the synagogue in Thessaloniki (Greece), he was met with strong protest from prominent members of the Jewish community. In his speech at the synagogue on December 4, (published by the German Foreign Ministry) Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) praised "our German hands to be used in the life of your community" - after Jewish life was eradicated under the Nazis. In his historical reflections, the German foreign minister alluded to the more than 50,000 Jewish Greeks, who, in 1943, had been forced to buy "Reichsbahn" tickets to Auschwitz, where they were murdered upon arrival. He did not utter a single word about the German receipts (89 million Euros) from those trips taking them to their death, or about Berlin's refusal to pay its debts. Neither did Steinmeier mention the reimbursement of the several million Euros in racist "ransoms" as the Jewish community demands. Prominent Jewish Greeks were outraged because Berlin's foreign policy is obviously undermining the legal claims of Nazi victims with moralist avowals and non-committal monetary hand-outs. Protests were also raised against Steinmeier's being offered "honorary membership" in Thessaloniki's synagogue. Steinmeier made similar appearances in relationship to Italian victims of Nazi mass crimes.

Prior to Steinmeier's "honorary membership," his Minister of State Michael Roth (SPD) had visited Thessaloniki on numerous occasions. According to members of the Jewish community, Roth had repeatedly declared that the Nazi victims' legal claims could not be a basis for negotiations. With various offers, he sought to learn what amount would entice the Jewish creditors to waive their legal rights.

Three-Point-Five Percent

Following small donations to the Thessaloniki Memorial Concert and contributions to the restoration of a section of the Monastirioten Synagogue, larger sums were negotiated with the Jewish community's representatives in the German Foreign Ministry. The deal was concluded in 2016 with a commitment to pay 10 Million Euros [1] - just 3.5 percent of the debts owed from the criminal receipts alone, without any form of compensation for the more than 50,000 lives destroyed being taken into account.

Hush Money

The sum - which critics call "hush money" [2] - seems to be directly related to Steinmeier's being awarded "honorary membership," as prominent members of the community wrote in their letters of protest. There were no prior consultations with relatives of the deported and murdered Jews, and the award had been kept secret until 48 hours before Steinmeier's appearance. This is a "direct insult to the memory of the victims,"[3] declared community member, Paul Isaac Hagouel, whose father had been prisoner 118633 in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Bought

In various protest letters, read aloud December 7, at the public communal assembly in Thessaloniki, it was said that "the German government has persistently refused to pay reparations to the Greek victims - both Christians and Jews ... . Our sense of justice cannot be bought with any form of 'monetary handouts'." The renowned Jewish historian, Rena Molho, whose work, "The Holocaust of the Greek Jews," had been presented in Berlin by the SPD-affiliated Friedrich Ebert Foundation last November, was among the signatories of this protest. The indignation was directed at the German foreign policy's maneuvering. "We have all learned to differentiate between the foam of diplomacy and the depth of historical responsibility," was read from another community member's written protest.

A Miracle

In his speech in the Monastirioten Synagogue, Steinmeier modulated the foreign ministry's decades-old pattern of non-committal condolence statements and using a shower of moralist avowals, he sought to veil Germany's attempt to escape the international legal order. Whereas, Steinmeier spoke in Thessaloniki of a "miracle of reconciliation,"[4] while not mentioning the German government's material expiation obligation, he regretted, on a similar occasion, the suffering of the Nazis' Italian victims, merging it into "a journey that built friendship."[5] This journey had its destination in "a united Europe." Not a word about the German government's strategy to exclude some 650,000 Italian military internees (from 1943 to 1945) from material compensations and to shove off into museums the memory of the 50,000 Italian forced laborers, who had died in Germany, without compensation.

Passato

Steinmeier terminated his speech about this group of persons with a "smirk" [6] and an Italian term, he repeated several times: "'Passato' - 'Finished.' Finished. The most painful chapter in German-Italian history is over and done with."[7] These sentences were spoken in the presence of Italy's foreign minister - sentences that are programmatic for German foreign policy - denying the persistence of the pain still suffered by all those Italian victims, from whom Frank-Walter Steinmeier's foreign ministry, seeks to expunge all claims on Germany and ignore the law suits of the survivors. Even though the foreign ministry has repeatedly been unsuccessful - most recently in Florence [8] - Berlin still refuses to comply with the ruling of Italy's highest court,[9] taking the risk of foreclosure on German state property in Italy.

Military Perspectives

Among its non-committal avowals about the "journey that built friendship" in "a united Europe," the foreign ministry has been increasingly adding military perspectives. In late November, for example, Steinmeier called on his counterparts, including the Italian foreign minister, to "demonstrate to the populations of the member countries,"[10] how "Europe's common security and defense policy can be advanced."

Dimensions of a Crusade

There is a direct path leading from the non-settlement of German WW II mass crimes to the arming of "Europe" for new wars, without first having paid the bills for those of the past. In the words of Giorgos Margaritis, professor of history at the University of Thessaloniki: "At a time when the German political leadership nourishes hopes that the European Union's sovereign governments and peoples accept its political hegemony, the campaign to 'embellish' the past has assumed dimensions of a crusade."[11]

[1] Visit of the Minister of State of the Federal Republic of Germany Mr. Michael Roth. Press Release. Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, 15-09-2016.
[2] 15. Rundschreiben an die Zeichner des Appells zugunsten der Jüdischen Gemeinde von Thessaloniki. Zug der Erinnerung, Anfang Dezember 2016. www.zug-der-erinnerung.eu.
[3] Schreiben Paul Isaac Hagouel, Ph.D., Thessaloniki, December 2, 2016. Übersetzung aus dem Englischen.
[4] Words of thanks from Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on his acceptance of honorary membership of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki, www.auswaertiges-amt.de 04.12.2016.
[5], [6] Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the opening of the exhibition Between Two Stools - The History of Italian Military Internees 1943-45 at the Nazi Forced Labour Documentation Centre in Berlin. www.auswaertiges-amt.de 28.11.2016.
[7] Rede Steinmeier vom 28.11.2016, wörtlich: "'Passato' steht dort. - 'Vorbei'. Vorbei. Zu Ende und vergangen ist das schmerzvolle Kapitel deutsch-italienischer Geschichte..."
[8] Neue Niederlage Deutschlands vor italienischem Gericht. www.tagesspiegel.de 31.10.2016.
[9] Vgl. Studio legale Dr. Joachim Lau. www.jolau.com/4.html: Corte Costituzionale Senteza n. 238/14 deutsch.
[10] Rede von Außenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier beim sechsten Berliner Forum Außenpolitik. www.auswaertiges-amt.de 29.11.2016.
[11] Giorgos Margaritis: Die "komplexe" Vergangenheit. Kommentar vom 05.12.2016.