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A claim in need of ‘special treatment’: compensating for Greek tobacco seized by the German occupation authorities during World War II

  • Despina-Georgia Konstantinakou (a1)
Abstract

Before World War II, tobacco was the most important Greek export, but just days after the German invasion in April 1941, the occupation authorities rushed to seize the tobacco production. While this article will document the seizure, most importantly, it will take a deeper look at how Greek tobacco producers and traders sought compensation for losses incurred as the result of the confiscation of their tobacco. It will also present how the German and the Greek postwar authorities handled these claims, taking into consideration Greek and German archival sources, which have hitherto been relatively neglected.

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1 Pelt, M., Tying Greece to the West. US–West German–Greek Relations 1949–74 (Copenhagen 2006) 97.

2 Prontzas, E., Οικονομικός προστατευτισμός και βαλκανική συνεργασία: Τα ανατολικά καπνά στο Μεσοπόλεμο (Thessaloniki 1996) 314 . See also Lampe, J. R. and Jackson, M. R., Balkan Economic History, 1550–1950. From Imperial Borderlands to Developing Nations (Bloomington, IN 1982) 374.

3 Kalafatis, T. (ed.), Οικονομική ιστορία του ελληνικού κράτους, II (Athens 2011) 62.

4 Mazower, M., Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century (London 1998) 131.

5 Neal, L., ‘The economics and finance of bilateral clearing agreements: Germany 1934-8’, The Economic History Review 32 (1979) 391.

6 Carnegie, A., Power Plays: How International Institutions Reshape Coercive Diplomacy (Cambridge 2015) 52.

7 Prontzas, Οικονομικός προστατευτισμός, 421.

8 Mazower, Dark Continent, 132. Mazower comments that this policy resulted in ‘Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Greece’ helping to ‘pay for the German recovery’ after World War I.

9 Ibid .

10 Pelt, M., Tobacco, Arms and Politics: Greece and Germany from World Crisis to World War, 1929–1941 (Copenhagen 1998) 255.

11 Kalafatis (ed.), Οικονομική ιστορία, 63.

12 Dr Schomaker, Head of the Reich's Finance Ministry Tobacco Department, Note, 21 April 1941, Bundesarchiv Koblenz [henceforth BArch], B126/60568.

13 Kalafatis (ed.), Οικονομική ιστορία, 63.

14 Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Confidential Memo to P. Pipinelis, 9 Sept. 1963, Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archives [henceforth ΑΥΕ], West Germany reparations/69.4. All quotations from German and Greek archives have been translated into English by the author of the article.

15 For the general scheme of German reparations and compensations towards Greece, see Konstantinakou, D.-G., Πολεμικές οφειλές και εγκληματίες πολέμου στην Ελλάδα. Ψάχνοντας την ηθική και υλική δικαίωση μετά τον Β’ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο (Athens 2015).

16 Memorandum on the meeting regarding the Greek tobacco crop 1939–41, 18 April 1941, BArch, B126/60568.

17 Commander of the 12th Army, Order for the purchase of Greek tobacco, 18 April 1941, BArch, B126/60568.

18 Finance Minister of the Reich to the Commander of the 12th Army, 18 April 1941, BArch, B126/60568.

19 Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Federal Embassy in Athens, 3 June 1962, Politisches Archiv Auswärtiges Amts [henceforth PAAA], B86/572.

20 Special Representative of the Reich for the Southeast Area to Reemtsma, 8 March 1944, BArch, B126/60568.

21 Special Representative of the Reich for the Southeast Area to Army Group E Commander, 8 March 1944, BArch, B126/60568.

22 See, for example, the RM 900.000 claim by the Greek company T. Papachristopoulos to Reemtsma, 17 May 1945, BArch, B126/60568.

23 Federal Minister of Finance to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 July 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

24 During the 1946 Paris Peace Conference, the Greek delegation emphasized that regaining Greece's prewar position in tobacco exportation in Central Europe was one of the main factors that would play a key role in the country's reconstruction: D. Filaretos’ Memorandum at the Peace Conference, 22 Aug. 1946, ΑΥΕ, Italian reparations/4.7.

