You’ll never guess which hardline euro zone country has had its debts repeatedly forgiven

The way we were.
The way we were.
Image: AP Photo
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

So, Greece is in dire straits, and the rest of Europe is being tough on its poor, debt-ridden cousin. Germany is being especially firm, and most Germans agree with their chancellor, Angela Merkel: A debt is a debt, and debts must be paid.

That sounds like a a fair, very Germanic position, but for the fact that Germany has “been the largest debt defaulter of the 20th century.

Germany (West Germany, at the time) benefitted from debt forgiveness in 1953, right after the fall of Hitler’s Reich, which started a war that destroyed Europe. Greece signed onto that absolution, as it did again in 1990 when, after the fall of the USSR and at the time of the unification of the country, German debt was again tossed aside. This is not even to mention debts from the First World War, and prior.

It is arguable that the country’s currently sound economy is due to these two acts of compassion as much as to anything else the country itself has done. Modern Germany is a testament to the fact that, sometimes, forgiveness—of debt and history—is the smart thing to do.

Merkel may be weary of the endless negotiations, but maybe it’s time for Germany to put aside the tough love, and try a little tenderness?