Germany's president arrived in Athens Wednesday on a three-day visit that will include visiting the site where Nazi troops massacred dozens of people, in an attempt to ease anti-German sentiment stoked by Greece's financial crisis.
Joachim Gauck's three-day visit will include a speech Friday at a site where German army troops massacred 92 villagers near the northeastern town of Ioannina, and a meeting with the town's Jewish community.
Citing “public security” concerns, Greek police have banned all demonstrations from 8 am-7 pm Thursday in a large area of central Athens where Gauck will be - even though no protests have been planned against his visit. Syntagma metro station will be closed from 1.30 p.m., police said.
In an interview with Kathimerini, Gauck refused to discuss demands in Greece that Germany should pay reparations for World War II atrocities. But he said Germany bears an undeniable “moral burden.”
Germany says it has settled all World War II reparations issues, and the Greek government has been reluctant to aggressively pursue the matter. But opposition politicians have seized on Gauck's visit to call for action.
The left-wing main opposition SYRIZA party said President Karolos Papoulias should raise the issue with his German visitor, while the populist right-wing Independent Greeks party accused Gauck of coming “not as a partner but as a conqueror.”
Germany rejected a demand last month by Greek Jews for compensation over a World War II ransom extracted to free Jewish slave laborers - who were subsequently murdered in Nazi death camps.