Voices from the earth…
Wayfarer do go tell
Of voices you have heard from those who fell
Dead who never once a tyrant’s line adored
Who never ever lied or once betrayed.
Wayfarer you are now our ears and eyes
Examine our concerns we ask
In honesty and in faith
In crystal clear revealing light.
We say enjoy your days
Walk tall in courage, knowing well
That if you love and you are loved,
That every shred of good that comes with life
Was freely given by those now dead.
Wayfarer, do go tell, with one raised voice
What you have heard
Through tears and from the many voices from the ground.

(S. Rotas, translated by JL)

Zeus was captivated by the girl with the wide-eyed gaze, Europa. He turned himself into a playful white bull to possess her. Enchanted, she hopped onto his back. Before she could bat a beautiful eyelid she was whisked away to Crete. It was both a coming together and a separation. It symbolized a distancing from Asia and the beginnings of Europe; a Europe of two world wars (WWI, WWII) and a European Union (EU) in deep trouble and disarray with exit, potential exits and important parts of Europe left out.

Disguise played an important role in the abduction of a high ranking German officer by members of the Greek Resistance at the time of the Battle of Crete. Dressed as German soldiers they whisked him away over the Cretan mountains to rendezvous with an Allied submarine that took him to Egypt. Ill met by moonlight tells this story. German reprisals were asymmetrical, methodical and cruel.

I was in the Municipality of Amiras Viannos in the southeast quadrant of Crete, 70 kilometers from Knossos to participate in an event held in the recently opened Museum of the Holocaust. My talk was a part of the 3rd Panhellenic National Congress on Hellenic Holocausts and German Compensations (14-16 September, 2018) held in the new, innovative, commemorative and still evolving Museum of the Holocaust. [1]

The related events paid tribute to well documented sufferings of Greece and its people. More specifically it reinforced an unrelenting struggle to keep alive the persistent claims of Greece for justice and recompense (Gerechtigkeit und Wedergutmachung). For me, it opened some blood splattered pages that document the horrors of war and a great need for world peace, all the more important as the symbolic timepiece of the Atomic Scientists stands at 2 minutes to midnight. My part was to address the health impact of the occupation and especially of enforced famine in Athens (1941-2). Its consequences were death for more than100,000 people within a short span of a few winter months out!!! Between 1941-42, stunted growth in children, tuberculosis, vitamin deficiency, dry eyes and blindness as well as a set of debilitating life-time, psychological problems and much more; typhus was rampant.

The book of the German Occupation of Greece in WWII is black, still open and only partially read by Europe. Then it was midnight at dawn, in the morning and in the afternoon. Except for a few crumbs, Germany has not yet made recompense for the suffering of the Greek people during its cruel occupation in WWII (1941-44). The German debt to Greece from WWII is of the same order of magnitude as the Greek debt today, in its age of austerity. One official estimate is 341 billion euros. If compensation to the victims is included the total amount is about 400 billion euros. .

The cost of Greece’s support of the occupation forces threw its financial mechanisms into turmoil. It cost several times more than the revenues of what the Greek government collected and Greece was forced to take on the burden of a gigantic and imposed loan to Germany by Greece estimated today at a value of 10 billion. It supported both the needs on the home front and Germany’s military needs in Africa. All Greek products and its natural resources confiscated and taken by the 3rd Reich. Fish had to be caught and be handed over for so called central distribution. As a result of Occupation, social progress was halted and the post war future of Greece was jeopardized. Brutal behaviors of the invaders not only generated a second Greek NO in the name of the Greek Resistance to the Axis powers, it also reduced the average caloric intake of many Greeks to 30% of minimum requirements. It left behind death, destruction and enormous suffering. Some believe that the invasion of Greece was a full dress rehearsal for Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union (Barbarosa), which because of Crete was delayed.

Nazi Occupation of Greece was a time of enforced famine, forced hard labor, executions, torture and disease. The Jewish community was extinguished. As German forces withdrew from Greece in 1944 there were approximately one million fewer Greeks.

Between the 14th and 16th of September 1943 almost 500 civilians were ruthlessly and cruelly murdered in Viannes and several surrounding villages. The earth was indelibly stained with the blood of children, mothers, pregnant women, men, grandfathers and grandmothers and one invalid. They died on the orders of the Commander of the occupation forces in Crete. According to the Third Reich, the order came in reprisal for the killing of German soldiers by resistance fighters. A burnt earth policy was a well worked out and methodical plan, cynical, systematic and catastrophic.

September, 2018 and each and every September is a month of incredible grief in Crete with little or no consolation. It was for me a boyhood recollection of annual Poppy day, Flanders field where poppies grow, Armistice Day and not a day of unconditional surrender. On November the 11th we remember those who sacrificed their lives in WWI for us. They are commemorated with a poppy pinned on the lapel and celebrated by poetry they grow not old as we that are left grow old, Age does not weary them nor the years condemn while at the setting of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.

