Greek PM Tsipras to visit Germany's Holocaust memorial

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 23, 2015 5:30 PM

By Renee Maltezou and Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - Greece Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will visit Germany's Holocaust memorial on Tuesday on the second day of his visit to the country that his radical leftist government has demanded pay World War Two reparations, his office said on Monday.

The announcement of the visit to the Berlin memorial to Jews murdered by the Nazi regime, an unusual move for a foreign leader, came after Tsipras told a news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel that his government's call for reparations from Germany is mainly a moral demand.

"We aren't linking it to the current discussion on the European crisis and Greece's position in the euro zone, and the need to quickly find a solution to move forward," Tsipras told reporters when asked about his government's call for reparations that Germany has rejected.

"It's primarily a moral issue and not a material one," he said, adding it was time to overcome "shadows of the past."

The Greek leftist leader and his ministers have in the past, nevertheless, invoked Nazi war crimes as part of their drive to renegotiate the terms of Athens' 240 billion euro bailout with their euro zone partners.

Hundreds of villages were razed and more than 20,000 civilians killed in 1941-44 by German soldiers bent on crushing Greek resistance. Resentment runs deep and demands range from 3.5 billion euros to 162 billion euros. [ID:nL6N0WL2D3]

It is not the first time that Tsipras made a symbolic visit to a Nazi-era memorial. In his first act as prime minister in January, Tsipras visited a war memorial in Kaisariani where 200 Greek resistance fighters were slaughtered by the Nazis in 1944.

The Holocaust memorial, with its "Field of Stelae" or 2,711 giant concrete slabs, honors the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and was designed by American Peter Eisenman.

But Tsipras also dismissed reports that members of his government wanted to seize German property to compensate victims of another Nazi massacre. Greece's justice minister said earlier in March he was ready to implement a High Court ruling allowing Athens to seize German state-owned property. [ID:nL5N0WD2BH]

"There is no member of this government who has expressed any Greek government intention to take over Germany-owned buildings - this was going around a lot recently, as well as the idea to put an end to the important and great activity of the Goethe institute in Greece," Tsipras said. "None of this is true."

Tsipras will also visit leaders of three left-leaning parties on Tuesday - Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel as well as leaders of the two opposition parties - the radical Left party and Greens.

(writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Dominic Evans)