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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 February 2007, 16:27 GMT
Court dismisses Greek WWII case
By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News, Athens

Map of Greece
A village in Greece which suffered the country's worst massacre of World War II has lost its battle to force Germany to pay compensation.

The European Court of Justice rejected the legal arguments of Kalavrita, where at least 670 men and boys were murdered by German soldiers in 1943.

The decision deals a blow to other communities seeking reparations.

But the Jewish community of Salonika, which was all but wiped out during the war, is continuing its legal battle.

Convention argument

Germany has always maintained that it had settled its debt to Greece with a 1960s treaty in which 115m Deutschmarks were handed over in war reparations.

But survivors of German violence have never accepted that as a final settlement.

Kalavrita, a mountain village in the Peloponnese full of elderly widows dressed in mourning black, has for decades been determined to extract what it regards as full justice for the 1943 atrocity.

The occupying Wehrmacht carried out the executions in retaliation for an attack by the Greek resistance.

But Kalavrita's legal options now appear to be at an end after Europe's highest court rejected their claim that the Brussels Convention removed Germany's immunity for acts in an armed conflict affecting non-combatants.

The decision will disappoint Distomo in central Greece, where more than 213 male villagers were massacred in 1944.

Salonika case

But David Saltiel, the president of the Jewish community in Salonika, said the basis of its case against the German state - which they are suing for 400m euros (269m) - was very different from Kalavrita's.

He said they would be proceeding with legal action in Germany and at the European Court if necessary.

In 1942, the Germans rounded up 10,000 Jews in Salonika as slave labourers, and the Jewish community was forced to raise a fortune in bribes to secure their release.

Historians have found the original cheques, which they claim proves the extortion took place, and they want the money paid back in full, with 65 years of interest on top.


SEE ALSO
Greeks lose Nazi massacre claim
26 Jun 03 |  Europe

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