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Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-07-28

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Message of peace

  • [01] Message of peace

    This year marks the 66th anniversary of the massacre in Distomo on June 10, 1944, which has gone down in world history as one of the biggest massacres of unarmed civilians in WWII, and was carried out by the German Naziās just before their defeat and withdrawal from Greece leaving behind a toll of 228 dead, 117 women and 111 men, and among them 53 children under the age of 16.

    A praiseworthy initiative of the Evangelical Church of Nuremberg, which commenced in the 1980s and consists of the hosting of German pupils at Distomo and Greek pupils in Nuremberg, Germany on alternate years, continues this year in cooperation with the municipality of Distomo and the Cultural Association of Distomo.

    The purpose of these visits is to keep alive the historical message of fraternity of the two peoples and of peace.

    The hope and desire of the Greek and German youngsters, which ANA-MPA met and talked to during a visit to the Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum, is "Never again war - Peace throughout the world".

    The visiting German pupils and their escorts said they were enthused with the history, culture, beauty and hospitality of Greece, admitting that they know much more about Ancient Greece than modern-day Greece.

    Some of the comments:

    Sophie: "At first I had reservations about what I would face at Distomo, but the welcome of the local residents and their hospitality made me feel very comfortable and helped me understand that they accept us as friends."

    Claudia (one of the German children's two escorts): "We consider this trip a big opportunity to get to know the children and residents of Distomo, to learn more about the region's history and to take a step forward as the generation of reconciliation. Yesterday we visited the Monument at Distomo and were truly moved".

    Julienne: "I felt shock as I watched the documentary 'A Song for Argyris', a few days before we came to Greece. I felt very badly about what had been done in the Distomo region by the German soldiers during WWII. But our presence here today sends a message of reconciliation and peace."

    Katerina Pantiska: "We are thrilled that these children are here. With this exchange we want to show that we can reconcile with these people. There is nothing that divides us, they are not our enemies, we have forgiven what happened at Distomo. We don't forget it, but we can be friends without prejudices. This is true not only for us, but for all the residents of Distomo, because they are all glad about this exchange between Greece and Germany. I believe that this friendship between us will continue and will last beyond this short visit of the German pupils to Greece."

    Mina Kotsou, member of the board of directors of the Cultural Association of Distomo: "This effort began in the 1980's, at the initiative of the Evangelical Church of Nuremberg, and from the first moment the people of Distomo embraced it, there was no hostility towards the children. Distomo does not feel hate towards the German people. On the contrary we await them every year with much love. There is no prejudice, even by those people who have lost people dear to them. The Distomo residents do not hold on to hate, although we do not forget our dead, whom we honor every year. This exchange has precisely that purpose: to promote friendship among the young people and consolidate world peace. Preservation of hatred serves no one. What we want is that there will never be another Distomo.".

    The young pupils from Germany will spend seven days in Greece, and will depart on Sunday. On Wednesday they will visit Nafplio and Epidaurus, on Thursday Livadia, on Friday Itea and Galaxidi and, naturally, they will also make excursions to the nearby beaches for summer swimming.

    History of the Reparations

    Seeking the fate of the reparations sought by the Distomo residents from the German state, ANA-MPA spoke with lawyer Kelly Stamouli, daughter of the late lawyer Ioannis Stamoulis, who began the judicial struggle. Below is her full statement on the course of the judicial marathon up to the present:

    "In 1995, a lawsuit was drafted and submitted by Ioannis Stamoulis in which the relatives of the victims of the 3rd Reich in Distomo sought from the German state their material and moral compensation for the crimes/atrocities committed against their relatives by the soldiers of the 3rd Reich. Legally, this move is considered a "global first", since for the first time reparations were demanded individually by the relatives of victims from a foreign State (in other words by individuals and not by a state).

    Thus, in 1997, Ruling number 137/97 of the Livadia Court of First Instance was issued, which vindicated the Distomo residents and called for reparation for mental anguish.

    In 2000 the German state sought annulment of the ruling in Areios Pagos (the Greek Supreme Court), claiming that Germany held the privilege of extraterritoriality -- in other words that it is not possible for (Germany) to be on trial in a foreign country for crimes committed in the past. It considers, in other words, that Germany must face trial in the German courts and not in the courts of another country (!!!)

    Areios Pagos Plenary ruling no. 11/2000 was issued, which rejected the German state's petition for reversal, and thus from that moment Germany was obliged to pay to the Distomo residents the amounts of money ruled by the Livadia First Instance Court in 1997 (approximately 60 million euros, with interest, up to the present).

    Germany refused to submit the sums of money it owes by virtue of the above ruling, and thus Ioannis Stamoulis proceeded to a forced execution of the ruling against the German State's property assets in Greece.

    The German state immediately filed for annulment (in 2002) and claimed that in order for forced execution (of the ruling) against (German) assets in Greece prior permission of the Justice Minister was required under provision 923 of the Code of Civil Procedure. It is noted that such a provision does not exist in any other country in the world!!!

    The annulment petition of the German state was upheld by the Greek court, and as such the Distomo residents were unable to collect their money since all the Justice Ministers since 2000 to the present refuse to give permission.

    In 2004 Ioannis Stamoulis, realising the impasse caused by each given Justice Minister, 'set in motion' Regulation 44/2001 of the European Council by virtue of which the irreversible Greek ruling of the Livadia court might be declared enforceable in another member state of the European Union. He chose Italy to set this process in motion and indeed, in November 2008 (after a four-year battle in Italy, as well), the Livadia court's ruling was declared enforceable in Italy. In other words the Distomo residents may be vindicated by the Italian judges, since the Greek state obstinately refuses to be sensitised and compensate the Greeks...

    It is noted that the Greek Justice Ministry can at any time give the green light for continuation of the procedure of forced execution, and consequently for the compensation, finally, of the Greeks for the German atrocities. The current Justice Minister has not taken a clear-cut position on his intentions regarding this issue, which has been beleaguering so many Greeks for so many years.

    In the meantime, Germany has taken recourse to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, questioning to what degree Italy acted legally in recognising (declaring the Greek decision enforceable in Italy) to the Greeks the right to receive compensation from Germany's assets in Italy. It is rumored that Germany had recourse to The Hague in order to discourage other countries from seeking reparations (via individual recourse, like the Distomo residents) for the crimes of the 3rd Reich. Two months ago, with a Decree, the prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, suspended all procedures of execution against property assets of a foreign state until the end of 2011.

    It is evident that the Distomo issue has now taken on global dimensions, and it is being proven that Ioannis Stamoulis' initiative and battle has agitated the international legal circles!"


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