“Don’t mention the war!” John Cleese’s infamous character Basil Fawlty would have cried. But on Saturday (March 21), German weekly magazine Der Spiegel did just that… With bells on.
It’s headline: ‘The German Superpower’, seems, at worst, a little arrogant. But it is the front cover which has set tongues wagging on both sides of the continent.
Merkel and the Nazis?
This week’s image sees Chancellor Angela Merkel juxtaposed onto a picture of a group of Nazis standing at the Parthenon during the German occupation of Greece in World War II.
This, according to the publication, is how Europe views Germany.
The subsequent article does not liken Merkel to the Nazi forces of the Second World War. Rather, it attempts to show just how Germany is seen by the rest of Europe: as the unofficial ‘chief’ of the European Union.
From war reparations to the bailout package
The article goes on to explain the complex web of financial arrangements between Greece and Germany – one of the EU’s principal players – going back to the contentious issue of German war reparations.
While details of Greece’s multi-billion-euro EU/IMF bailout package are common knowledge, Der Spiegel claims Berlin could also owe Athens its own lump sum.
Following a new study by the Athenian Treasury, Berlin could face increased pressure to pay for loans the Nazis forced the Greek Central Bank to provide during the 1940s.
In addition, recent, heated exchanges between the countries’ finance ministers have seen Greece demand around 11-billion euros in reparations. The sum would, according to Greek authorities, provide some compensation for a three-day, Nazi killing spree in the village of Distomo, in which over 200 Greek civilians were massacred.
“To date, we have not even heard an apology,” Deputy Mayor of Distomo, Loukas Zisis told Der Spiegel.
Bound not to help diplomatic relations is a recently-emerged video appearing to show Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis holding up his middle finger as he gave a lecture in Croatia, prior to entering politics.
During his speech, the economist said Greece should have defaulted in 2010, rather than accepting the EU/IMF-imposed austerity measures. Many Greeks, according to the Der Spiegel article, see Merkel as a ruthless leader, who will not allow Europe to back down on Greece’s request for financial aid.
Varoufakis claims the clip was doctored, leading to the creation of the hashtag #Varoufake.
“The video was faked, without a doubt,” Varoufakis told the magazine.
German broadcaster ARD aired the video and said it has not seen any obvious “sign of manipulation”.
However, recent reports seem to suggest otherwise.