Prior to Steinmeier's "honorary membership," his Minister of State Michael Roth (SPD) had visited Thessaloniki on numerous occasions. According to members of the Jewish community, Roth had repeatedly declared that the Nazi victims' legal claims could not be a basis for negotiations. With various offers, he sought to learn what amount would entice the Jewish creditors to waive their legal rights.
Following small donations to the Thessaloniki Memorial Concert and contributions to the restoration of a section of the Monastirioten Synagogue, larger sums were negotiated with the Jewish community's representatives in the German Foreign Ministry. The deal was concluded in 2016 with a commitment to pay 10 Million Euros  - just 3.5 percent of the debts owed from the criminal receipts alone, without any form of compensation for the more than 50,000 lives destroyed being taken into account.
The sum - which critics call "hush money"  - seems to be directly related to Steinmeier's being awarded "honorary membership," as prominent members of the community wrote in their letters of protest. There were no prior consultations with relatives of the deported and murdered Jews, and the award had been kept secret until 48 hours before Steinmeier's appearance. This is a "direct insult to the memory of the victims," declared community member, Paul Isaac Hagouel, whose father had been prisoner 118633 in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
In various protest letters, read aloud December 7, at the public communal assembly in Thessaloniki, it was said that "the German government has persistently refused to pay reparations to the Greek victims - both Christians and Jews ... . Our sense of justice cannot be bought with any form of 'monetary handouts'." The renowned Jewish historian, Rena Molho, whose work, "The Holocaust of the Greek Jews," had been presented in Berlin by the SPD-affiliated Friedrich Ebert Foundation last November, was among the signatories of this protest. The indignation was directed at the German foreign policy's maneuvering. "We have all learned to differentiate between the foam of diplomacy and the depth of historical responsibility," was read from another community member's written protest.
In his speech in the Monastirioten Synagogue, Steinmeier modulated the foreign ministry's decades-old pattern of non-committal condolence statements and using a shower of moralist avowals, he sought to veil Germany's attempt to escape the international legal order. Whereas, Steinmeier spoke in Thessaloniki of a "miracle of reconciliation," while not mentioning the German government's material expiation obligation, he regretted, on a similar occasion, the suffering of the Nazis' Italian victims, merging it into "a journey that built friendship." This journey had its destination in "a united Europe." Not a word about the German government's strategy to exclude some 650,000 Italian military internees (from 1943 to 1945) from material compensations and to shove off into museums the memory of the 50,000 Italian forced laborers, who had died in Germany, without compensation.
Steinmeier terminated his speech about this group of persons with a "smirk"  and an Italian term, he repeated several times: "'Passato' - 'Finished.' Finished. The most painful chapter in German-Italian history is over and done with." These sentences were spoken in the presence of Italy's foreign minister - sentences that are programmatic for German foreign policy - denying the persistence of the pain still suffered by all those Italian victims, from whom Frank-Walter Steinmeier's foreign ministry, seeks to expunge all claims on Germany and ignore the law suits of the survivors. Even though the foreign ministry has repeatedly been unsuccessful - most recently in Florence  - Berlin still refuses to comply with the ruling of Italy's highest court, taking the risk of foreclosure on German state property in Italy.
Among its non-committal avowals about the "journey that built friendship" in "a united Europe," the foreign ministry has been increasingly adding military perspectives. In late November, for example, Steinmeier called on his counterparts, including the Italian foreign minister, to "demonstrate to the populations of the member countries," how "Europe's common security and defense policy can be advanced."
Dimensions of a Crusade
There is a direct path leading from the non-settlement of German WW II mass crimes to the arming of "Europe" for new wars, without first having paid the bills for those of the past. In the words of Giorgos Margaritis, professor of history at the University of Thessaloniki: "At a time when the German political leadership nourishes hopes that the European Union's sovereign governments and peoples accept its political hegemony, the campaign to 'embellish' the past has assumed dimensions of a crusade."