May 17th, 2012
04:29 PM ET

Time for Greece to say 'danke' to Germany

Everyone is worried that Greece will default on its national debt. That's really not news. By one estimate, since it gained its independence from the Ottomans in 1832, Greece has been in default or restructuring for half this period. The news is that this time, Germany is willing to bail it out.

Throughout the euro-zone crisis, it has become conventional wisdom to regard the Germans as narrow-minded, ungenerous and dogmatically wedded to prescriptions of austerity to treat Europe's problems. Those criticisms are vastly overstated. Consider that Germany is being asked to take its taxpayers' money–in a democracy–and use it to bail out a country like Greece, which is guilty of mismanagement, poor competitiveness and financial fraud. And it has said yes! In return for this, Germans are being called Nazis in Greek newspapers.

Read more about the German reaction and the debate over whether the U.S. needs austerity measures right now, over at my TIME column.

More TIME columns

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Topics: Europe • Greece

soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Patrick-2

    Even if Germany fails to bail the Greeks out this time, China will. That you can be sure of. Germany needs to take care of itself like it did before WW1 when it reached the zenith of it's prosperity!

    May 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Reply
    • Aaron Chaney

      Romney vs. Frankenstein (Obama)

      Put simply, better the devil you don't know. Vote Romney.

      May 18, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply
    • First Amendment trumps Name Calling

      Ah... there we go again... a GOPer proving the intellectual value of ultra-conservatism through child-like name calling. How cute.

      May 20, 2012 at 1:13 am | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    The German tax-payers are divided over the Greek bailout crisis. Some share Merkel's paternalism and want to show that they are capable of mastering the crisis. Greece is a challenge, but if we can't manage this crisis, then we wouldn't be able to solve bigger problems, so their thoughts. Merkel has led the drive for austerity in Europe as a way to avoid another global financial crisis. She also wants other Eurozone countries to copy Germany's example and keep their borrowing under control.
    Others believe Germany and Greece should go separate ways in currency matter. Of course it would hurt – not only Germany – but the whole Eurozone, should Greece exit. Yet many believe it's not worth to keep Greece at all costs. If Greece leaves, some 240 bn Euros would be lost for ever. Many Social Democrats have general smypathy for Southern Europe and think Greece should be rescued. They deem it more important to hold Europe together and enjoy peace and stability. The German government has been trying to persuade the Greek people that next month's election is simple: yes or no to the Euro.

    May 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Reply
    • Marine5484

      If the Greeks had any sense at all j.von hettlingen, they'd vote "no" to the Euro and go their separate way. But I'm afraid that the voters there have been brainwashed by the bigwigs into voting otherwise because if Greece ever left the Eurozone, other countries may follow suit and that the bigwigs don't want!

      May 17, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        Not true, if the Greeks vote "No", they know they will be on their own! Their immediate worries are how and where to get the billions to pay salaries and benefits for the coming weeks and months.

        May 18, 2012 at 3:29 am |
  3. FrankinSD

    While I certainly agree that Nazi references are wildly inappropriate, it is also inaccurate to suggest that the German position is some kind of self-sacrifce for which the Greeks should be grateful. The Gernman economy is export driven and the other countries of Europe are their best customers. Which is precisely why their austerity fetish is so incredible.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Reply
  4. Teacher

    Germany still exists because of the generosity of the USA.

    After WWII their country was totally destroyed. USA needed them to counterbalance USSR influence in europe so they erased their immense debts and helped them rebuild their country from ashes.

    Germans owe to the world for their atrocities and the destruction and suffer they inflicted with the two world wars they started and the genocides they commited.

    Unfortunately the only thing they still offer to the world is suffer and pain.
    Shame on them.

    May 18, 2012 at 4:24 am | Reply
    • Kuato Lives

      They are Europe's (and thus, our) only hope. Shame on you.

      May 18, 2012 at 4:28 am | Reply
      • Teacher

        The above are historic facts.

        But explain why they are europe's "only hope"?

        May 18, 2012 at 4:45 am |
    • tobinn

      that has to be one of the most ignorant comments i have read in awhile congrats on being very stupid

      May 18, 2012 at 10:48 am | Reply
      • Teacher

        The truth is painful...

