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German president offers apology for Nazi crimes during visit to Greece

German President Joachim Gauck offered apology for the atrocities committed by Nazi troops in Greece on Friday at the end of a three-day visit to the country aiming to ease the anti-German sentiment over the handling of the economic crisis.

"I would like to say what the perpetrators, but also those political responsible in the post-war period, did not want or were not able to say; what happened here was a brutal injustice. With a sense of shame and pain I am saying sorry to the families of victims," Gauck said visiting the village of Lingiades in northeastern Greece with Greek President Karolos Papoulias.

At the site of a massacre which on October 3, 1943 cost the lives of 93 innocent people - elderly and minors in their majority including several Jews - the German leader laid a wreath paying respects and addressed the locals.

"In such places, I feel a double shame, because people who grew up within the German civilization became killers. I feel shame because the democratic Germany who looked into the past with a critical eye learnt so little from the guilt regarding Greece," Gauck said.

Turning to his Greek counterpart he said: "I am deeply honored that you came with me here. I am indebted to you. The fact that we can address the past together for me is one of the greatest achievements stemming from reconciliation."

Following a visit at the nearby synagogue, the German Head of State was to return to Athens to depart for Germany later on Friday.

During talks with the Greek government and the main opposition party, Gauck faced demands for WWII reparations from Germany, as well as the return of a forced loan given by the Bank of Greece to the Nazis.

Despite the apology, he stuck to the stance Berlin has adopted for decades that for Germany the case is closed and besides a "moral debt" it is unrealistic to pursue such claims today.

Most Greeks do not share this opinion. During his visit at Lingiades, representatives of the Greek National Council for the Claim of German War Reparations raised a banner that read "Justice and Compensation."

[Source: By Maria Spiliopoulou, Ria Novosti, Athens, 07Mar14]

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