WWI the war to end all wars, was a war of abominable trench and chemical warfare; killed, maimed, crazed. George Barnes, first British minister of pensions rose to speak to men with war casualties (1917). It was just another fair day for the patients at Britain’s largest limb fitting center (Roehampton Hospital). Assembled on the lawn with crutches, eye patches, head bandages, in wheelchairs, with empty sleeves and trouser legs they waited in utmost silence. The minister stood for a long while and left without saying a word; tears streaming down his cheeks. He never got to speak on government pensions. The aftermath of war in Europe was a time of women without men.

In WWII Greece was just once charged by the 3rd Reich of committing atrocities against the occupation forces and then used it to support its policy of terror, reprisals and asymmetrical response. Views have been presented contrasting the chivalry of the invading German paratroopers in the Battle of Crete with the alleged brutality of patriotic Cretans against the invaders. Initial act, invasion and response, resistance, event sequence, circumstances and motives are all important in this case of alleged Greek brutalities against paratroopers in Crete. The claim followed on from terror attacks on civilians after the Battle of Crete ended: It is estimated that more than 2.000 Cretans were executed by Nazi German troops between June and October 1941. Judge Rudel who was appointed by the 3rd Reich reported on mutilation of German soldiers whose bodies were exposed for a few days in a heat wave and devoured by animals, after death. It was a constructed argument by the 3rd Reich, to obscure massacres, which included two close to Chania (24 dead, Kakopetros; 5 dead, Alikianos) and one close to Rethimnon (108 dead, Misiria) on the 23 and 24 May 1941.

The Hellenic-German Assembly (ΕΓΣ), emerged through a bilateral agreement between Germany and Greece at the time of the Greek Memorandum and of imposed austerity, 2010. It is supported by a Fund for the future and a Foundation of Greek-German Youth. How much financial support will be given to related activities is not clear and one question that came up in Crete was, is this a means of influencing decision making in Greece with respect to larger issues. A meeting of this entity is scheduled to take place in Crete later this year for which there are serious ongoing objections and a strong and vociferous demand for its cancellation. The Assembly’s aim according to participants of the Congress is to weaken and annul the demands of Greece for moral and economic redress and that the countless crimes committed throughout Greece by the Third Reich, forgotten.

From the Holocaust Congress a unanimous resolution emerged demanding the cancellation of the 8th meeting of the Greek German Assembly (November, 2018) in Crete and a request to all local governments and other authorities to refrain from actions that could undermine historical memory and truth. The Hellenic-German Assembly I was told is inseparably linked to a high pressure German State policy to permanently and irrevocably abolish the requests of Greece for recompense.

Such a body must be able to openly demonstrate that its initiatives seek a just, democratic and mutual rapprochement beneficial to solidarity, collaboration and in the service of Greek Youth. However with wounds still wide open, the events herein described suggest that little positive, can result from such a body for Crete, the Cretans or the families of victims and their descendants of Nazi atrocities.

A significant part of the event was taken up by moving accounts of survivors, their descendents, organizations representing them, participants in the Greek Resistance and representatives of local and national government. Present were members of the Parliamentary Committee and the National Council relating to Germany’s debt to Greece. Aristomenis Singelakis represented and spoke on behalf of the National Council of Greek Claims against Germany and promised to be interviewed by me at a later date. His message was a reminder to the German government of its obligation to make amends to Greece for damages from WWII based on justice and democracy in order to establish a true friendship between the two countries and send out a universal message against fascism.

We were treated to a diverse cultural programme inclusive of Cretan songs and matinades, traditional music, songs of resistance, sounds of ancient and modern musical instruments, a worldwide walk through music and a final concert with special comments by Manolis Hadzinakis who was deputy Minister, supporting Melina Mercouri as Minister of Culture.

During the ceremonial parts of the event a Greek General Manoussos Paragioudakis was honored for his resistance to the distortion of history and his negative stance to the award of an honorary doctorate to a German scholar who allegedly distorted facts and descriptions relating to the Battle of Crete. Awards of recognition were given by the Society of Viannos Holocaust Victims and the Viannos Municipality to several other prestigious individuals including to Dr. Martin Seckendorf, an internationally known German Historian who first documented the Crimes against Humanity that the 3rd Reich commited in Greece.

One summing up is contained in a strong message received by the Congress from Manolis Glezos one of the two Greek youths, (the other is Apostolos Santas)who insulted Hitler when they took down his war flag from the Acropolis. The ageing Glezos, and member of the European Parliament indicted democratic Germany for its refusal to acknowledge crimes committed against Greece by the 3rd Reich in WWII and Greece for sustained lack of daring by sequential Greek governments and their ineffectual decision making to seek Compensation and Reparations .

[1] The construction of the Museum was supported by EU funds. Support for the Congress came from the Municipalities, Prefecture and Greek Parliament.