        May 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • brooke

      Yeah, the US does that, gives money to war torn nations so they can rebuild. Not just to Germany. Saying that the Germans only offer suffering and pain to the world is the dumbest comment I have just about read. The Germany of today is NOT the Germany of the 1940s. Is the US the same nation as it was during the civil rights period, when blacks were waterhosed in the streets and their churches set on fire? Of course you would deny that the the US has changed since then and is different. What about all the bombing and wars that we have created in the world in the last ten years? You think other countries hate us because of our benovelence and kindness? Perhaps you think it's because they are jealous of the American lifestyle? No. People hate America because America can't mind their own business and go bomb anybody we consider to be a threat. Germans haven't been doing anything like that all since the end of WWII and yet they are still judged by you as only offering suffering and pain to the world. Yes, they are in Afghanistan but as part of the NATO effort and mostly in a support function. In 60 years, will people still dog the United States for their actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and the wars on terror? I think you need to go back to school "Teacher" and stop looking at your own nation with a pair of rose-tinted glasses. What the Germans did wasn't right, and it shouldn't be forgotten, but to sit there and say they still only offer suffering and pain to the world is ignorant.

      May 19, 2012 at 4:45 am | Reply
    • Gary

      Yours is the most stupid comment I have seen in my entire life. Do yourself and the world a favour and have yourself sterilised. For you to breed would be a crime aganst humanity

      May 19, 2012 at 9:28 am | Reply
    • Teacher

      To whom idiot may concern.

      As we write thousands of people are loosing their houses, starving and commiting suicide in europe's south.

      And that's because Germans are following their beloved from WWII method of collective responsibility

      They say because some corrupted politicians and bankers there ruined the economies of their countries, the whole nations should suffer.

      (But they also forget that a great portion of todays german economic "miracle" was through the bribery of those corrupted politicians from the "good" german companies...)

      May 19, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Reply
    • cittisurfer

      The dark side of the US history: Slavery, American Indian Genocide, massacres in the Philippines after occupation by the US in 1898, power and intervention politics in Central America, the Caribbean and other parts of the world, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Vietnam-War including war crimes like My Lai etc, Iraq War, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib etc. etc. etc.

      That historical facts of US history disqualifies you from criticizing the Germans.

      Every great nation like Britain, France, Spain, Russia, USA, China and Germany (yes!) has such dark spots in turbulent history. But Britain, France, Russia and the USA made more wars then Germany! And Germany was not only responsible for Word War I – please take note the present-day historical research.

      I like the US and the Americans and today's Americans are not responsible for actions of the ancestors – and today's Germans are also not responsible for Nazi Crime!! The Germans learned from mistakes in younger history, they didn't make war since 1945 (they only fighting as loyal allies in NATO Campaigns) – and the US???

      Sorry, my English isn't very good.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Reply
    • wolf

      I guess you are stuck in the past. 13 years of uncomparable Nazi regime cannot be undone. Nor the Vietnam war or genocide of American Indians with millions of victims, nor the slavery over centuries ... and and and ... nor the Napeolean wars, or the Roman invasions ... so ... is that how you look at every nation, or just the Germans?

      July 21, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  5. Concerned Citizen

    Greece has had a difficult history with Germany. Germany occupied Greece during the early forties and there far from benign in the manner they treated the Greeks. Hence the mistrust and hostility from the people of Greece towards Germany.

    May 18, 2012 at 5:05 am | Reply
    • Wfraser

      Greece has a difficult history with several nations. They have been occupied by the Turks for sveral hundred years, as well as by the Romans.The Germans have played a very short role in this theater. It is easy to blame others on the faults they made. No one else is responsible for the billions wasted than the corrupt and ineficcient greek government.

      May 20, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Reply


    May 18, 2012 at 5:54 am | Reply
  7. Jonathan Brou

    You are right, Germany has been more generous than most give it credit for. But the fact remains, it hasn't been enough money or fast enough. The fact that they have to draw out the bailouts incrementally in exchange for reforms shows why they need MORE political union and monetary union. Yes, the Germans will have to pay more in the end with Eurobonds or some other solution like a managed default of Greece, but the alternative is total economic collapse throughout all of Europe! I don't see how that is an option anyone could accept. The political upheaval of Germany's actions are also risking its own plans. It just seems clear that Germany must change course if they want to avoid a forced sudden default of Greece.

