|The Greek war of Resistance Against Nazi Germany and
the Civil War
The Greek war of resistance against the German Nazi occupiers
is still bitterly present in the collective memory of the Greek people.
As in other occupied countries, there were collaborators
and fascist sympathizers.
The government and the Royal family had fled. A
number of monarchists formed a resistance movement. But the decisive resistance
movement was formed by the Greek Left, which had already opposed the Metaxas
As in the days of the liberation struggle against the
Turkish overlords, partisans took to the mountains and attacked the adversary
The fighters against Turkish occupation that had achieved
Greek independence in the early 19th century lived on in Greek folklore.
Every school child knew the songs of the "klephts" - those seen as bandits
by the Turks, and as heroes by the common people. The partisans, in the
early and mid-1940s, were klephts come to life again.
Nazi German reprisals were brutal. Villagers in areas
that featured partisan activities became typical victims, regardless of
age and sex. Thus, children, old men who could not join the fight of the
partisans, women who cared for the old and very young and did the work
that had to be done, were murdered, as entire villages were burned. Often,
everything that was alive was put to death, even the animals. Death was
inflicted in the most cruel manner, for instance, by burning hostages alive
in a church or other building.
Germany to this very day has refused to pay compensation
to survivors - the offspring and relatives of those assassinated
by SS- and wehrmacht troops.
When the Germans withdrew at the end of the war, the Greek
resistance movement and its popular army was widely present in Greece.
The Left-wing partisan units and the left party affiliated to them were
especially entrenched both in Greek Makedonia and in the Peloponnisos
and took possession of Athens at about the same time when British troops
landed in Athens.
Greek writers and poets have reflected on the war of resistance,
and so have historians.
The Civil War
The civil war was a direct consequence of the fact that
the British impeded further control of the Greek fatherland by the forces
that had liberated Greece. When the Left joined a government of national
unity led by a liberal prime minister, the British sabotaged it, favoring
a Conservative government sympathetic to the extreme right, a political
current that included many Nazi collaborators, among them many police officer
who had first served under Metaxas, and then under the occupiers.
The fact that partisans were assassinated or tried and
sentenced to death because they had shot collaborators during the struggle
against the German occupiers, led to increased tension. Right-wingers who
had murdered leftist patriots were sometimes tried , too, but they were
usually left off the hook. These people continued their covert war against
the Left in those months after the British arrival when the Left had abandoned
armed struggle, while seeking to engage in political work.
When the Liberal government, under pressure from the British,
refused to meet sensible Left-wing demands and the liberal-left government
was discontinued, phony elections were staged in a climate of anti-Left
terror that made participation in the elections impossible for the Left.
It was then that the former partisans took to the hills again, resuming
their fight for the liberation of the poor and exploited masses.
The new conservative government that resulted from elections,
which had been boycotted by the Left, waged war now, supported first by
the British army and air force, and then by the U.S.
It was in the Greek civil war thus unclenched, that a
new weapon, NAPALM, was used for the first time. And this repeatedly,
both against civilians and combattants. Napalm was later on used widely
in Korea (between 1950 and 1953) and in the Vietnam war.
The Greek civil war did not only result in such war crimes
as the use of napalm. Leftists were assassinated or they were imprisoned
in concentration camps like Makronissos. Some of those who like, Yannis
Ritsos, were imprisoned at the time, were imprisoned again by a US-supported
fascist military dictatorship in the 1960s and 70s. Makronissos, Leros
and Yaros were island concentration camps that can be compared with the
Taiwanese island KZ called Lü Dao (or Green Island, in English). They
were versions of Abu Ghraib, but not versions of Auschwitz.
- Josh Carter
Giorgos Maniatakos, Diktatoria, polemos kai pezographia,
1936 - 1944. Athinai: Hellenike logotechnia.
Giorgos Maniatakos, In den Schnee geschrieben. Dreizehn
Erzählungen. Aus dem Neugriechischen von Helmut Schareika.
Elli Alexiou, Anthologie der Literatur der griechischen
Widerstandsbewegung von 1941 bis 1944 / Anthologia ellinikis antistasiakís
logotechnias, 1941-1944. Berlin : Akademie-Verlag 1965; 1971.
2 vols. [Vol. 1: 1965 (XIV-417 p.) ; Vol. 2: 1971 (XV-390 p.)]
Dimiotris Psathas, Antistasi. Athinai :
Fytrákis, [1961?]. 1 vol. (227-253 p.)
Komnenos Pyromaglou, He ethnike antistasis : EAM,
ELAS, EDES: Kritike eisagoge eis ten diamorphosin tes [...]
K.A. Dimadis, Diktatoria, polemos kai pezografia
1936 - 1944: Giorgos Theotokás, M. Karagátsis Strátis
Myrivilis, Lilíka Nákou, Thanásis Petsális-Diomidis,
Pantelis Prevelákis, Ángelos Terzákis.
Athina : Vivliopoleion tis "Hestias", 2004. 2è emploutismene ekdose
(Second, expanded edition).
Nestoras Matsas, I ágria tryferótita
tis efiveías : imerológio enós efivou ston emfýlio.
: Eleutheroudákis, 2004.
Petros Charis, Krisimi hora: selides rembasmou kai
perisyllogis. [Athinai] : Vivliopoleion tis "Hestias,  (with
illustrations by Spyros Vasileiou)
Glykeria Protopapa-Mpoumpoulidou, Pezografika keimena
tou polemou kai tis katochis. Ioannina : Panepistimion Ioanninon,
Georgios Dimitrios Kiriakidis, Grazdanskaja vojna:
1946-1949. Moskva : Nauka 1972.
Lawrence L. Wittner, American Intervenvention in
Greece: 1943-1949. New York : Columbia Univ. Press 1982.
