FRANKFURT (TheStreet) -- Everyday Germans are a bit confused by all the criticism over Germany's tough love with Greece.
To the rest of the world, Germany is being hypocritical for refusing to let Greece off the hook on its staggering debt. After all, Germany received financial aid--and loan forgiveness--when its economy was in shambles after World War II. Why shouldn't Greece get the same treatment?
But Germans don't quite see it that way. This is not Greece's first bailout but its third since the financial crisis. And as talks began Tuesday on a new bailout for Greece, Germans think it's time the Greek government revamped its workforce and economy--much as Germany did after World War II and several times since.
"Beyond any historical or regional complication, this is a problem that German taxpayers take very personally," says Martin Hellmich, a professor of financial risk management and regulation at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
"They are tired of the situation over the last 7 years, when huge amounts of money have been transferred from the taxpayers to large banks and governments," he explains. "They want to know that they are going to get paid back."
To Germans, being tough with Greece is not a matter of hypocrisy but common sense. Many are loathe to take a "haircut"--or less than the full amount--even if that's the only way they'll get paid at all.
"Greece does not deserve to have its loans forgiven because they have not done anything to get themselves out of this mess--it is still largely a tourist economy," says Andre Heideck, a 31-year old painter who was born in Germany but identifies himself as "Yugoslavian."
"Everyone has to pay for this," he adds. "The Greeks have just not done enough to resolve their own internal problems."
Germans also insist it's not about them: It's about the future of the euro zone. Besides, other EU members don't want to bail out Greece either.
"This is not a situation where Germans want to dominate anyone else economically," says Hellmich. "This is very much a discussion about the future direction of the Eurozone. In fact the stance of the Dutch and Fins was actually more against bailing out Greece than the view here seems to be."
Hellmich also believes that Chancellor Angela Merkel's tough stance on Greece may be largely political posturing.
"At the end of the day, Ms. Merkel will negotiate a haircut on Greek debt and agree to restructuring," he says. "Politically, however, for both internal and external reasons, she has to stand firm that such debt relief must come with significant reform, starting with tax reform."
According to the latest press reports, Germany appears to be showing more support for easing the austerity measures imposed on Greece in return for more aid.
Many Germans, in fact, have feelings of solidarity with the Greek people, especially those who are struggling in much the same way.
"There should be debt restructuring, not to save the politicians but for the Volk-- the Greek people," says Violetta Seidel, a 29-year-old law school graduate who can't find a job as a lawyer and lives off a state-sponsored stipend.
"The suffering of the Greek people is unacceptable," she adds. "They are European citizens. They should have housing and medicine and food."