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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 00:32 GMT 01:32 UK
Greeks press Nazi damages claim
A Distomo survivor identifies his family's bones in a mausoleum
In one village, Distomo, 218 people were massacred
Greece's highest court is being asked to decide whether the families of people killed by the Nazis during World War II can go ahead with claims for compensation from Germany.

It is thought about 65,000 claims depend on the ruling of the special supreme court.

Where will the Greek victims of the Nazis go to find justice if not in Greece?

National Council for German War Reparations

The plaintiffs argue that Greek courts should be allowed to settle claims against a foreign government.

The claimants are mostly relatives of people killed by German soldiers during their occupation of Greece.

But they include survivors of wartime atrocities in dozens of Greek towns and villages.

Germany argues that it settled all claims in the 1960s.

No jurisdiction

Those seeking compensation have been backed by lower courts, which asked Germany to pay damages.

But efforts by court officials to seize German state property in Athens were suspended after Germany appealed, arguing that Greek courts had no jurisdiction in the issue.

More than $24m had been awarded to families of those killed in the most notorious wartime massacre at the village of Distomo, where 218 people died.
Picture of members of the Koutriaris family
Whole families were lost in the Distomo massacre

Soldiers of the Waffen SS entered Distomo in June 1944 in reprisal for attacks by Greek partisans and went on a two-hour frenzy of killing, looting and rape.

Germany has repeatedly said it will not give more, having made a collective payment of $67m in the 1960s.

Last month visiting German Finance Minister Hans Eichel told reporters the reparations case was over as far as Germany was concerned.

But campaigners insist that Greece must allow the action to go ahead, and that Germany accept liability.

"This is a historic case. Where will the Greek victims of the Nazis go to find justice if not in Greece," said Manolis Glezos of the National Council for German War Reparations.

A ruling is not expected immediately.

See also:

10 Sep 01 | Europe
Greeks to auction German assets
26 Jan 00 | Europe
Nazi slave cash bill adopted
24 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Greece
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