Resio (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jewish leaders in the Greek city Thessaloniki are considering how to reclaim—with interest—fares that Nazi Germany made nearly 60,000 Jews pay to send themselves to their deaths at Auschwitz.

The move is part of an attempt by the the new government in Athens to shift public focus from Greece’s current debt crisis to Germany’s World War II debts. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will visit Berlin on Monday.

The Associated Press reports:

While war reparations have been a staple demand of previous Greek governments, Tsipras’ radical left government has made the issue a central part of the bailout negotiations with Germany. The Germans have dismissed such demands, saying compensation issues were settled decades ago in post-war accords.

Billions of euros in rescue loans from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund have saved Greece from bankruptcy since 2010. Germany, the largest contributor to the bailout, has been vocal in pressing Greece to cut back on government spending to bring its finances under control.

But the Greeks point out that, following its wartime defeat, Germany received one of the biggest bailouts in modern history within a decade of laying waste to much of Europe. Greece was among 22 countries that agreed to halve Germany’s foreign debt at a 1953 conference in London.

The claims Greece, or individual Greeks, might bring against Germany include possibly hundreds of billions in euros as compensation for destroyed infrastructure and goods, compensation for the estimated 300,000 people who died from famine during the winter of 1941-42, and repayment of some 50 million euros (in today’s money) that the Jewish community paid as ransom in return for 10,000 Jewish men being held as slave laborers—men who were sent to concentration camps in the year after their release.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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