Berlin: A spokesman for Germany`s finance minister Friday condemned as "vile" a Greek newspaper caricature that showed Wolfgang Schaeuble in a Nazi-era army uniform, alluding to the Holocaust.
The cartoon depicts Germany`s finance minister in a Wehrmacht uniform saying "we insist on the soap from your fat... We are prepared to discuss the fertiliser from your ashes".
The headline reads, "The negotiation has begun", referring to the talks the new Syriza-led government in Athens is holding with its eurozone partners on debt relief and economic reforms.
The artist who created the cartoon in Sunday`s Avgi newspaper, a pro-Syriza party daily, should be "ashamed", said Schaeuble`s spokesman.
"There is the principle of freedom of expression," spokesman Martin Jaeger told reporters.
"I will also make use of this freedom of expression, and on a very personal basis I say: this caricature is vile and the artist of this caricature should be ashamed."
The cartoon`s publication comes amid growing tensions between Greece and Berlin, fuelled by Athens`s claim that it should receive reparations from Germany for the damages wrought by the Nazis during World War II.
Contacted about the issue, Avgi cartoonist Tassos Anastassiou declined to comment on the German complaint.
But in answering another complaint from the Greek Israelite community of Athens, Anastassiou on February 11 had insisted he meant "no insult or disrespect" to Holocaust victims."The cartoon was not aimed at making people laugh. It contained a lot of pain, a lot of anger, and aimed at the opposite: to remind that views concerning Untermenschen (sub-humans), who need to be brutally treated by the `Aryan` race, are sadly not in Europe`s past," the cartoonist wrote.
"There was no intention to insult or disrespect the most savage and repulsive moment in modern history: the Holocaust," Anastassiou said.
The Greek newspaper, which has a daily circulation of only about 1,800, published another cartoon of Schaeuble in its Friday edition, also wearing a German army uniform.
Germany has been the strongest opponent of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras`s plans for an overhaul of its huge loans programme.
Many in Athens blame Berlin for imposing austerity since the country`s first bailout in 2010.
And the countries have clashed over reparations, which Greece has repeatedly said it has a "moral obligation" to claim, despite a firm "no" from Berlin.
Tsipras`s anti-austerity Syriza party claims Germany owes it around 162 billion euros ($183 billion) -- or around half the country`s public debt, which stands at over 315 billion euros.
The Third Reich forced the Greek central bank to loan it 476 million Reichsmarks, which has never been reimbursed.
A German Bundestag lower house of parliament report in 2012 put the value of the loan at $8.25 billion.
Greece`s occupation by the Nazis from 1941 was one of the most bloody in Europe, with Hitler`s forces rampaging, pillaging and shooting after encountering a nation that fiercely resisted.
But at a joint news conference with Schaeuble in Berlin last week, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called on Germany to help the Greek government tackle Nazism at home.
He said the extreme-right, xenophobic neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party posed a looming threat to Greece which Berlin could help eradicate by easing the country`s debt burden.