Home > debt, Greece > Anti-Greek media propaganda will come back to haunt Germany – A dire warning from 2011

Anti-Greek media propaganda will come back to haunt Germany – A dire warning from 2011

from Norbert Häring

In June 2011, Spiegel Online conducted and published a remarkable interview with Albrecht Ritschl. Ritschl is one of Germany’s most renowned economic historians, teaching at the London School of Economics.  Already for years ago, he warned that Germany, being the worst debt offender in history, would ultimately regret it, if it insisted on behaving like the tough taskmaster of Athens and the rest of Europe. What Ritschl predicted is happening now. Greece is presenting us with huge unpaid bills from our dark past. Others might follow, if we are required to pay our long/evaded dues. Some highlights of what Ritschl said in the interview that was conducted by Yasmin El-Sharif:

 1. Sitting in a glass-house

During the 20th century, Germany was responsible for what were the biggest national bankruptcies in recent history. It is only thanks to the United States, which sacrificed vast amounts of money after both World War I and World War II, that Germany is financially stable today and holds the status of Europe’s headmaster…  After World War II, America immediately took steps to ensure there wouldn’t be a repeat of high reparations demands made on Germany. With only a few exceptions, all such demands were put on the backburner until Germany’s future reunification. For Germany, that was a life-saving gesture, and it was the actual financial basis of the Wirtschaftswunder, or economic miracle. But it also meant that the victims of the German occupation in Europe also had to forgo reparations, including the Greeks.” 

2. The biggest debt transgressor

 “Calculated based on the amount of losses compared to economic performance, Germany was the biggest debt transgressor of the 20th century…After the first default during the 1930s, the US gave Germany a “haircut” in 1953, reducing its debt problem to practically nothing. Germany has been in a very good position ever since, even as other Europeans were forced to endure the burdens of World War II and the consequences of the German occupation.”

 3. Unpaid dues

“Germany even had a period of non-payment in 1990…Then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl refused at the time to implement changes to the London Agreement on German External Debts of 1953. Under the terms of the agreement, in the event of a reunification, the issue of German reparations payments from World War II would be newly regulated. ..With the exception of compensation paid out to forced laborers, Germany did not pay any reparations after 1990 — and neither did it pay off the loans and occupation costs it pressed out of the countries it had occupied during World War II. Not to the Greeks, either.”

 4. Anti-Greek propaganda

The anti-Greek sentiment that is widespread (link in the original) in many German media outlets is highly dangerous. (In the German version it actually says: The Anti-Greek sentiments that are being spread by German media outlets.) And we are sitting in a glass house: Germany’s resurgence has only been possible through waiving extensive debt payments and stopping reparations to its World War II victims… Germany started two world wars, the second of which was conducted as a war of annihilation and extermination, and subsequently its enemies waived its reparations payments completely or to a considerable extent. No one in Greece has forgotten that Germany owes its economic prosperity to the grace of other nations.”

 5. The warning

The Greeks are very well aware of the antagonistic articles in the German media. If the mood in the country turns, old claims for reparations could be raised, from other European nations as well. And if Germany ever had to honor them, we would all be taken to the cleaners. If we follow public opinion here with its cheap propaganda and not wanting to pay, then eventually the old bills will be presented again. (This is a very mild translation, the German version is: Wenn wir hier der Stimmungsmache folgen und den dicken Emil geben, der die Zigarre pafft und nicht zahlen will, …: My own translation: If we follow the cheap propaganda and play the bully puffing his cigar and not wanting to pay, …)”

It is ironic that this warning has been aired in a medium that has recently put itself at the top of those who are bashing the Greek government and its people, to the point of declaring them mentally insane (Paranoia of the Greek Government: Intrigue everythere and Go get the shrink) , a treatment otherwise reserved for external “enemies” like Vladimir Putin and his people (Russia’s delusion). Ironic, but also scary.


  1. Norman L. Roth
    March 13, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    March 13, 2015
    M. Norbert Haring:

    Please read my comments to “America can be a full employment economy again” John Komlos, March 09 2015. It is vital to what follows.

