UPDATE 1-Germany parries Greek broadside over Nazi occupation

Wed Feb 24, 2010 2:57pm GMT

* Germany stole Greek gold and never returned it - Pangalos

* Germany says has paid billions of euros to Greece

* Italy masked finances more than Greece - Pangalos

(Changes dateline, adds German response)

BERLIN, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Germany on Wednesday rejected Greek accusations that Berlin had failed to properly compensate Greece for Nazi occupation in World War Two, saying it had provided billions of euros worth of aid.

In a radio interview, Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos criticised Germany's attitude towards the Greek debt crisis and said Athens had never received adequate compensation for the impact of Nazi Germany's invasion of Greece in 1941.

"They took away the Greek gold that was at the Bank of Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it back. This is an issue that has to be faced sometime in the future," he told the BBC World Service radio.

"I don't say they have to give back the money necessarily but they have at least to say 'thanks'," he added.

The German foreign ministry dismissed the remarks and said bringing up the past would not help Greece solve its problems.

"I must reject these accusations," ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said.

Germany had paid compensation to Greece of some 115 million deutschemarks by 1960 and made further payments to forced labourers of the Nazi regime, he said.

"Finally, I'd like to mention that parallel to this, since 1960 Germany has paid around 33 billion deutschemarks in aid to Greece both bilaterally and in the context of the EU," he said.

Germans got roughly one euro for two deutschemarks when the single European currency was adopted in notes and coins in 2002.

"A discussion about the past is not helpful at all to solve the problems...facing us in Europe today," Peschke said.

Greece is under mounting pressure from markets and EU policymakers to slash its large debt and deficit.

It must prove to Brussels by mid-March that it can meet its ambitious targets to cut the budget shortfall by 4 percent of gross domestic product this year to 8.7 percent.

Greek politicians have been outraged by coverage of the debt crisis in German media, like a front-page picture in magazine Focus of a "Venus de Milo"-type statue making an obscene finger gesture with the headline "Swindlers in the euro zone".

Pangalos also said Italy had done more than Greece to mask the state of its finances to secure euro zone entry.

The European Union has asked Greece to explain reports that it engaged in derivatives trades with U.S. investment banks that may have allowed it to mask the size of its debt and deficit from EU authorities ahead of its entry into the euro zone.

"You simply put some amounts of money in the next year ... it is what everybody did and Greece did it to a lesser extent than Italy for example," Pangalos said.