A German couple visiting Greece walked into a town hall and handed over €875 (£630) in what they said were second world war reparations.
Dimitris Kotsouros, the mayor of Nafplio, a seaport in the Peloponnese, said: “They came to my office yesterday morning, saying they wanted to make up for their government’s attitude. They made their calculations and said each German owed €875 for what Greece had to pay during world war two”.
The mayor of the historic town where the tourists deposited their cheque said the money had since been donated to a local charity. The couple chose his town “because it was the first capital of Greece in the 19th century”, he added.
Greek media reports named the pair as Ludwig Zacaro and Nina Lahge. They say Zacaro is retired and Lahge works a 30-hour week. They did not have enough money to pay for two, one paper said.
Athens is struggling under a debt mountain that amounts to about 175% of the country’s annual economic output. The country has long claimed that Germany owes it payment for a forced wartime loan and other reparations, and the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, recently said Greece had a “moral obligation” to claim payment.
Several senior Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens in Germany have also said their nation should consider paying reparations. But Germany’s economy minister last week rejected the calls. “The likelihood is zero,” said Sigmar Gabriel.
Nearly 70 years have passed since the end of the war during which the Nazis occupied Greece for four years and forced the Greek central bank to give the Third Reich a loan that financially ruined the country.
The dispute has grown in intensity because of tensions between Athens and the rest of the eurozone as Germany leads demands for economic austerity that Greece and other southern European countries are struggling to handle.
Figures from some sources in Athens put the amount still owed by Germany at around €162bn (£117bn), or more than half the level of debt that Greece is struggling with.