    May 18, 2012 at 10:42 am | Reply
  8. dan allen

    Fareed is an idiot, and I'm close to Godwinning him. You want to look at past history Freed? Why not look at the biggest defaulters in the 2oth century? Germany. In 1953, Greece forgave Germany an amount of pre-war debt that dwarfs anything Germany has given Greece recently. This is pre-war debt, not the debt from the occupation when Germany forced Greece to loan it money it never paid back, nor is it money in reparations for the devastation caused, nor is it recompense for the tens of billions in gold stolen from the central bank. But Fareed sees the honor of this apparently. The USA gave 10% of its GDP to get Germany on its feet after Germany had behaved questionably in WW2, and forgave all its loans. Fareed is like those who think the ultimate moral sin is debt, while extreme violence gets a pass.

    May 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Reply
    • sue-helen

      We are not living in the forties. Why are sooo many posters stuck in world war II ? Germans are good people trying to fix a very bad situation. Cut them some slack!

      May 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Reply
      • zakaria zakaria

        you are correct. they are very nice people.
        We need to stop saying things for ww2 but they have to stop insulting greece. Special the media.

        Greece have nice people too. Dont insult a county fro the behavior of few

        May 21, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  9. Jackie Treehorn

    Apparently the phrase "beggars can't be choosers" doesn't translate into Greek.

    May 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Reply
  10. Hobbster

    Dan allen is correct, but the New (post WWII) Germany is a totally different thing. As an American of German heritage I see how Germany has taken what was/is good about the US and tempered it with the great things about Europe. I wish the US would realise that other countries have some better ideas and adopt them (health care). The Greeks have not changed since Jesus walked the Earth. Right now the Germans are the only reason Greece isn't totally bankrupt, and all the Greeks can do is whine about how bad the Germans were in the past. If the Greeks think the Germans don't know what they are talking about and that the Greeks know better, then explain the German way of life compared to the Greek way. The Greeks need to restucture thier taxes to match needs . . . . and then do something totally new to Greece . . . .GET A JOB! . . . . PAY YOUR TAXES!, PAY YOUR DEBTS. PAY YOUR WAY. Sooner or later the Germans are going to get tired of apologizing for WWII and they can not continue to be your milk cow, not even if they wanted to.

    May 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  11. chris

    Hm.... Germany (and the rest of the EU) has only been supplying additional loans to Greece (and Portugal and Ireland) not gifts. Assuming that Greece or any of the other troubled PIIGS do not default the Germans will get their money back. It is worth pointing that the interest rate at which Germans are lending Greece, Ireland, Portugal is considerably higher than the rate they borrow from the markets. So what generosity are we talking about? The real loss has been inflicted to private lenders to Greece that were (really-really) forced to accept a haircut of over 50% on Greek bonds. This at the insistence (primarily of Germany). So, I'd say "generous" are really the investors (including mutual funds, 401k's, etc) that are paying Germany's (very questionable) benevolence. The real pity is that as the biggest and most economically strong EU nation this could be their chance to rise up and lead Europe out of this mess. Instead they are loosing any ground they had on that front in south European countries (and not only). Unfortunately, they don't have much similarity to the US of the 40's/50's.....

    May 18, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Reply
  12. Son Of Sparta

    Get your facts straight and learn some history. When Greece gained its independence from the Ottomans in 1832 they may have defaulted but it was due in large part to European Imperial Powers such as Britain, France and German for giving 'loans' to the new state to 'help' it restructure of course all for a fee. The Europeans even imposed a Prussian King of German ancestry to look over the 'unruly" Greeks, it took over 100 years for Greece to get rid of the foreign Germanic Royal family. Lets not forget Germany invaded Greece in World War II. They never properly paid war reparations to Greece for the gold they looted and the damage they inflicted. So now the Greeks should say "danke' to Germany? I don't think so. Let me answer in Greek, the same answer the Greeks gave to the Germans when they want to cross the Greek border – OXI – NO

    May 19, 2012 at 1:34 am | Reply
    • Patrick-2

      Thank you, Son Of Sparta. How true that is!

      May 19, 2012 at 2:05 am | Reply
    • brooke

      As an American living in Germany, I can tell you that the Germans have no interest in your country and most Germans even speak of boycotting your country for vacations.

      May 19, 2012 at 4:30 am | Reply
      • Son of sparta

        No love lost, I certainly don't support buying anything German, and I don't care if they do not visit Greece. The mindset of the Germans has not changed, they still have a false superiority complex. Exchange the Word, Greeks in their press for Jews and you'll find the same bigotry as in in the 1930s. The southern Europeans do not see the world as the Germans do, but why on earth should they? Double standards and hypocrisy is rampant in Merkel's Germany. Also I wouldn't be so proud of German efficiency and austerity, what did their civilization bring to the world? Oh yeah fascism! On the other hand western civilization as we know it would not exist had it not been for the ancient Greeks and later the Romans.