David Close, The Origins of the Greek Civil War.
: Longman 1995.
Deuxieme livre bleu sur l'intervention américano-anglaise,
sur le régime monarcho-fasciste, sur la lutte libératrice
du peuple. [S.l.] : Gouvernement democratique
provisoire de Grece, 1949. 191pp.
Giorgio Vaccarino, La Grecia tra Resistenza e guerra
civile, 1940-1949. Milano : F. Angeli, 1988. 330 p.
Peter J. Stavrakis, Moscow and Greek Communism,
1944-1949. Ithaca and London : Cornell Univ. Press 1989.
Thanasis D. Sfikas, The British Labour Government
and the Greek Civil War 1945-1949 : the imperialism of Non-intervention.
Keele : Ryburn Publishing / Keele Univ. Press 1994.
Edgar O'Ballance, The Greek Civil War : 1944-1949;
with a foreword by the hon. C. M. Woodhouse. New York ; Washington : Praeger,
1966. 237 p.
Amikam Nachmani, International Intervention
in the Greek Civil War : the United Nations special committee on the Balkans
: 1947-1952. New York : Praeger 1990. XVI, 196 p.
Bruce Robellet Kuniholm, The Origins of the Cold
War in the Near East : Great Power Conflict and Diplomacy in Iran, Turkey,
and Greece. Princeton, N.J : Princeton Univ. Press 1980.
XXIII, 485 p.
Anastasia Balta, L'opinion publique française
face à la guerre civile grecque. Princeton, N.J : Princeton
Univ. Press, c1980 XXIII, 485 p. Ph.D. thesis.
E.D. Smith, Victory of a Sort: the British in Greece,
1941-46. London : Robert Hale 1988. 271p.
British Intervention in the
Greek civil war, 1944-1946
Greece by way of Albania on 28 October 1940, but Greek troops repelled
the invaders after a bitter struggle (see Greco-Italian War). This marked
the first Allied victory in the war.
secure his strategic southern flank, German dictator Adolf Hitler reluctantly
stepped in and launched the Battle of Greece. Axis units from Germany,
Bulgaria, and Italy successfully invaded Greece, through Yugoslavia, forcing
out the Greek and defenders. On 20 May 1941, the Germans attempted to seize
Crete with a large attack by paratroops—with the aim of reducing the threat
of a counter-offensive by Allied forces in Egypt—but faced heavy resistance.
The Greek campaign might have delayed German military plans against Soviet
Union, and it is argued that had the German invasion of the Soviet Union
started on 20 May 1941 instead of 22 June 1941, the Nazi assault against
the Soviet Union might have succeeded. The heavy losses of German paratroopers
led the Germans to launch no further large-scale air-invasions.
the years of Occupation of Greece by Nazi Germany, thousands of Greeks
died in direct combat, in concentration camps, or of starvation. The occupiers
murdered the greater part of the Jewish community despite efforts by Christian
Greeks to shelter the Jews. The economy of Greece was devastated.
Soviet Army began its drive across Romania in August 1944, the German Army
in Greece began withdrawing north and northwestward from Greece to avoid
being cut off in Greece. Hence, the German occupation of Greece ended in
October 1944. The Resistance group ELAS
seized control of Athens on 12 October 1944. The
insurrection was defeated by British
troops who entered Athens at 14 October 1944.(1)
(2014) summarizes the devastation
done to Greece during the war: Between
1941 in 1945, over 8% of the Greek population had died; some 2000 villages
and small towns had been razed to the ground; starvation was widespread
due to the destruction of crops and worsened in many parts of Greece
liberation when agricultural
labourers migrated to urban centres to escape politically
inspired violence in the countryside [exerted mainly by British-supported
right-wing units (often, collaborateurs of the Nazi German occupiers) againstsuspected
leftists and former resistance fighters];
trade either internally or externally had all but ceased; most of Greece's
merchant marine lay at the bottom of the sea; and motorized transport had
been confiscated by the axis occupiers.(2)
The Greek Civil War (Greek: Emfílios
pólemos), was fought between 1944
and 1949 in Greece b[y] [...] the Greek governmental and British forces
[against the Left].
Funding for the government came from Britain and the U.S.(3)The
insurgents [the ELAS] [were] the military branch of the Greek communist
party. According to some analysts on the Left,
armed intervention in the Greek civil war since Oct. 1944 and US intervention]
represented the first example of a post-war West interference in the political
situation of a foreign country.(4)The
victory of the British [forces] —and later[, of] US-supported [Greek] government
forces led to American funding through [...] the Marshall Plan and to Greece's
membership in NATO and
helped to define the ideological balance of power in the Aegean for the
entire Cold War."
1 S. Winston Churchill, The Second
World War (Volume 6), 1953. p. 285.
2 Christina J. M. Goulter, “The Greek Civil
War: A National Army’s Counter-insurgency Triumph,” in: The Journal of
Military History; Vol. 78, No.3 (July 2014), pp: 1017-55, quote: pp 1023-1025.
3 Nikos Marantzidis and Giorgos Antoniou. "The
Axis Occupation and Civil War: Changing Trends in Greek Historiography,
1941–2002," in: Journal of Peace Research; Vol. 41, No. 2 (2004), pp: 223-231.
4 Noam Chomsky, World Orders, Old And New. London:
Pluto Press 1994
(Source: History of Greece, in:
1944, 14 October: British troops
1944, 18 October: Premier George
Papandreou and his national unity government repatriate.
1944, 3 December: "Dekemvriana"
(December events). 28 people are killed by British troops and policemen
1944, 4 December: George Papandreou
attempts to resign.
1944, 12 December: ELAS controls
most of Athens and its environs.
1945 12 February: EAM and the Greek
Government sign a peace agreement to end fighting.
1945, 16 June: Former ELAS leader
Aris Velouchiotis is killed or commits suicide.
1945, 17 October: Archbishop Damaskinos
assumes office as regent in an attempt to stabilize the country.
1946, March: Fighting resumes between
the Government and the Communists.
1946, 28 September: A [questionable]
national referendum favours constitutional monarchy.
1946: King George II returns to
1947, 1 April: King George II dies
of sudden heart failure in the Palace in Athens. He is succeeded
by his younger brother Paul.
1947, December: Approximately 1,200
Communist militants are killed in a battle near Konitsa.
1948: The Communists reach the maximum
of their power.
1949, August: General Alexander
Papagos begins a major counter-offensive against Communist forces in northern
Greece, pushing them into Albania.
1949, 16 October: Nikolaos Zachariadis,
commander of the Communist guerillas, announces a ceasefire that ends the
Greek Civil War.
"Air operations during the Greek
Civil War involved primarily the air forces of the United Kingdom, South
Africa, and the government of Greece against ground elements of the ELAS
and other anti-government forces.
The arrival of British forces to
Greece in September 1944 brought with it the Royal Air Force. The airfield
at Araxos became the first foothold, being captured on 23 September 1944
and many airfields around it were secured within a month, including Megara
taken by parachute landings of 4 Para. Near Athens, Kalamaki ultimately
became the center of RAF activity, renamed Hassani on 1 December 1944,
as home for No. 337 Wing RAF, under which operated a number of squadrons:
No. 32 Squadron RAF with the Supermarine
No. 94 Squadron RAF with the Supermarine
No. 108 Squadron RAF with the Bristol
No. 216 Squadron RAF with the Douglas
No. 221 Squadron RAF with the Vickers
These were bolstered by the arrival
in November 1944 of No. 335 Squadron RHAF and No. 336 Squadron RHAF. Both
of these were Greek manned units within the RAF and would become the first
operational units of the Royal Hellenic Air Force. Both flew the Spitfire
Sedes was opened with the liberation of northern Greece
[from Nazi German forces] and became the new home for No. 32 Sqn.
On 2 December 1944, tensions over
the role of the EAM and ELAS parties in post-war government resulted in
demonstration during which British forces opened fire, killing ten civilians.The
response was attacks on police stations andthus
RAF units began operations against ELAS and EAM targets, mostly around
No. 73 Sqn, along with the newly
arrived No. 94 Squadron RAF, used their Spitfires on strafing runs and
light bombing was undertaken by No. 108 Sqn.
Additional options were gained
when a flight of Beaufighters of No. 39 Squadron RAF were attached to No.
108 Sqn., armed with RP-3 rockets. These were considered very effective
and over the span of two weeks 105 targets (55 buildings, 19 command posts,
10 supply dumps, 2 radio stations, 12 transportation, and 7 artillery)
were struck by these aircraft. The regular aircraft of No. 108 flew 265
sorties during December. ´
The heavy bombers of No. 221 Sqn were primarily used
in supply flights to the Sedes facility as well as various leaflet and
illumination missions. Two actual bombing raids
were carried out (both at night). The
Greek Spitfire squadrons did not participate in the attacks, although
the newly formed No. 13 Squadron RHAF did assist in leaflet operations.
The RAF suffered a major blow with
the attack by ELAS troops on their facility
at Kifisia, which was home to Allied Headquarters
Greece, on 19 December 1944. The
No. 2933 Squadron RAF Regiment defended strongly but was ultimately overrun
with the capture of many British prisoners. No. 221 Sqn. conducted
supply drops to these personnel during their march north.
By 7 January 1945, Athens was secured, and a ceasefire
negotiated on 11 January. While some fighting continued, British
fighter squadrons were withdrawn by summer 1945. Hassani
continued to be a hub of RAF operations however the
arrival of No. 252 Wing RAF with three Douglas Boston V equipped units,
No. 13 Squadron RAF, No. 18 Squadron RAF, and No. 55 Squadron RAF.
1946 saw the official transfer of Greek manned RAF squadrons
into the Royal Hellenic Air Force. In addition to the aforementioned Nos.
13, 335, and 336 Sqns., these also included the No. 355 Squadron RHAF with
a variety of transport types, including the C-47, Avro Anson, and Wellington
and the 345, 346, and 347 Flights using the Auster AOP and other utility
aircraft for liaison.
Meanwhile, government opposition
was on the rise and the formation of the
Democratic Army of Greece led to the loss of control of much of rural Greece.The
Greek National Army responded with Operation Terminus, but this was a failure.
March 1948 saw the RHAF enter the action with attacks
on landing strips set up by Communist forces to receive aid from Albania
Involvement by the United States
led to the launch of Operation Dawn in April 1948,
and this was supported by RHAF units with a total of 641 sorties with
the loss of one Spitfire plus damage to ten more. Dakotas were utilized
for leaflet and supply operations. The operation was successful but the
withdrawal to northern border regions limited RHAF effectiveness due to
a five mile stop line to avoid an international incident.
Operation Coronis was launched
in July 1948 against enemy forces
in the Grammos Mountains with the support
of Nos. 335 and 336 Sqns. operating from Yannina and Kozani.
Additional aircraft included AT-6 Texan and Auster
aircraft. Ultimate results were a draw as anti-government
forces withdrew across the border to Albania. No. 337 Squadron RHAF
had been formed with Spitfire IX aircraft, giving the RHAF three Spitfire
units. For heavier bombing,
Dakotas were jury-rigged with racks for bombs up to 500 lb each.
RAF deHavilland Mosquito photo reconnaissance aircraft
were reportedly used in the affair. RHAF flew 3,474 sorties during the
operation, suffering one lost Spitfire plus a further 22 damaged.
Operations in September 1948centered
on the Vitsi Mountains
area, and were supported again by the RHAF. They
were marked by better cooperation with GNA units and the first use of napalm,
although this was not used heavily. These operations
lasted through the end of the year, bringing the grand total of sorties
for 1948 to 8,907 combat and 9,891 transport, with the loss
of twelve airmen. A major attack at Florina by
guerrilla forces was defeated with
significant air support by the RHAF.
August 1949 marked the final
series of operations against the guerrilla forces,
and again the RHAF played a large role in supporting
government forces. In particular, during
the final portion of the month, No. 336 Sqn. began employing its newly
acquired SB2C Helldiver aircraft, of which 40
had been acquired from the United States Navy. This operation
resulted in the final destruction of opposition military resistance and
resulted in a final ceasefire being signed.
During August 826 sorties had been
flown dropping 288 tons of bombs and firing 1935 rockets. Napalm was
used again, with 114 such strikes being made.
Source: "Air operations during the Greek Civil War," in:
Commemoration of the 62nd Anniversary of the British
Napalm Bombing of Gramos and Vicho
World Macedonian Congress
August 25, 2010, Skopje, Macedonia (WMC) - The World
Macedonian Congress and the Association of Macedonians from Aegean Macedonia
this year will continue the tradition of commemorating the anniversary
of the 1948 British napalm bombing of Gramos and Vico in the Aegean part
of Macedonia during the 1946 to 1949 Civil War in Greece with a memorial
for the victims of the war.
On August 27, Friday, 10 am, a delegation of the World
Macedonian Congress and the Association of Macedonians from Aegean Macedonia
will mark the 62nd anniversary of the napalm bombing. The
bombing in Aegean Macedonia was the first time napalm bombs had been used
in the world. The delgates will lay fresh flowers at the monument
to the victims of the civil war at Woman Park before the Parliament of
Macedonia. At 11 am in the courtyard of the church of St. Mary Mother of
God on the Vardar River, Skopje a memorial service will be held for the
victims of the bombing.
Invited guests to the commemoration include representatives
of the religious communities in Macedonia, the president, members of Parliament
and ministers, directors of national institutes, directors of state universities,
the mayors of the city of Skopje and the Skopje municipalities, diplomatic
and consular missions and foreign missions in Macedonia, associations of
Macedonians from the Aegean part of Macedonia, and the Macedonian print
and electronic media.
The memorial service will send a request to Britain
to apologize to the Macedonian and Greek anti-fascists in the Second World
War for the defeat in the Civil War in Greece, for the victims of the British
napalm bombing at Gramos and Vico, and for the British assistance for the
victory of the Greek monarcho-fascists who fought
fiercely against the Macedonians in Aegean Macedonia, due to the agreement
between Churchill and Stalin that the United Kingdom win Greece and the
Soviet Union win Bulgaria and Romania.
Macedonia and Macedonians will no longer be collateral
damage to the interests of the big powers and their spheres of influence
in the region. No longer can they hide the history and archeology in order
not to reveal the truth about Macedonia.
The commemoration will condemn the use of weapons of
mass destruction (napalm, hydrogen and atomic bombs), and send a message
to the world, of peace and love over war and hate.
Macedonians around the world wait for Britain's apology,
and recognition of the Republic of Macedonia and membership of the European
Union and NATO alliance under the state name of Macedonia.
The World Macedonian Congress and the Association of
Macedonians from Aegean Macedonia expect not only the fulfillment of the
contract between Macedonians from the Aegean part of Macedonia and the
Communist Party of Greece for cultural autonomy of the Macedonian people
in Greece after the victory in the Second World War.
With thousands of victims between
1940 to 1949, Macedonians in Aegean Macedonia laid the foundation of Greek
statehood, because together with Greeks they were able to free themselves
from the fascists. And because of that they unconditionally seek
to reclaim the civil and property rights of the Macedonians forcibly exiled
from Greece from the Balkan Wars to today, and to receive respect and universal
human rights for Macedonians who live in Greece.
Macedonians around the world reject the request to
change the state name of Macedonia in order to legalize the Greek genocide
against the Macedonian people and the occupation of Macedonia that occurred
during the Balkan Wars and continues to this day. They require the immediate
and unconditional suspension of talks on the state name of Macedonia. Macedonians
around the world reject the pressures to change the state name of Macedonia
and see these pressures as cultural genocide against the Macedonian people
and crimes against humanity.
Napalm used in the Greek civil war (1946-49) and the
Korean civil war (1950-53)
"American tacticians [...} developed techniques of
napalm bombing [...] [N]apalm became a common weapon and was used in the
Greek civil war and Indochina. The U.S. Far East Air Force used at least
32,357 tons of napalm in Korea in addition to napalm detonated by
the Navy and the Marines. Ironically, Japan, Korea's former suppressor,
manufactured napalm for [U.S.-led] UN
On the average day, the Air Force dropped 45,000 gallons,
the Navy released 12,000 gallons, and the Marines delivered 5,000 gallons
to targets. Napalm's volatile mixture was improved when more precise thermometers
were used to monitor its production, and in Korea, two Army
companies were employed solely to mix napalm.
Pilots realized that dive-bombing was the best
procedure to drop napalm. They also learned how to bounce bombs toward
targets. Tanks could quickly be destroyed by napalm because fuel tanks,
rubber tires, and ammunition caught fire and the heat killed the crew.
procedure known as "Golden Rain" was developed where the napalm mixture
was sprayed in the air above troops, showering them with flame. [...]
As U.N. troops retreated from North Korea in
the winter of 1950, they implemented a scorched earth policy, aided by
pilots who burned enemy installations [houses, factories, infrastructure]
When targets were too closely located to permit
precision bombing, napalm was used. Five major cities in North Korea
were sites for heavy napalm bombing: Pyongyang, Seishin, Rashin, Wonsan,
and Chinnampo. By the end of the war, these cities had practically ceased
to function above ground. Pilots focused on dropping napalm bombs
to cut communications and strike dams, factories, power plants, [hospitals,
schools, water works, sewage treatment plants,] and industrial centers.
Napalm was [believed to be] effective in lowering
civilian morale. It often struck civilian populations; people not only
suffered horrific burns and death, but often expired from carbon
monoxide poisoning or suffocation."
Source: "Napalm" , in: Stanley Sandler (ed.), The
Korean War: An Encyclopedia, New York: Routledge 2013, p.227
Re use of Napalm by Greek government troops in 1946-1949,
Go back to Art
in Society # 14, Contents
|U.S. indirect intervention in the Greek civil war
First phase of the civil war, 1942–1944:
In 1936, a coup d'état by general Ionannis Metaxis
had established a fascist dictatorship. In Oct. 1940, Italy attacked Greece
but suffered defeat. In Jan. 1941, the fascist Greek dictator died. Three
months later, on Apr. 6, Hitler Germany invaded Greece. When German troops
approached Athens on Apr. 18, Prime Minister Alexandros Koryzis commited
suicide. Two days later, the Greek army surrendered, and again two days
later the Royal family and the government fled the Greek mainland, going
first to Crete and in May 1941, to Alexandria in British-rule Egypt.
The Nazi occupation was soon met by armed resistance.
A Left-wing youth (today a Left member of the European Parliament) took
away the Nazi flag that had been hoisted on top of the Acropolis. Partisans
attacked the army of the occupier in the mountains.
"The Communist Party took control [of the popular resistance
movement] and created the National Liberation Front, also called the EAM.
Another [Royalist] group [of lesser importance, more peoccupied with fighting
the EAM than the GErman Wehrmacht troops] was formed that was [...] called
the National Republican Greek League (EDES).
The EAM and EDES fought each other in the winter of 1943-1944.
The EDES received help from the British since Britain was worried about
a communist takeover."
"On December 2, 1944, fighting started between the British
and the EAM."
"In March of 1946, elections were held in Greece. The
elections were corrupt [just as in South Korea a bit later] and as a result,
[...] victory was [...] [proclaimed by the right-wing] EDES.
Therefore, the Communists formed the Democratic Army
of Greece (DA), declaring they were fighting to restore Greece to a democracy.
During the first year of fighting, the DA was ahead since they were receiving
help from Yugoslavia and controlled the northern part of Greece. The British
became increasingly worried and turned to the United States for help.
In 1947, the United States agreed to help [....]
President Truman issued the Truman Doctrine to help [the right in] Greece
fight the Communists.
By the time the US entered, the DA was holding land at
the borders of Yugoslavia and Albania, as well as land in southern Greece
[the Peloponnesos]. The DA used guerrilla tactics for their warfare [...]
[T]he nationalists were receiving weapons from the United States and Britain.
Once the United States [intervened] [...], the nationalist army [was] greatly
Then, Stalin ended his relationship with Yugoslavia’s
leader, Tito. The DA decided to support Stalin and lost the support of
Yugoslavia. With this factor, and the help from the Americans, the nationalists
were able to defeat the communists by the summer of 1949. During the course
of the war, more than 80,000 people were killed while another 700,000 were
left homeless. The civil war left Greece in shambles." (Source of
quotes: Kelsey Leonard, Cold
"In 1944 Greece is liberated from the German occupation
though the celebration is a short one. The victorious resistance fighters
of the left and the right have already begun to fight each other. With
the King, the government and the army still in Egypt and the collapse of
the occupation government, it is the Greek communists who control most
of the country. Even before the Germans had left they controlled all but
the cities. But it has already been decided by Stalin and Churchill that
Britain will be in charge of a non-communist Greece in return for Romania,
Bulgaria and Hungary falling under the influence of the Soviet Union. This
is known as Percentages Agreement. The usual interpretation is that the
main reason that Churchill wanted to keep the Soviets out of Greece was
the eternal British preoccupation with keeping the Russians out of the
[...] the Mediterranean.
The British also know that their business interests
in Greece have no future if the communists are able to take over. The forces
of ELAS (The Greek-communist resistance) could have easily taken the city
of Athens but instead obey the orders of the British and the promise that
they will have a part in the post-war government of Greece, perhaps believing
that the small British force in Athens was just the tip of the iceberg
with more troops waiting in the wings. When George Papandreou returns to
Greece with his government he is in a difficult position. On one side is
EAM who have been preparing through the years of occupation for the day
that they would take power in Greece. On the other side is the British
who to protect their own interests will back the king, the collaborators
and the security battalions because they are anti-communist. Papandreou
had foreseen that the communists would be in a strong position to take
over the country once the Germans had left and had asked Churchill to send
a large force to Greece. Churchill said he did not have the forces to spare
so Papandreou did the next best thing. He got them to agree that King George
would not return to Greece until after a plebiscite. At least this would
keep the Royalists and the Republicans unified against the communists instead
of fighting each other.
In the meantime in England, Winston
Churchill informs British foreign secretary Anthony Eden that he is planning
to create a confrontation between the new Greek government and the former
resistance fighters of EAM-ELAS. He tells Eden that he
will use the British military, already in Athens, to defend Papandreou's
government. Papandreou orders the 60,000 members
of the resistance to disarm if they want to continue to take part in the
government. The communists agree provided
that all Nazi collaboratorsare
removed from positions of power and the members of the
ultra-right security battalions who have been terrorizing the
left are disarmed or arrested.
The British are now focused
on the communist threat and have no desire to disarm
the groups, choosing now to form an alliance with the extremist forces
of the collaborators.
With the country so polarized Papandreou as a moderate
is in an impossible situation. he can't carry out the programs of the British-backed
extreme right nor can he join the communist in what seems to be heading
for open revolt.
When the EAM ministers resign
from the government, a protest rally is staged by their supporters in Syntagma
Square followed by a general strike. The
British ambassador demands [from] the [Papandreou] government to
not allow the Greek people to express their views through this protest
they are entitled to in any true democracy) and the
government agrees to break up the rally, by force if they have to. Whether
by accident or by plan the police open fire on the demonstrators, killing
several. This sets off
battles all over Athens as ELAS units attack police stations to get weapons
and ammunition. The riots of December 3rd
1944 and the six weeks of fighting which follow are known as the Dekembriana.The
Greek fighters who have just finished a war with the Germans are now at
war with the British troops in Athens and
the right-wing security battalions all over Greece. During this
battle the British control a small area around Syntagma Square and their
headquarters in the Grande Bretagne Hotel while the
forces of ELAS control almost all of Athens with the exception of
Kolonaki. British paratroopers are stationed on the
Acropolis where they have a view of most of the city.
On Christmas day of 1944, Winston
Churchill arrives in Athens along with Anthony Eden. Papandreou is replaced
by an old Venizelist, General Plastiras and King George is convinced to
delay his return to Greece and allow the role of regent to be filled by
Archbishop Damaskinos. Churchill had previously
described Damaskinos as a 'pestilent priest' and a 'survivor of the middle
ages' but he leaves Greece with a new respect for the religious leader
of Athens and he has also brokered a cease-fire between ELAS and British
In 1945 the government and the communists sign the
Varkiza Agreement which is to disarm the ELAS resistance fighters as well
as the Nazi collaborators and members of the [Collaborationist]
far right who have been attacking the communistsin
retribution for attacksagainst
them during the occupation.
As trials begin for members
of ELAS and the collaborators begin, an odd pattern takes form. Communists
are given the death sentence while Nazi collaborators are let off lightly.
In the British House of Commons this sets off a debate
and the trials are stopped, but the
persecution of the members of ELAS continues. The
government of Prime Minister Plastiras has no power over the British supported
right-wing para-government, a-state-within-a-state.
In the trials of the leaders of the Nazi collaborators
three members of the puppet government are sentenced to death including
Prime Minister Rallis who had ordered the execution of fifty Greek hostages
as a reprisal for the execution of a Nazi collaborator. None
of these death sentences are carried out.
Aris Velouchiotis, the hero
of the resistance, believes that taking part in the new government is capitulation
and the only way to achieve the communist goal is through armed struggle.
He takes off for the hills with a small group of followers where he is
killed (or some say commits suicide) after being surrounded by the National
Guard. He had been denounced as a traitor by the Greek Communist
Party (KKE) politburo the day before.
In December of 1945 members
of the KKE meet with various Bulgarian and Yugoslavian officers who assure
them that they can use Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia as bases in the
event of a full-scale war.
When the government does not honor the agreement to
rid the country of fascists collaborators who continue
to attack the left, the communists abstain
from the elections. They attack a police station in Litohoro, Pieria.
The Civil war has begun. In
January of 1946 three thousand members of General Grivas rightwing terrorist
organization known as X attacked the town of Kalamata, freeing imprisoned
collaborators who were waiting to go to trial, burned files and attempted
to take over the building where the communists were being held. Failing
this they killed 14 unarmed citizens and escaped with 150 hostages.After
executing some of the hostages they attacked towns in Laconia and killed
the relatives of known communists.
"The government was powerless
or unwilling to take action and the communist
party of Greece publicly tells its members to take matters into their own
hands, a call to war.
In the United Nations Soviet Ambassador Vishinsky
details attacks on Greek citizens
by the British backed security battalions which
British Foreign minister declared propaganda, claiming that upcoming
elections in March would be free and honest.
But with the countryside a battleground
of murders and reprisals the communists want the elections postponed at
least until order can be restored. The British
tell the Greeks that the elections can't be postponed because the allied
mission of election observers can't stay longer. Prime
Minister Sophoulis declares that the elections will be held with or without
the communists but privately urges them to participate. With the left voting
in the elections the possibility of a centrist government to oppose the
right and limit their power, was possible. Nikos Zakhariades, leader
of the KKE, who had spent the entire Second World War in Dachau, considers
the advice of his counterpart in the Italian Communist
party who also urges him to take part in the elections to avoid Greece
being totally dominated by the right. To the glee of the right,
decides the communists will not take part in the election. The opponents
of the far right have been split.
The British government pressures
the Greeks to hold the elections as planned though they know the results
will rip the country apart. Fourteen of the
thirty-five ministers in the Greek government are against the elections,
nine of whom resign. But
it was not only the British at fault for this rush to a marred democracy.
The United States made it clear to Prime Minister Sophoulis that it was
in Greece's best interest not to postpone the elections. So
despite knowing that disaster was around the next corner, the Greek government
declared that since not even a two month postponement
would be permitted by the UK and the US, elections would go on as
In the first free elections in 10 years only half
the eligible voters of Greece actually voted. The
two rightwing parties got a majority of these votes. The foreign observers
low-balled the abstentions to give the election validity and claimed the
elections fair since they had observed no violence or voter intimidation.
But who was there to intimidate if the left did not
A right-wing coalition dominated
by the new People's Party is elected and their leader Constantinos Tsaldaris
in the opening session of parliament calls for the return of the king and
initiates a constitutional plebiscite. When
members of Britain's labor party come to Athens they report on well-armed
bands attacking the left and the liberals, and daily
political assassinations. The new right
wing government is using the power of the state against anyone who is opposed
to them. Laws are passed
that result in the dismissal from government jobs and jobs in the private
sector of anyone with democrat or leftist leanings.
At this point it is not only
the communists who are heading for the mountains but terrified citizens.
Once again in yet another rigged election 68% vote
for the return of the king, some of whom may have seen Greece's return
to a monarchy as being better then being run by the communists. King George
arrives in Greece on September 27 1946 at about the same time as the British
Parliamentary delegation is writing their report on the situation, calling
While the Tsaldaris government
in Athens relies on the right-wing security battalions to fight ELAS sympathizers
in the city's streets, the communists announce the formation of a new Democratic
Army or DAG (Demokratikos Stratos Elladas) under the leadership of former
ELAS leader Markos Vafiades and begin to wage war on the government.
By the end of 1946, he has 7,000 combatants. By early 1947, the Democratic
army controls perhaps 100 Greek villages. Their
first battles are against right-wing bands and the establishment of 'free
territories' in the mountains of northern Greece where 'People's
Tribunals' try and execute 'monarchofascist traitors'. They also begin
to collect taxes from held villages, conscript peasants as labor or fighters
and force them to donate food, livestock and other necessities to the Democratic
Army of Greece. The ranks of the DAG are swollen by enforced recruitment
and villages that refuse to cooperate suffer severe reprisals. There are
also secret Communist units carrying out assassinations and terrorism in
In 1947 the communist party
is outlawed in Greece. Napoleon
Zervas, founder of EDES (National Republican Greek League) becomes the
minister for public order and promptly arrests some 3,000 Communists and
condems a number to death.
That same year, the British,
losing influence in the Middle East and realizing that they have made a
mess of things in Greece, announce they no longer are able to support the
government they have put in power. They step aside to let the Americans
take over. President Truman pours money, weapons
and military advisors into the country to support
the right wing-royalist Greek government
against the communists.
Greece is the first battle of
what comes to be known as The Cold War. His speech to the US congress
asking for money to fight communism worldwide, but particularly in Greece,
becomes known as The Truman Doctrine. America joining the fray is vindication
of a sorts for Winston Churchill. President Roosevelt believed Great Britain's
policies in Greece were a mistake and that people had the right to work
out their problems democratically without influence from the outside. Had
Roosevelt been in control instead of Churchill one might argue that the
war and the years that followed would have been completely different. In
fact if left to work this out for themselves without the intervention and
manipulations of the British the next twenty or thirty years in Greece
might have been quite pleasant. As it turns out they could not have
been any worse.
America's attempt to clean up
the mess the British have made, combined with their zeal for stamping out
communism caused them to make matters worse rather then get the two sides
to the table and force them to work things out. Despite
controlling the countryside, the communists did not have more than 25%
support of the country. They might have been part of coalitions
[If] the democratic process
[had been] allowed to go forth, without the right having the military might
of the allies behind them and the communists feeling like they were in
a no-win situation, true democracy would have come to Greece a lot sooner.
The majority of the Greeks believed in democracy.It
was the US and Great Britain who believed democracy in Greece, at this
particular moment was not in anyone's best interest. At
least until they were certain that someone they liked could be elected.
In March 1948, the communists, who kept records on
all the children aged three to fourteen in all the areas they controlled,
[would] take children from the villages and send them across the northern
borders, supposedly for safety reasons. The perception (probably correct)
of many of the Greeks is that they want[ed] to indoctrinate them as future
soldiers much as the Turks did with the young Greek boys who became jannisaries
during the Ottoman period. More than 25,000 Greek children are taken to
the communist Balkan countries and Eastern Europe.
On November 17, 1948, and again in November 1949 the
UN General assembly passe[´d] a resolution condemning the removal
of the Greek children, demanding their return. These and all subsequent
UN resolutions [we]re never answered. From 1950 to 1952 only 684 children
are permitted to return to Greece. By 1963, around 4000 children (some
of them born in Communist countries) have been repatriated. Of those who
did not return many died of illness, some escaped to Germany and others
have since returned or have yet to return. The kidnapping of the children
is a bad move of the war for the communists because from
that point on they lost any support they had in the villages.
It must be pointed out that the Yugoslavians provided
nearly 10,000 volunteers recruited from their own army[...]
On May 16, 1948 the body of CBS News correspondent
George Polk is found in the harbor of Thessaloniki several days after he'd
left his hotel for an interview with Markos Vafiades of ELAS. This becomes
an international news story, some say the equivalent of the Dreyfus affair
(or the Lambrakis murder in the same city 15 years later). In the trial,
another journalist, Gregory Staktopoulos,
convicted of being an accomplice along with several guerilla leaders,
(two of whom may have been dead before the murder). Staktopoulos
who had worked for a local Greek Communist daily published clandestinely
during the German occupation, was believed to have been the scapegoat
and many theories circulate that Polk was killed
by the Americans, British Intelligence, the Greek ultra-right, the communists
or take your pick. Polk's articles had been
very critical of the Truman Doctrine and the Greek Government.
had uncovered a scandal involving leading Royalist and Greek Foreign Minister
Constantine Tsaldaris which could have brought down the government.
