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April 20, 2014

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Greek Jewish community seeks return of Nazi ransom

Updated Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 | 10:32 a.m.

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Greece's biggest Jewish community has taken Germany to Europe's top human rights court, seeking the return of a huge ransom paid to Nazi occupiers to free thousands of slave laborers more than 70 years ago.

The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki said Monday it also wants "moral vindication" in a lawsuit tabled last week at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

In 1942, thousands of Thessaloniki's Jewish men were press-ganged into construction projects across Greece. Brutal conditions led to more than 10 percent mortality.

Community leaders eventually struck a deal with a regional Nazi commander, paying him 1.9 billion drachmas — about 50 billion euros ($69 billion) nowadays — for their release. But soon after, the city's entire Jewish population was sent to German death camps, which few survived.