need for Greek 'Nuremberg Trials'

Article published on Oct. 13, 2012
Article published on Oct. 13, 2012

By Christos Yannaras (Newspaper “Kathimerini” : 2 September 2012. Translation : Sotiris Mitralexis & ; Christos Chatzimichail)

istorical experience has taught the German people how dangerous it is for a nation to be debilitatingly humiliated. They have experienced the horror of Nazism, which stemmed from their extreme abasement due to the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.

They have also experienced the exact opposite: the fact that they owe their status today, a status of economic domination over Europe and a significant international presence, to the wisdom and magnanimity (although not a disinterested one) of the victors of World War I. Despite what they have suffered during the War from the then defeated Germans, the victors insisted on distinguishing the treatment of the German people from that of its Nazi leadership - even if the German people has at some point not merely tolerated, but nearly deified the paranoid butchers. The victors adjudicated and punished at Nuremberg the leadership of the defeated, while offering tremendous financial assistance to the German people, so that they could recover from the havoc of the War.

However, today’s devastated Greece is being degradingly humiliated from the then beneficiated Germans, without distinguishing the treatment of the Greek people from the treatment of the governments that led the country to frantic debt and bankruptcy. They do claim and demand, “Greece should fulfill its obligations”. And in fact, by "Greece" they mean the Greek people to repay the outrageous, vertiginous debt that was accumulated from corrupt and foul governments and unrestrained party politics for the sake of the patronage system. And to repay it with crippling cuts of salaries and pensions, along with a minimisation of the welfare state.

In no version of the “Memorandum” have the Germans demanded that a kind of purgative “Nuremberg Trials” should take place in Greece, a country plagued by the absolute power of its political parties. It was never demanded or proposed to confiscate the wealth and property of Greek prime ministers and ministers who signed, in cold blood, criminally irresponsible public loans, the repayment of which was certainly impossible to be made in the future. To confiscate the fortunes of those people who have openly and defiantly benefited from the money that was profusely granted by the governing political parties: the fortunes and wealth of the parties’ “executives”, of innumerable ministerial “consultants” with surprisingly high salaries, of public companies’ presidents and public suppliers appointed by the parties, of notorious tax evaders known to everyone, as the majority of the private TV channels and the commercialised “sports” business.

Today’s Greece is facing the mockery and irony of the German press, even of the most vulgar and discredited yellow press, while the protagonists of Germany’s political scene accompany the vilification, appearing thus to “protect” their citizen’s interests. And the German “public opinion” pretends to ignore the question: Why have they accepted, for so many years, to continue loaning a country that was obviously unable to repay such a high public debt? Why have they tolerated to sign loan agreements with specific Greek politicians (ministers and prime ministers) of minimum or zero credibility, even with specific persons of patently disadvantageous, very limited intelligence?

It would be unrealistic, inconceivable to say that they didn’t have correct information. The Press Office of the German Embassy in Athens could not have been unaware of the ascertainment-“refrain” that circulated by word of mouth throughout Greece: “the Greek professional politicians could not even be trusted to run and manage a news stand”. By what logic did the German governments continue to assent to the generous public lending to Greek politicians of such a deafening disrepute?

There is only one logical interpretation, until otherwise proven, for this public lending with absolutely no hope of repayment: The loans which are currently projected by Germany as “Greece’s commitments”, while requiring them to be repaid at the expense of the starvation of the Greek majority, were an intricate collusion of interests: “We will grant you a loan, but with the money from this loan you will pay us to build airports, to construct the Metro, to build submarines and frigates - with the implicit guarantee of a rich ‘commision’ for your party”.

It would also be logical to assume that as soon as the lenders realised the morbid greed of the borrowers, they started to lend them with ‘borrowed sums’, just like the professional usurers: We read in the newspapers that Germany borrowed with an interest rate of 1.5% to lend Greece with an interest rate of 6.5%. So, how could the lenders ever demand a kind of “Nuremberg Trials” that would purge Greek political life, without being revealed as accomplices of crimes?

A proportion of current Greek citizens with considerable social influence, domestically as well as internationally, had the opportunity to study at German universities with scholarships by German research institutions. We preserve respect and honour to that part of the German society thanks to which the name of Germany is internationally linked in people’s conscience with high achievements in the fields of Philosophy, Music, Archaeology, Byzantine studies, Law. The fact that there is such a social group in Greece is a challenge (hopefully an annoying one) specifically for the Press Office of the German Embassy in Athens. This Office should -it is its mission- inform the German voters of our existence, of our voice, of our call for Greek “Nuremberg Trials”.

Just like Germany is not equated for us with Mr. Schäuble (with the inhumanity of a mechanistic, enstranged from society version of “economics” that echoes army perceptions of “efficiency”), so for the German voters Greece cannot be identified with its corrupt and foul party leaderships which are guilty of terrible social crimes. The role of a diplomatic Press Office is crucial to combat the racism of generalised prejudices.

A German journalist asserted her friendly companions a few days ago, that her colleagues who come to Greece for reportage and to "cover" events have already written, more often than not, a complete story that will be published as soon as they return to Germany, before even visiting Greece. The events of today’s Greece are reported to the German public with prefabricated, standardized clichés. And judging from the samples of Greek political journalism that is (rarely) translated and published in the German press, a specific question is imperatively formed: who and with what criteria determines what will and what will not be published.

Not unjustifiably, we perceive an atmosphere of “final solution” (Endlösung) in today’s Greece.

Christos Yannaras is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in Athens and an Alumnus of the "Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung".