October 28th 1940: Greece’s win over fascism now and then

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October 28, 2012 by pavlospapathanasiou

   to my beloved grandfather

October 28th, one of Greece’s two official national days, honors the start of the Greek-Italian War in 1940 in the context of World War II. Italy under the fascist leadership of Mussolini, a close ally of Nazist Germany’s Adolf Hitler, demanded from Athens’ Government to allow her troops invade from the Albanian soil and occupy all strategic areas of the country. The answer was “ΟΧΙ” (ΝΟ) and this was the signal for the beginning of the Greek-Italian War, which not only lead the fascist troops to retreat back in Albania, but also to experience a debacle; only a few months later half of the Albanian territory was controlled by the Greek Army and Italians were repelled many kilometres away from the borders. Mussolini despite leading Armed Forces which were numerically and technically superior was unable to win the Greek forces, who were giving a battle of dignity and freedom, so six months later called his ally Hitler to invade Greece from Bulgaria. The pictures of the fierce battles on the snow-covered mountains of Epirus and Albania with Greeks advancing while yelling “AERA” (Air) (1), the figure of the brave soldier dressed in traditional costume (evzone) (2) and the women of Epirus region who were transporting munitions for the Greek Army on their donkeys (3) are only some of the facts that did not only attracted the attention but also the admiration of the Free World. Inspired by the Greek resistance during the Italian and German invasions, Churchill said, “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks” (4)

Ultra nationalist scholars deliberately conceal that Greece’s leader in 1940, Ioannis Metaxas was a dictator ,demanding to be greeted with a Nazi hand salute and moreover they attribute him the famous “OXI” (NO). In fact Metaxas answered to the ultimatum of the Italian ambassador with the phrase : “Alors, c’est la guerre” (so this is war). The actual NO was decisevely answered by the Greek people on the Epirus-Albania front. Moreover Metaxas ,who was a German-educated military officer with no actual support from the people, linked in many ways with German politics and with a controversial role in the Greek-Turkish War of 1919-1922 that lead to the disaster of Smyrna, had recently become a close ally of Britain (5). During his dictatorship 1936-1941 , Metaxas promoted a series of “reforms” in the sectors of Electricity, Water Supply and Railways which aimed to consolidate the rigorous presence of British interests. These interests track their roots back in 1925, when Greece was again under dictatorship, lead by Theodoros Pangalos, the grandfather of the Papandreou Cabinet Vice President (2009-2012) (6) What would have happened if instead the Italian ambassador , Metaxas had in front of him his British counterpart demanding an answer to the ultimatum? Possibly the answer would have been YES. Ultra nationalist scholars despite their constant hate speech against Turkey , also conceal the fact that it was Metaxas himself who in 1938 who after Mustafa Kemal’s death , was naming him “a proud Army Chief and brave soldier who was the founder of the Greek-Turkish friendship.” (7) The same scholars (famous for their antisemetic rhetoric) would also conceal the fact that one of the most active Army officers, who died bravely in the Albanian front, was the Greek-Jew Officer Mordehai Frizis. (8)

According to historians like Mark Mazower, alongside with the hundred of thousands innocent civilians who died due to starvation during the 1941-1944 German Occupation (only in Athens the number of deaths due to famine is estimated around 300.000 citizens) ,the Nazis almost exterminated the Greek-Jew population in a percentage of 81% (9). Except for the huge humanitarian tragedy, the country also experienced total financial disaster. According to current researches, the German war reparations’  as well as the loan that the collaboraniotist goverments of Tsolakoglou (ex Army Officer), Logothetopoulos (Medicine Professor in Athens University) and Rallis (father of a later leader of the ruling party New Democracy) accepted to provide to the Nazis, is currently reaching the amount of 160 bn euros. (10)

It can be easily understood why this year’s celebration of October 28th is of considerable significance for the whole Greek Nation. From one hand the rise of the ultra nationalist party of Golden Dawn is making the majority of citizens, scholars and mass media to question the endorsement of Nazi tactics. Earlier today, students in various Greek cities chose to march in the ceremonial parades with an anti-nazi badge as a protest against the recent attacks of Golden Dawn members, whose they declare to have…Ioannis Metaxas as their hero or their icon.

On the other hand the IMF-Troika intervention in Greece through the Memorandum since 2010 and the constant attacks from Germany and other European partners ,has driven many citizens to question whether the country nowadays can be called independent. Not only the former Finance Minister Venizelos, but also recently Archibishop Ieronymos himself stated that “Greece is under occupation”. The following sketches may be helpful for readers to understand the way that the vast majority of Greek people is thinking of the current economic and political situation:

The judge on a pontium with the Troika title asks the soldiers who fought in the Greek- Italian War : “You, why did you say NO in 1940?” (sketched by Stathis)

 

 

 

Three brave soldiers under the banner “OXI” (NO) yelling the famous “AERA” are advancing on a snow covered slope). Behind them a faint hearted soldier, who embodies the current Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras, suggests : “No guys! Dont! If we say NO to the conqueror , our people will starve” (satirising Stournaras recent statement “if Greece does not get the next loan payment from the IMF-EU-ECB, people will starve”) One soldier replies : “Leave us alone Stournaras!” (sketched by Marangos)

Pavlos Papathanasiou

Notes:

(1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6yuiI54v3E footage from a Greek State TV documentary

(2) http://www.lifemagazineconnection.com/index.php?main_page=popup_image&pID=302&zenid=00128ef77c0f495e29413f6599d4c4e2  

Life Magazine cover December 1940

(3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjiNFDCGU7A An amateur video of the famous Greek singer Marinella song, called “Gynaikes Ipeirotisses” (Women of Epirus) with some photos of the brave women of Epirus subtitled in English.

(4)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Greece for further reading on the Greek-Italian War of 1940, the Battle of Greece in 1940 and the famous Sir Winston Chruchill quote, please read the extensive article of Wikipedia

(5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ioannis_Metaxas Wikipedia article on dictator Ioannis Metaxas

(6) http://hekimoglou.blogspot.gr/2011/06/blog-post.html An interesting article on the Interwar Greek economic history, by journalist Achilleas Hekimoglou (in Greek)

(7) http://www.left.gr/article.php?id=10070 Article with Metaxas words on Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal (in Greek)

(8) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordehai_Frizis Wikipedia article on the Greek Jew Army officer Mordechai Frizis

(9) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axis_occupation_of_Greece Wikipedia article for the 1941-1944 German Occupation of Greece; Mark Mazower references and numerous other notes are included.

(10) http://www.newsnow.gr/article/217028/germaniki-apantisi-me-ypekfyges-exoun-xasei-to-noima-tous-oi-polemikes-apozimioseis.html About the German war reparation issue (in Greek)

cover photo from left.gr

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