        May 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Tim S

      Debt is how imperialist countries like the US control other countries. Read the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman.

      May 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      "Son of Sparta" – We do not believe you are of Sparta or Greek.

      May 20, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Reply
      • Patrick

        I did not make that statement.

        May 29, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  13. Vangelis

    Excuse me? This is low on your behalf CNN. So, Greece should say yes to the bailout in exchange to its sovereignty? Absolutely not. Why is it so difficult to accept the fact that the debt needs auditng? Besides, Germany has most benefited by this crisis. The german products are cheaper thanks to it and the country's growth rate is rising. Other than that, Germany takes loans on a low rate and then gets paid back by the interest. No money were given out of taxpayers. If you don't believe me, search ARD's cover or ask Klaus Regling, head of EFSF!!

    May 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  14. Tim S

    So Fareed what is the difference between austerity and reform? You say Greece and other democracies like the US need reform Reform as being advocated by most politicians and the corporate owned media like CNN is to cut programs that allow working people to live. It is never about addressing the problem of income disparity which is THE problem. You cant have capitalism which requires consumption when 99% of the people have no money. If reform means changing the tax code to stop a tiny minority from hording mountains of wealth than I am for it but the corporate media is too afraid to suggest it and politicians dont have the courage to do it.

    May 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  15. DHYF

    Mr. Zakaria needs a history lesson...first of all he states that: "By one estimate, since it gained its independence from the Ottomans in 1832, Greece has been in default or restructuring for half this period."...he cleverly forgets to mention that Greece was under 400 years of slavery and had to fight and persevere to keep her history, heritage, language and culture. Then after some years of independence came the Balkan Wars in which Greece endured more suffering...then World War I , WWII, and a civil war in which the communists could not take over Greece like the did half of Eastern Europe. So it is far to say that the Greeks have seen more than there fair share of strife. The Germans are not bailing Greece out because of their "generosity"...they are doing it so that their backyard (i.e. Europe) doesn't collapse and no one can then afford to by their BMWs or Bosch washing's out of self-interest as well...let's not forget that Greece never collected war reparations from Germany's "sins" committed twice in a space of 40 years! Germany's debt has been forgiven three times by the "powers that be"...

    Greece is a country the size of West Virginia and less people than the NYC area and yet those people have contributed to civilization more so than ANY other European country. While, to be fair, it is correct to state that much of Greece's problems are her fault (corrupt politicians, bribes, overspending, etc) does that still warrant the media constantly browbeating and stereotyping the Greeks as lazy, etc?...if anyone should be sensitive to browbeating and sterotyping
    it's the Germans...How many Americans would be able to tolerate the austerity seen in Greece? not many...and believe me the overspending occuring in this country now will unfortunately catch up with us, and there will ba austerity in the USA never seen before...give it another 3 election cycles....maybe sooner if we Americans don't wake up and actually participate in intelligent political debates instead of worrying whether Mitt Romney gave someone a hair cut 50 years ago! WAKE UP AMERICA!...stop worrying about the Kardashians!

    May 20, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Reply
  16. Son of sparta

    Patrick – δεν ενδιαφερόμε τι πιστεύεις.

    May 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      Please understand that I did not make that derogatory statement about you.
      An arab as shole keeps stealing my moniker.
      The names this as swipe uses is Patrick-2, J. Foster Dulles, Rosie, Joseph McCarthy, Travis, Marine5484, Yacobi, Warren, Qugley, Willie12345 and Vin.
      Please check your iphone, bb or android to verify that this stupid statement has not been made by me.

      May 29, 2012 at 8:38 am | Reply
  17. zakaria zakaria

    A BIG Danke Germans from a Greek.

    Danke for 1.000.000 dead
    Danke for 2 World Wars
    Danke for the civil war that was created because of you
    Danke for crimes against humanities.
    Danke for not paying your ww2 loan back to the greek banks
    Danke for stealing all of my countries gold and art
    Danke for detroying all greece infrastructure
    Danke for ruined Ports trains bridges
    Danke for bringing my country 100 back
    Danke for recognized FYROM as Macedonia
    Danke for the scandal of Siemens
    Danke for the broken submarines
    Danke for 8000 ancient greek artifacts stolen by the Germans
    Danke for letting me support bymyself the east borders of EU with no help
    Danke for letting me keep all the illegal immigrants do you can have less

    Danke for
    Jasenovac concentration camp
    Maly Trostenets

    As an individual
    Danke for killing my great-grandmother.
    Danke for killing my grandmother.
    Danke for Stealing all of my families assets
    Danke for burning down my dads village
    Danke for burnning my fathers home and school
    Danke for make my dad so poor that he didnt have shoes
    Danke for my fathers lost childhood
    Danke for stealing my dads education since he had to work and go to school from the age of 6
    Danke for having my dad walk 3 extra miles everyday to get to this home since you destroyed the roads.
    Danke for taking food out of my families table.


