Some 14,000 German soldiers who died in Greece during the nazi invasion and occupation of this country from 1941 to 1944, are to have a "decent" burial place in Greece.
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Background: Some 14,000 German soldiers who died in Greece during the nazi invasion and occupation of this country from 1941 to 1944, are to have a "decent" burial place in Greece.
After a heated debate, the Greek Parliament has adopted a Government bill authorising the grant of the necessary land on Greek soil for two German military cemeteries.
Negotiations between the Greek and Federal Germany Governments concerning the procedure for acquiring the land are expected to take some time and it is therefore unlikely that the two cemeteries will be ready before the autumn of 1963.
Meanwhile, it has been made known that plans provide for burying the remains of some 9,500 German soldiers at Dow Penteli, on the slopes of Mount Penteli in Attica, eleven miles north of Athens.
The remains of these soldiers are at present scattered in 174 provinsional burial places on the Greek mainland and islands. Many lie in fields belonging to farmers who have repeatedly asked for their removal so that they can use their land.
The remains of the 4,500 other German soldiers who died here will be buried in a cemetery near the airfield of Maleme (Chanea, Crete), where a fierce battle was fought in 1941 between German paratroopers and Greek, British, New Zealand and Australian defence forces.
The bones of many of these soldiers have been identified and collected and put in special caskets which, for the time being, are kept in a cellar of an orthodox monastery in the vicinity of Maleme.
The soil on which the two cemeteries will be erected will remain the property of the Greek state, it was officially stated in Parliament during the debate on the relevant Law. According to a spokesman for the Federal German Embassy in Athens, the Association for the German People's Welfare, whose headquarters is at Kessel in Federal Germany, will undertake to lay out and maintain both cemeteries. The Association is not a state- controlled organisation but a private enterprise which supervises all German war graves both in Federal Germany and abroad.
Although 20 years have elapsed since the dark days of the German occupation of Greece, the Greek people's lasting resentment and recollection of sufferings at the hands of the nazis found expression during the debate of the bill in the Parliamentary recess Committee, which legislates in the absence of the full Parliament during the recess.
The main objections against passing the bill came from the Opposition benches and particularly from the pro-communist, extreme left United Democratic Left (EDA) party. One of the speakers, objecting to the bill, declared that the grant of burial places to German soldiers who came to Greece to "stab this country in the back" would not be accepted by "any free man in Greece".
Another Centre Opposition Member of Parliament stressed that the case is not parallel to the grant of land for the creation of British Commonwealth war cemeteries. The creation of the British Commonwealth cemetery at Phaleron Bay, near Athens, he added, was "in accordance with the conscience of the Greeks, for the men buried there came from the remotest parts of the British Commonwealth, and fought and died for Greece."
It was also suggested during the debate that "the only reasonable solution" would be for the remains of the 14,000 German soldiers of the former Wehrmacht to be collected and sent back to Germany for final burial.
In the course of the debate, a Deputy asked Mr. Evengelos Averoff, the Greek Foreign Minister, who was supporting the Bill, what would be the reaction of the children of the new generation who lost their relatives as victims of the nazi persecution during World War II when they see the cemeteries.
Mr. Averoff replied that the children would be told that in the cemeteries were buried those who set fire to their villages, slaughtered Greeks and violated human and divine laws.
They would be told, he added, that "the noble Greek people does not refuse a decent grave for the remains even of those who tried to destroy their country."