    As a fan of Greece’s post WWII culture & vigorous intellectual life, I do not believe that it’s in anyone’s interests to cast aspersions on the mental state of the Greek people per se. But the economic judgement and the self-delusion that has afflicted Greece’s leftist regimes, since the overthrow of the “bald-headed colonels” 40 years ago, is all too typical of the air-headed anti-economic, anti-monetary -mentality of the contemporary “progressive” left. Nor do I think that your moralistically “pafft” comparisons with the state of Germany in the immediate post-WWII period are very helpful. Indeed, if you follow some of the material submitted by Robert Locke, you will note that Germany had an evolving corporate culture & industrial working/management ethos that continues to bear fruit right up to the present day. i.e. Different societies have different economic cultures. Look at Japan after the Korean War jump-started her economy in 1950.The discipline,drive & organizing zeal of Japan’s work culture was only lying dormant. Despite the great sins of HER recent past.
    And after 1949, do you remember the “Wirtschaftswunder” spearheaded by the economic stewardship of the portly-florid, cigar loving Ludwig Erhardt ? The prosperity that eventually followed “owed” far more to the free-market and vigorous foreign trade policies promoted by Hayek and Mises, than to “the grace of other nations”: Regardless of Germany’s great sins of her past.
    Ironically the National SOCIALIST Third Reich was just as anti-economic and overbearingly statist in its own way, as their arch-enemy, the Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics. i.e. The economy served the state’s aspirations first. Anything left over served the consumers. Also, I do not think that the shell-game/ monetary acrobatics played by the late [cigar-puffing] Hjalmar [Horace Greely} Schacht, can be taken out of their unique historic context: And applied to the Greek E.U. space-debt-time. As entertaining as they appeared to be at the time. Indeed The road to [analytic] hell is often paved with…..inappropriate [historical] analogies.
    Greece has a long challenging road ahead of her. The road to the prosperity that the Greek people deserve, will not be solved by wholesale debt-forgiveness or shrill unreasoned pleas for more of the same. Greece must earn the economic trust and respect of her neighbours. That will not be learned from the toxic economic stewardship of the past four decades.

    Norman L. Roth, Toronto Canada.

  2. merijnknibbe
    March 13, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    Dear Norman,

    many good points. The ‘Wirtschaftswunder’ was created by private companies (as well as the government which builded roads and whatever). But its monetary foundations were based upon a massive debt write down.

    Merijn Knibbe

  3. March 14, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    There’s a phenomenally simply six word answer to the above article. It’s “Two blacks don’t make a white”. I.e. the fact that Germany has not paid debts is not an excuse for anyone else to do likewise.

    Moreover (and this point is far too difficult for lefties), even if Greece is forgiven all its debts, that still doesn’t solve the basic problem, i.e. Greek lack of competitiveness.

  4. GrkStav
    March 15, 2015 at 3:36 am

    Why, thank you Ralph, for those insightful remarks. Tell you what, you sort out the debt-forgiveness a la Germany for Greece, and we’ll see to it that we sort out the competitiveness thingie. Deal?

  5. GrkStav
    March 15, 2015 at 3:56 am

    “The prosperity that eventually followed “owed” far more to the free-market and vigorous foreign trade policies promoted by Hayek and Mises, than to “the grace of other nations””

    I am sorry, is this part of your work for a creative fiction workshop? “How to write like an ‘Austrian'”?

    What free-market policies? In FRG post 1949? Are you having a laugh?

  6. March 16, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    GrkStav, OK. The debt owed by Greece to Europe on account of its cheating its way into the EZ in the first place is set off against the debt owed by Germany to Greece. That solves that problem. Now how do you improve Greek competitiveness (aka cut costs in Greece)? The only way I can see, and the only way the EZ authorities can see is to impose austerity on Greece (and other periphery countries). That’s harsh, but that’s common currencies for you. If Greece wants to be part of a common currency, that’s what they’ve signed up for. As a resident of the UK, I’m glad we didn’t sign up for that sort of thing.

  7. Nick the Greek
    March 19, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Germany and the Hermanic countries of Europe belittle Greece and character assassinate the modern-Greeks.

    Greeks, Philhellenes, Grecophiles join forces…do to Herman, Jan, Adolph and Paavo, what they have been doing to Greeks Greece and Hellenism for far too long!

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