Chapter 3. 1944–1945: The Battle of Athens
Amputated Bodies… Broken Statues, etc. etc.
On Sunday, December 3, during a peaceful and unarmed but nevertheless banned EAM demonstration of approximately 250,000 people in central Athens, members of “X,” policemen, and the newly instituted Mountain Brigade (LOK) started shooting at demonstrators in Constitution Square (Syntagma, the square located in front of Parliament). This resulted in twenty-eight deaths and heavy fighting between ELAS and the government in the following days. According to Nikos Pharmakes (later an MP in the Right-wing government, but a member of “X” at the time), the leader of “X,” Georgios Grivas, had already, as early as October 1944, “put out a plan of the center of Athens for the protection of the city, starting at the garrison at Theseion, passing through the regiment of the gendarmerie at Makryianni, then to Solonos Street, the first garrison at Solonos and Harilaou Trikoupi, the second garrison at the end of Solonos, where I was, the Special Security, the general security, the gendarmerie. On the other side were the red apartment buildings at Vassilis Sophias Avenue… That was the circle… And we shouldn't place great importance on the demonstration of December 3, I mean political importance. Of course deaths occurred, but in wartime you don't take such things into consideration. Even if there had been no dead, something else would have happened, given the decision by the KKE to take over Athens. What I mean to say is that the attack [by “X,” the gendarmes, the British, and the gangs] in Athens did not happen because of the demonstration. I was here and saw how the situation developed…” (my emphasis).
On the day of the demonstration, Pharmakes arrived around 10:00 a.m. and was stationed at the Old Palace (the Parliament Building), which on one side faced the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Constitution Square, and the Hotels Grand Bretagne and King George, and on the other side faced Vassilis Sophias Avenue and police headquarters. The chief of police, Angelos Evert, was on one of the balconies facing the headquarters with no view of the square. At about 10:30 the demonstration was approaching the Tomb, waving banners asking that collaborators be punished and a government of national unity be established, praising the British and Winston Churchill in particular, and demanding the official deposition of the king. Pharmakes saw Police Chief Evert take a white handkerchief out of his pocket and wave to the police across the street. From a restaurant next to police headquarters, he saw fifty to sixty police officers come out. Some of them placed machine guns on the sidewalk, while others attacked the main body of the unarmed demonstrators.
“The demonstrators stopped moving. In the midst of all this chaos there was silence. Some of them fell to the ground, and I didn't know whether they were dead or not… But two minutes later I remember that a young girl across from me, who was holding a red flag, bent over, dipped the flag in the blood of one of those who had fallen, and raised it. And as she raised it, the blood that had soaked it made a red line through the air. I was stunned, watching all this. Then they started chanting again, and they pressed on. And then a second blast, and a third blast, and what happened then was unprecedented. These 250,000 people turned, threw the flags on the ground, threw the placards away, and started running toward Hermes Street, toward Stadium Street, toward Philhellenes Street… I was really impressed… I was fifteen years old and was very impressed by this massive retreat. I mean, in under fifteen minutes the whole square was empty. That's all I saw, for whatever it's worth.”