    "If Germany paid war reparations to Greece would go bankrupt!" Albrecht Ritschi

    Things in life CAN BE VERY twisted for Zakaria, Instead of asking Germany to say im sorry OR NOT SAY ANYTHING AT ALL, he is asking from Greece to say DANKE.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:17 am | Reply
    • Son of sparta

      Bravo zakaria zakaria for your excellent response. Many in the West have forgotten the brutality that Germany inflicted on Greece.

      May 21, 2012 at 10:40 am | Reply
    • cittisurfer

      Thank you, Greek, for the Greek wars against the Turks (Balkan wars 1912/13, Greek-Turkish-War 1919-1922)

      Thank you for oppression and expulsion of hundred thousands of Turks and other minorities.

      Thank you for Mr. Metaxas and his dictatorship

      Thank you for the fascist party "Chrysi Avgi" in the Greek parliament

      Thank you for the Greek nationalism ("Macedonia", Cyprus, Albania/Epirus, Turkey)

      Thank you, that the Greeks took over decades the money of the German tourists (sorry, evil Nazis of course!)

      Thank you, that the Greek government took German reparations anfter WWII (in 1960: 115 Million D-Marks, I think, you´ve forgotten that fact)

      The Germans are not responsible for the inability of the Greeks to govern their country or the Greek civil war.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:36 am | Reply
    • Steiner


      October 26, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Reply
      • omirosmelitas

        Ναι ρηχά είναι, μπείτε.

        April 24, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
  18. deniz boro

    What? When and I do not ask why. My pleasure if it helps. But it was just a reminding of history. Mind to send me the text for I have not recorded.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Reply
  19. cittisurfer

    @Son of Sparta, your quotation: "what did their civilization bring to the world? Oh yeah fascism! "

    The fascism is an invention of the Italians. The German civilization brought many great people and inventions to the world. Famous scholars, painters, composers, physicians and scientists like Albertus Magnus, Albrecht Dürer, Goethe, Schiller, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Rudolf Virchow etc. etc. Germans invented the car, the sound film and TV etc. etc. And the modern Greeks? :-)))))

    June 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Reply
  20. rforster

    You're right!

    July 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Reply
  21. rforster

    Please have mercy for my bad English, because i am from germany

    Why so many people are living today in the past. Wake up! There are more than sixty years between 2012 and 1945. Germany was punished very hard after WW1 and WW2. It has lost almost half of its territory. Prussia does not exist and many people had to fled their homeland. The territories went to Poland, Denmark, Belgium, France and Russia. After WW2 Germany was seperated. But who is complaining about it today in Germany. Don't live in the past. If you would outweigh all the crimes of the past, some states would appear differently.
    The last thing I want to say is, that the 2. Worldwar hat not begun, if the German had not been so humiliated from the allies.

    Thank you for you attention

    July 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Reply
  22. rforster

    I want to show you the changes.

    Germany before WW1:,r:11,s:45,i:246

    Germany after WW2:,r:12,s:0,i:162

    July 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  23. Nikiforos

    I never read any report more stupid than the above. Seems to me the reporter except that is uneducated is ignorant as well. Germany owe to Greece and not Greece to Germany mister "ignorant". Before you write such reports learn the true mister "uneducated". Germany benefits 22,5 billions each year due to the economical situation of Greece and the taxpayers of Germany they pay nothing at all for. I do not know you told you that mister "wise wizard". You know something dear "clever", you are very stupid or you get paid to write this kind of offensive report against the Greek citizens and Greece as well. If you want to be a gentleman you must ask publicly an apology from Greece and Greek citizens mister quibler.

    September 23, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Reply
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  26. wolf

    Hey, Greece! Just say no to German Bailouts. Germany is and will be perfectly fine with this. However, if you WANT the bailouts, accept some conditions ... your decision, entirely!

    July 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Reply
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