25 Legislative Decree 3578, On the Ratification of the Charter of the Arbitral Commission on Property, Rights and Interests in Germany: Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως (Greek Government Gazette) [henceforth FEK], 235/I, 13 Oct. 1956.

26 The claimants were tobacco traders from all over Greece: Greek Embassy in Bonn to Federal Restitution Agency, 4 Nov. 1955, BArch, B177/888.

27 Constant to Federal Restitution Agency, 4 Nov. 1955 and 5 Nov. 1955, ΑΥΕ, West Germany reparations/59.9.

28 Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 3 May 1956, PAAA, B86/911.

29 Federal Restitution Agency to Federal Minister of Finance, 4 June 1956, BArch, B126/19141.

30 Greek Foreign Ministry to State Legal Council, 1 June 1962, ΑΥΕ, West Germany reparations/69.4.

31 Federal Restitution Agency to Federal Minister of Finance, 2 Aug. 1957, BArch, B126/19141.

32 Pelt, Tying Greece, 101-27.

33 Federal Embassy in Athens to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 22 June 1957, PAAA, B86/911. The German ambassador Theodor Kordt could not hide his annoyance, noting that ‘Mr Averof did not miss the chance to repeat for the fourth time [. . .] in fluent Balkan-French “Je sais que l'Allemagne est pauvre mais la Grèce est pauvre aussi”’.

34 Konstantinakou, Πολεμικές οφειλές, 373-8.

35 Federal Ministry of Finance, Memorandum on the Greek claims against Reemtsma, 20 July 1957, BArch, B126/60568.

36 Federal Minister of Finance to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 July 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

37 Reemtsma to Federal Ministry of Finance, 24 Sept. 1958, BArch, B102/58100. A limited number of lawsuits were also filed against Austria Tabakwerke A.G.

38 Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Federal Embassy in Athens, 3 July 1962, PAAA, B86/572.

39 Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note on settlement of Greek compensation claims, 12 March 1962, PAAA, B86/572.

40 See the German representative's letter to the Arbitral Commission on Property, Rights and Interests, Hans-Georg Fricke to the Greek lawyer Stelios Karakantas, who handled a small number of Greek tobacco traders’ claims 9 Dec. 1957, PAAA, B86/911.

41 Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, P. W. Enders to S. Tetenes, 11 Dec. 1957, PAAA, B86/ 911.

42 Federal Minister of Finance to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 July 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

43 Federal Minister of Finance to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 23 Aug. 1957, PAAA, B86/911.

44 Reemtsma to Federal Ministry of Finance, 24 Sept. 1958, BArch, B102/58100.

45 Law No. 3478, On Ratification of the Paris Agreement of 1946 on German reparations, FEK, 5/I, 5 Jan. 1956.

46 Reemtsma to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 8 Feb. 1962, BArch, B126/60568.

47 Fricke, Note on Greek tobacco compensation claims, 18 April 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

48 Ibid .

49 Federal Ministry of Finance, Note on German-Greek settlement, 11 July 1961, PAAA, B86/ 572.

50 Bonn's initial intention was to give only 1,500,000 deutschmarks, while Constant demanded an amount between 30,000,000 and 40,000,000 deutschmarks: Federal Restitution Agency to Minister of Finance, 21 Feb. 1958, BArch, B126/19141.

