I wrote “Miseries of Occupation: A Child Survivor Remembers” not merely as a memoir of my childhood in Greece during World War II and through the seven-year civil war that followed, but because I was driven to find out who executed my father and why.
Since I was very young at the time of my father’s tragic ordeal which began with his arrest, followed by his imprisonment at Aegina Prison and then throughout his trial, it was impossible for me to comprehend why my father was taken from us, charged for a crime (he did not commit), and was ultimately executed along with sixteen other men on June 19, 1947. (Refer to the link under Further Reading for more.)
I spent many years – most of my adult life – researching these events and what I found out is contained in my book. As I have said, this book is a memoir of my childhood lived from the age of six under Nazi occupation. No ‘misery’ the Nazis and their collaborators doled out during that time compared however to the pain of my father’s arrest which occurred years later when I was eleven.
Looking back now it is obvious for me to see why I could not possibly untangle the tangled web of the war and the bloody civil war that ensued and raged for seven more years. It was during the civil war that my father was arrested. He was a soldier in the Greek resistance, fighting on the side of freedom against fascism and he fought bravely. What is not known by the general public and even most Greek citizens is that the resistance was made up of a patchwork of many different factions – each vying for supremacy – drawn from the ranks of communists, monarchists, Nazi collaborators and Mussolini-style fascists. My father was ELAS, which was technically communist and that made him a target. Very few people who were of the ‘mountains of Ziria’ had the wherewithal to comprehend the political landscape of the time.
Chapter six is titled, ‘Civil War: 1944’ which describes what is called Dekemvriana ’44 (or December ’44). If you have not heard of Dekemvriana, it is worth looking into. Dekemvriana triggered the civil war. Here is an excerpt from page 174:
“Even before the footprints of the Nazi invaders disappeared from Greece’s soil, the dreamers of the fascist establishment initiated an all-out campaign against all those who paid with their blood to keep the values of freedom alive. More specifically, with the cooperation of the British, the illegitimate governing dictatorial regime, adopted an unheard of strategy: they opened wide the gates of the prisons and freed all those who were convicted of treason and collaboration with the Nazis. Those traitors would now form an alliance with the extreme rightwing, whose bosses were the Tagmatasfalites, and whose common cause was to wipe out all resistance fighters. The result of this maneuvering was the shocking development that took place in December of 1944. This tactic prompted a civil war with catastrophic results that can still be felt in Greece today. The National Liberation Army took up arms and entered the struggle against the occupation. Then, with a deliberate intervention, orchestrated by the Allies—the rights and the privileges of the resistance to participate in the upcoming parliamentary procedures were denied. The peaceful demonstration in December of 1944 in the center of the capital city, Athens, turned tragic. Half a million people were caught in the deadly crossfire of the British forces. Bombers, armored tanks, heavily equipped and specially trained army units, with the participation of fanatic right-wing factions obedient to the monarchy, clashed with unarmed civilians. The right-wing extremists, having the backing of the Crown, focused on wiping out the protesters. “Dekemvriana 44” went down in the history books as one of the most terrible crimes against humanity. Brothers were killing brothers. The streets of Athens flowed with blood. Fanaticism, influenced by opposing political emotions caused confrontations, bringing fathers in direct rivalry with their sons. Friends and neighbors suddenly found themselves placed into two different ideological worlds.
The five years of devastating civil war that followed was a result of personal ideological weaknesses of opposing political factions backed by their foreign bosses. Many of these dramatic developments I learned on route to the thorny future. However, during the civil war I was only a child, just beginning to understand a bit more of the world around me.”
Chapter 8, ‘Chora Prison’ (page 220) and chapter 10 ‘Mock Trial’ (page 249) describes the other aspects of my father’s ordeal detailed above.
Anyone interested is invited to check out our Further Reading links below.
“The Execution of 17 Fighters in Aegina on 19/06/1947”
Attachment: English translation of the article, “The Execution of 17 Fighters in Aegina on 19/06/1947.”
“Athens 1944: Britain’s Dirty Secret,” by Ed Vulliamy and Helena Smith, November 30, 2014