ISBN 13: 9781857823813
Manolis Glezos was sick that morning, suffering from tuberculosis. The following day, Glezos was roaming the streets, angry and determined, disarming police stations. By the time the British sent in an armoured division he and his comrades were waiting. We were dug in a trench. It was difficult to strike at an Englishman, difficult to kill a British soldier — they had been our allies.
On 5 December, Lt Gen Scobie imposed martial law and the following day ordered the aerial bombing of the working-class Metz quarter. And right at that moment, with my head poked above the wall, a bullet brushed over my helmet. Had I not been yanked down by Evangelos Goufas[another poet], who was there next to me, I would have been dead.
He can now smile at the thought that only months after the killing in the square he was back at school, studying English on a British Council summer course. In one battle I came across an injured English soldier and I took him to a field hospital. It is illuminating to read the dispatches by British soldiers themselves, as extracted by the head censor, Capt JB Gibson, now stored at the Public Record Office. They give no indication that the enemy they fight was once a partisan ally, indeed many troops think they are fighting a German-backed force. I say: no, it is all part of the war against the Hun, and we must go on and exterminate this rebellious element.
Soon, reinforced British troops had the upper hand and on Christmas Eve Churchill arrived in the Greek capital in a failed bid to make peace on Christmas Day. On the evening of 25 December Glezos would take part in his most daring escapade, laying more than a ton of dynamite under the hotel Grande Bretagne, where Lt Gen Scobie had headquartered himself.
We crawled through all the shit and water and laid the dynamite right under the hotel, enough to blow it sky high. We were absolutely filthy, covered [in excrement] and when we got out of the sewerage system I remember the boys washing us down. I went over to the boy with the detonator; and we waited, waited for the signal, but it never came. There was no explosion. Then I found out: at the last minute EAM found out that Churchill was in the building, and put out an order to call off the attack.
At the end of the Dekemvriana, thousands had been killed; 12, leftists rounded up and sent to camps in the Middle East. A truce was signed on 12 February, the only clause of which that was even partially honoured was the demobilisation of ELAS. This most measured and mild-mannered of men would spend years in concentration camps, set up with the help of the British as civil war beckoned.
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With imprisonment came hard labour, and with hard labour came torture, and with exile came censorship. Once, I was made to stand for 24 hours after it had been discovered that a newspaper had published a letter describing the appalling conditions in the camp. But though I had written it, and had managed to pass it on to my mother, I never admitted to doing so and throughout my time there I never signed a statement of repentance. Sir Charles Wickham had been assigned by Churchill to oversee the new Greek security forces — in effect, to recruit the collaborators.
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From Yorkshire, Wickham was a military man who served in the Boer War, during which concentration camps in the modern sense were invented by the British. He then fought in Russia, as part of the allied Expeditionary Force sent in to aid White Russian Czarist forces in opposition to the Bolshevik revolution. After Greece, he moved on in to Palestine. The RUC was founded in , following what became known as the Belfast pogroms of , when Catholic streets were attacked and burned.
That same combination of concentration camps, putting the murder gangs in uniform, and calling it the police. You use whatever means are necessary, one of which is terror and collusion with terrorists.
It works. Greek academics vary in their views on how directly responsible Wickham was in establishing the camps and staffing them with the torturers. It had been done before, under Metaxas. They were the people who had been in the torture chambers during occupation, pulling out the fingernails and applying thumbscrews. There exist many terrifying accounts of torture, murder and sadism in the Greek concentration camps — one of the outrageous atrocities in postwar Europe. Minors in the Kifissa prison were beaten with wires and socks filled with concrete.
A female prisoner was forced, after a severe beating, to stand in the square of Kastoria holding the severed heads of her uncle and brother-in-law. I lost the world. Manolis Glezos has a story of his own. He produces a book about the occupation, and shows a reproduction of the last message left by his brother Nikos, scrawled on the inside of a beret. Nikos was executed by collaborators barely a month before the Germans evacuated Greece.
As he was being driven to the firing squad, the year-old managed to throw the cap he was wearing from the window of the car. I kiss you. Today I am going to be executed, falling for the Greek People. Nowhere else in newly liberated Europe were Nazi sympathisers enabled to penetrate the state structure — the army, security forces, judiciary — so effectively. I know that the people who did it are in government, and no one was ever punished.
It is, along with the issue of war reparations, his other great campaign, his last wish: to erect a building worthy of the library that will honour Nikos. But the line was not to kill civilians. In December , Greek prime minister Konstantinos Tsaldaris, faced with the probability of British withdrawal, visited Washington to seek American assistance.
In response, the US State Department formulated a plan for military intervention which, in March , formed the basis for an announcement by President Truman of what became known as the Truman Doctrine , to intervene with force wherever communism was considered a threat. Glezos still calls himself a communist. The occasion arose when Khrushchev invited Glezos — who at the height of the Cold War was a hero in the Soviet Union, honoured with a postage stamp bearing his image — to the Kremlin.
It was and Khrushchev was in talkative mood. Glezos wanted to know why the Red Army, having marched through Bulgaria and Romania, stopped at the Greek border.
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Perhaps the Russian leader could explain. He divided up the world with others and gave Greece to the English.
What they wanted, and created, was rule by the party. Khrushchev, says Glezos, did not openly concur. But then after our meeting he invited me to dinner, which was also attended by Leonid Brezhnev [who succeeded Khrushchev in ] and he listened for another four and a half hours. I have always taken that for tacit agreement. And later, I understood that the Dekemvriana was not a local conflict, but the beginning of the Cold War that had started as a warm war here in Greece.
Upon procuring it, he immediately got on a ship to Paris where he would spend the next five years studying sociology and philosophy at the Sorbonne. The tear gas that has drenched Athens — a new variety, imported from Israel — clears. A march in support of a Bulgarian cleaner, whose face has been disfigured in an acid attack by neo-fascists, has been broken up by riot police after hours of street-fighting.
Back in the rebel-held quarter of Exarcheia, a young woman called Marina pulls off her balaclava and draws air. Over coffee, she answers the question: why Greece? Why is it so different from the rest of Europe in this regard — the especially bitter war between left and right? The persecution of the partisans who fought the Nazis, for which they were honoured in France, Italy, Belgium or the Netherlands — but for which, here, they were tortured and killed on orders from your government. None of this need have happened, and the British crime was to legitimise people whose record under occupation by the Third Reich put them beyond legitimacy.
It happened because Churchill believed he had to bring back the Greek king.
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And the last thing the Greek people wanted or needed was the return of a de-frocked monarchy backed by Nazi collaborators. But that is what the British imposed, and it has scarred Greece ever since. The deposits remain, like malignant cells in the system. Although we liberated Greece, the Nazi collaborators won the war, thanks to the British.
Inside stood her forty-foot-tall gold and ivory idol-image. We need some background. Fortunately, the Greeks provided it in their myths and art. There is no Creator-God in the Greek religious system. The ancient Greek religious system is about getting away from the God of Genesis, and exalting man as the measure of all things. Greek religion was thus a sophisticated form of ancestor worship. You have no doubt heard of the supposedly great philosopher, Sokrates. Greek stories about their origins are varied and sometimes contradictory until their poets and artists settle upon Zeus and Hera as the couple from whom the other Olympian gods and mortal men are descended.