Whoever killed Polk it
was obvious to people that the communists are the scapegoats and unlikely
perpetrators. When the New York Newspaper
Guild attempts to send an independent team of journalists to Greece to
investigate Polk's death they are pre-empted
by a committee of prestigious media representatives, headed by Washington
columnist Walter Lippmann. The Lippmann Committee
refuses to back an independent inquiry, working
with the State Department in monitoring the Greek government's investigation
and appointing General William (Wild Bill) Donovan, the wartime head of
the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), as their counsel. Under
pressure by the Americans to make an arrest, Staktopoulosis
picked up and tortured until he names the killers as two high-ranking communists
orders from the Kremlin and 'admits' his role was
to set-up Polk. Unlikely story, but the Greek
and International press bought it and that was the end of it. Except that
declares his innocence until he dies in 1988. In January 2004 his widow,
Theodora Zisimopoulou- Staktopoulou’s appeal for a posthumous retrial based
on claims that new evidence proves his innocence, is rejected by the Supreme
Court of Greece. Clearly if the US and Greek governments were not involved
in the murder, their investigators had failed to ask the most important
question when one wants to solve any crime; Motive. Who had the stronger
motive for wanting Polk dead? The communists? Why? Was the interview with
Markos so bad? On the other hand the Greek government might go to great
lengths to avoid being exposed as corrupt or in the pocket of the US. And
as for the Americans, one life is cheap to protect the world from communism.
In January of 1949 Markos and
his strategy of guerilla warfare are replaced by Nikos Zakhariades. He
believes in more conventional warfare, but
by now the Greek Armed forces are better equipped by the Americans
who had introduced a new weapon to finish off the war called napalm
B. They are led by General Alexander Papagos,
the hero of the 1940 triumph over the Italians. Zakhariades
decision to fight conventionally is another bad one and one has
to wonder how this guy had any followers whatsoever. But
this decision is not as critical a mistake as siding with Moscow in its
dispute with Tito and Yugoslavia. Everything
from weapons to food had been coming across the border from communist Bulgaria,
Yugoslavia and Albania. When Yugoslavia closes
its borders and cuts off the essential supply of weapons, followed by Albania
a few months later, the communist position is hopeless and Stalin tells
The new-improved Greek armed
forces begins an offensive in the summer of 1949, code-named Operation
TORCH. Papagos attacks the last communist strongholds in northern Greece
with more than 50,000 men, driving them across the border into Albania
The Civil war is another catastrophe for Greece, for
many worse than the occupation. More people are killed during the Civil
war than during the occupation. The village populations fall as people
move to the cities, some for safety reasons and others because they are
forced to by the government who believe that the
fewer people in the villages, the less support the rebels will have. This
creates tremendous pressure on the government to feed these refugees from
the countryside who have filled the cities and towns, many who never return
to the villages.
In the end the communists realise
their struggle is over, for now. Some are
executed as traitors. Many are sent to the
prison island of Makronissos for re-programming. Others
escape across the border to Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe, never to return
again. It is easy to have sympathy for someone
who has fought to liberate Greece and is then declared
an enemy of the state [since late 1944 or since 1945], hunted
down, tortured and made to confess to treason, and then executed or exiled.
A large number of the communist
fighters were young and naive,
and though hardened by war still had a dream of a new, more democratic
society. But the executions, torture and reprisals
took place on both sides [the Left executed collaborators
during the anti-German war of resistance, and again, since 1946, during
the civil war, in liberated zones; they were particularly subject to reprisals,
executions, and torture since the moment they disarmed, after the arrival
of the British, something that was prompted by the Stalin-Churchill agreement]
enough to turn sympathy into a simmering hatred of an enemy that at one
time was a fellow countryman. This kind of hatred
can continue for generations.
The period is perhaps the darkest in Greek history.
But the world is never as black and white as it seems. The Greek Civil
war was not a clash of good vs evil but one of two extreme belief systems
that could not co-exist, with the majority of the Greek people trapped
somewhere in the middle. It was a battle of ideologies and while the Greek
government can be blamed for seeing the communists as a bigger problem
then the fascists (who were never purged),
the communists by abstaining from the elections chose to give up their
small slice of the pie, which could have grown larger. (The communists
did have some public support and do so even today.) Rather then play whatever
role they could get in Greek post-war politics and gain power a bit at
a time [they felt that the
fruits of their anti-Nazi resistance struggle had been stolen from them
by the British, and they felt at risk after having disarmed, faced as they
were with assassinations, arrests, and death sentences meted out
to resistance heroes; therefore, rather then running the risk of being
terrorized by rightists and participating in rigged elections under these
conditions,] they chose to go back to the
mountains and play the part of resistance fighters which they had become
comfortable with during the occupation.
When you have two antagonistic groups who both believe
they are right and are willing to fight to the death, there are always
those people who will stand on the sidelines to cheer and supply weapons,
in exchange for an influential role in the society of the victors. When
one side is backed by these forces, the only chance the other has of victory
is by being patient and playing the role assigned to them while taking
small steps to bring forth their agenda. The communists
were victims of their inability to adapt to a new situation. They had the
misfortune of being communists at the exact moment that the US declared
war on communism.
The sense of hopelessness in Greece triggered a mass
exodus of young people looking for a better life in Australia, the USA
and Canada. [...]
For the next 25 years or so Greece
is to be under the influence of the US government who protect their investment
by injecting lots of money, much of it for the military, into the country.
the same time the number of Greeks living and finding success in America
creates a bond between the people of both countries. Without
the British and the Americans, it is likely Greece would have become a
communist country. Where it would have gone from there, nobody can
say for certain. But while the rest of war-torn Europe was rebuilding,
Greece was fighting a war with itself and is several years behind.
[...]The glories and heroism of the Greeks that had
inspired the world during Second World War are nearly forgotten. What
is not forgotten are the scars of this period in Greek history,
which will last through the rest of the century and
the contradiction of afreeUS-protected
Greece with concentration camps [like Leros and Jaros]
that are just as horrific and brutal as those during the Nazi occupation.
For more on post-war Greece and the Civil war, I recommend
this very interesting video called Greece: The Hidden War. This is a British
political documentary produced in 1986 and s[it was] shown for just on[c]e
[...] [by] British television, before being banned.
Source of quotes: Matt Barrett, "History
of Greece: The Greek Civil War"