Approximately 25,000 Greeks protested against German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Athens, the first since the start of the euro crisis. For these demonstrators, there could be no doubt: the country that is to blame for their dramatic situation is Germany, the new Reich is accused of bleeding Greece dry. Nazi flags were waved, and some of the demonstrators even sported Wehrmacht uniforms.

This demonstration, which is not the first of its kind since the beginning of the Greek crisis (Merkel has often been caricatured as Hitler), is interesting because it reveals a certain mentality. Because when we look at any of the other countries in financial difficulty, whether it be Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy or Cyprus, nowhere can we see such outrageous Germanophobic demonstrations.

This is what radically distinguishes Greece from its partners: one part of the population, admittedly encouraged by its politicians, prefers to blame foreigners for the country’s problems rather than calling themselves into question. It is true that “scapegoat” is derived from the Ancient Greek for “Azazel’s goat”.

Thus, in the spring of 2010, Greece’s socialist Deputy Prime Minister, Theodoros Pangalos, declared that Germany had never paid war reparations following the Nazi occupation of the country. In December of the same year, the then Deputy Finance Minister, Filippos Sachinidis, evaluated Germany’s debt to his country at 162 billion euros. In short, the Germans should pay to help Greece, because they are the ones in debt.

After three years of crisis, a part of Greek society refuses to admit that it alone is responsible for its situation. No one imposed one of the planet’s most corrupt states on the Greeks. No one forced them to indulge in crazy military spending, to exonerate the clergy and ship owners and allow the majority of the population evade tax, to lie to qualify for the euro, to run up mountainous debts, to let salaries drift, to abstain from investing in their economy when they could have taken advantage of low interest rates etc., etc. Admittedly, we can reproach Europeans for turning a blind eye to these issues which were common knowledge. But the Greeks are not big children.

A handful of cretins brandishing Nazi flags

Now that the markets have burned what they loved, the Greeks will have to pay the bill. It is unpleasant, no one denies it. And no one denies that the manner in which the portion is being administered is not very gentle, but the Eurozone has very little experience of this type of situation, and has probably made the mistake of demanding too much of a country with no state. Just as Germany, which balked at helping Greece at the beginning of the crisis, probably made a bad situation worse.

But the Eurozone and Germany finally responded to the call: 240 billion euros of aid (in the form of loans) which enabled Greece to make its payments, along with 50 billion of Greek bonds purchased by the European Central bank, the biggest debt restructuring in modern history, 15 billion euros of financial aid over two years, unprecedented technical assistance (both European and bilateral, and thus in part German) to help construct a modern state etc.

And the alternative? There is no less painful option. Moreover, an overwhelming majority of Greeks do not want to leave the Eurozone, because they know that pure and simple bankruptcy would be infinitely more painful than the treatment they currently have to endure.

In making the spectacular gesture of traveling to Athens, the Chancellor has acknowledged the efforts made by the Samaras government, she has also affirmed that she does not want — or at least no longer wants — a Greek exit from the Eurozone, which is still favoured by public opinion in Germany.

So to wave Nazi flags is not only disgraceful, it is also imbecilic and certain to aggravate the situation: Germans, whose democracy is one of the most exemplary in the world, will hardly appreciate once again being equated with Nazis by a country that is not a shining example of democracy. We can find reassurance in the fact that there were only 25,000 demonstrators and a handful of cretins brandishing Nazi flags (in a country that elected a small group of Nazis to its parliament, which is a nice touch). At the very least, this should encourage Greece to adopt legislation to punish this type of incitement to hatred.