51 Greek Embassy in Bonn to Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 March 1961, ΑΥΕ, Κ.Υ. 1966/4.4.

52 Ibid .

53 Greek Embassy in Bonn to Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 18 April 1961, ΑΥΕ, Κ.Υ. 1966/4.4.

54 Fricke to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 Oct. 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

55 Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Notes on Greek claims’ settlement, 7 Oct. 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

56 Federal Embassy in Athens to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11 Aug. 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

57 Fricke to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 Oct. 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

58 Federal Embassy in Athens, Note Verbale, 31 July 1961, PAAA, B86/572. The note verbale in which the FRG accepted Constant's exemption was sent upon special request of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Federal Embassy in Athens to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11 Aug. 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

59 Federal Minister of Finance to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 July 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

60 Fricke to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 Oct. 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

61 Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 Nov. 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

62 Federal Embassy in Athens to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 22 Sept. 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

63 Greek Draft of Settlement, PAAA, B86/572.

64 Fricke to Greek Embassy in Bonn, 15 Dec. 1961, PAAA, B86/572.

65 Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to State Legal Council, 1 June 1962, ΑΥΕ, West Germany reparations/69.4.

66 Prime Minister's Office to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 28 March 1963: ΑΥΕ, West Germany reparations/69.4.

67 Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to State General Accounting Office, 10 April 1963, ΑΥΕ, West Germany reparations/69.4.

68 Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to State General Accounting Office, 13 March 1963, ΑΥΕ, West Germany reparations/69.4.

69 Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to State General Accounting Office, 12 July 1962, ΑΥΕ, West Germany reparations/69.4.

70 See, for example, G. Sakellariadis to Reemtsma, 12 Dec. 1961 and T. Papachristopoulos imports-exports to Reemtsma, 8 July 1963, BArch, B126/60568.

71 Reemtsma to Federal Minister of Finance, 18 July 1963, BArch, B126/60568.

72 Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note on settlement of Greek claims, 12 March 1962, PAAA, B86/572.

73 Fricke, Note on Greek traders’ claims against Reemtsma, 10 Feb. 1965, BArch, B126/60568.

74 Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note on Greek claims, 9 Oct. 1962, PAAA, B86/572.

75 Federal Ministry of Finance to Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice, 2 Aug. 1963, BArch, B126/60568.

76 Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 15 Oct. 1962, PAAA, B86/572.

77 Fricke, Note on Greek claims against Reemtsma, 21 Oct. 1963, BArch, B126/60568.

78 Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note, 18 May 1967, AYE, West Germany reparations/72.5.

79 See the speeches of K. Venetis (ERE) and V. Efraimidis (EDA), Greek Parliament Minutes, 2 Mar. 1966.

80 Lawsuit by the tobacco trader E.M. against the Company Reemtsma, First Instance Court, Athens, 7 June 1955, BArch, B126/60568.

81 In December 1966, P. Kanellopoulos and G. Papandreou agreed to form a transitional government headed by I. Paraskevopoulos, with the purpose of leading the country to elections no later than the end of May 1967.

82 Federal Embassy in Athens to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 March 1967, PAAA, B86/911.

83 Newspaper Macedonia, 30 July 1967.

84 Law No. 56, On ratification of the Agreement between Greece and the Federal Republic of Germany for the settlement of claims of the Greek Government or of Greek nationals for removed tobacco: FEK, 146/I, 25 Aug. 1967.

85 FEK, 18/II, 13 Jan. 1968. The compensation would be paid to beneficiaries only after the assessment of all cases and appeals, which the claimants had to submit to the Council of State.

86 Newspaper Acropolis, 18 March 1970. The withheld tax was eventually refunded in 1972: General Accounting Office to Bank of Greece, 4 Aug. 1972, AYE, West Germany reparations/73.3.

87 Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Minister of Finance, 13 Apr. 1970, BArch, B126/60568.

88 Reemtsma to Federal Ministry of Finance, 14 Feb. 1972, BArch, B126/60568.

89 Greek authorities had even prepared a standard rejection form for the tobacco producers' claims: State General Accounting Office, Committee of Article 3, Law 56/1967, Rejection Form, AYE, West Germany reparations/57.4.

90 Newspaper Macedonia, 4 July 1974.

91 Joint Decision of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Finance, FEK, 592/II, 30 April 1976.

*This research was supported by the Foundation for Education and European Culture, Athens, Greece.

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Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies
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