Voglis, Polymeris. 2002. Becoming a Subject: Political Prisoners During the Greek Civil War. New York: Berghan Books.
Chapter 5. 1946–1949: Emphýlios
On February 5, 1946, the Sofoulis government issued Emergency Law 890, abolishing the concentration camps of the Metaxas period. A year later, on February 19, 1947, General Ventêrēs suggested to the minister of defense, G. Stratos, the organization of three concentration camps: Makrónisos for those drafted into the Greek armed forces, Trikeri for “suspicious” men and women of the areas cleared out by the government army, and Yioúra for those convicted under criminal law. The last were members of the Resistance against the Germans, members of OPLA, and low-ranking members of the Communist Party, all accused under criminal law of murder, espionage, and “having broken the peace and quiet of law-abiding citizens.” Children fourteen to eighteen years old whose parents were either fighting with the Democratic Army or were imprisoned for being Communists were also held in Yioúra. These children had originally been placed in “rehabilitation” centers, primarily in the Rehabilitation Center for Juvenile Delinquents in Kephessia, a notorious place where organized torture, including systematic beatings, rape, and terrorization, sought to extract dēlôseis metanoias (“declarations of repentance”) from them. (See Margaris 1966: 43.)
In order to put this plan into effect, General Ventêrēs asked Colonel Bairaktáres to be in charge of the organization Anamorphotikos Organismos Makronisou (Makrónisos Reformative Organization; I have used the translation in Voglis 2002: 107), which would eventually establish the camp of Makrónisos. The stated purpose of the organization, as developed by General Ventêrēs, was: (1) to concentrate all battalions of sappers (i.e., noncombatant conscripted soldiers) in one place, where they could be used “in fruitful occupations with an eye toward redirecting them to the Fatherland”; and (2) to come into contact with the directors of the prisons throughout Greece and discuss the alleviation of the problem of overcrowding. In actuality the interned included: the leadership of the Communist Party and the captured leaders of the Democratic Army; members of the Communist Party; uncommitted Leftists, suspected Leftists, and their families, at some point including women and children aged two to eighty; and countless people who had participated in the Resistance against the Germans yet were merely antifascist in their political convictions. Characteristically, an old man who was the president of a mountainous village and who gave food and shelter to the andártes as they passed by his village one night was court-martialed and sent to Yioúra with a life sentence.
The status of Makrónisos and the methods applied there were legalized on October 14, 1949, by Resolution 73, a Special Constitutional Resolution brought to Parliament by the democratic Diomidis government a month after the end of the actual hostilities of the civil war and after the majority of the fighters of the Democratic Army had been killed or captured, or had escaped to Albania and from there to the People's Republics and the USSR. That was also the time when the island of Vidos, off the coast of Corfu, was opened to intern children aged thirteen to twenty-one whose parents had been either killed during the hostilities or imprisoned by the government. Those two prisons had been preceded on January 4, 1948, by the decree that established the civilian concentration camp on Makrónisos, terming it A Criminal Prison, and, on July 6, 1949, by a royal decree published in the Government Gazette on July 11 that relocated the Sophronestikon Katastema Anelikon (Juvenile Reformatory) of Kephessia to Makrónisos.
Gilles Deleuze, in “Desert Islands” (2004) engages in a radical deconstruction of the notion of the “desert” island by invoking the lack of recognition by the European traveler/settler of the humanity already existing there. He is primarily thinking of the European travel literature of the Enlightenment and emphatically not referring to actually desert islands—places where only the most tenuous life can be sustained, given scant rainfall, for only a couple of months a year, places that have no aquifer or have only an aquifer that holds contaminated or undrinkable water. Deleuze is speaking of the construction of the desert as part of a discourse that has sustained colonialism. I am speaking of actually desert (not deserted, even metaphorically) islands.Michael Taussig (2004) has captured not only the horror of actually desert islands as colonies for undesirables (Poulantzas's “antinationals”) but also the complicity between the management of undesirable life and capitalist ventures, especially in the way in which he erects the problem of offshore operations not as simply an economic but a political one. The only one of the islands of exile not truly a desert island is Trikeri, which in 1947, and still today, is sparsely populated and desolate, but not desert.
An eerily similar environment is found in Goli Otok (meaning “Naked Island”) and Sveti Grgur, two uninhabited islands, really “two rocky reefs” (as Banac calls them) in the northern Adriatic near the island of Rab, off the coast of Croatia. After his break with Stalin and the Cominform, Tito decided that the new country needed to purge itself of Stalinist elements (the very Stalinist elements that had made the Resistance possible, had exacted heavy losses from the German army, and had brought Tito's dream of socialism to fruition). Tito's containment discourses made Goli Otok into the iconic and exemplary space of re-education. The methods used there were similar to the ones used on Makrónisos and Yáros: torture, the handling of stone, psychological warfare, the creation of a paternalistic relationship between authority and detainees. (On Makrónisos, this took actual verbal form when the detainees were made to cry out to the visiting King Paul, “You are our father.”) As the Serbian philosopher Svetozan Stojanovic, a member of the Praxis group, pointed out in 1972: “Although the struggle against domestic Stalinists was and still is justified, explicitly Stalinist methods of struggle against them offer ample testimony” to the fact that Yugoslav resistance to Moscow had for a long time the contours of Stalinist anti-Stalinism (Banac 1989: 244).
Spyros Asdrahas has developed an interesting, even if ultimately unconvincing, theory that the island complex of the Aegean is an aggregate city. Taking as his starting point the medieval and Renaissance cities of Western (i.e., non-Ottoman) Europe, Asdrahas explores the “individualized organizational forms of the Archipelago” that were produced by its “fragmentary nature” and that allowed it to “survive throughout the long years of Turkish rule. Those forms—each a retreat into the self of the archipelago—were typical of urban structuring” (Asdrahas 1985: 236). Asdrahas locates this “urban complex” of the archipelago not in the fact that the routes between the two poles of the east-west axis of the Mediterranean went through the islands of the archipelago, but rather “in the constant to-ing and fro-ing of people, goods and ships from one island to another, in an economic osmosis” (ibid.: 238). Asdrahas mentions the “islands' obligation to maintain vigilance over the seas and to keep in touch with fires by night and pillars of smoke by day” (ibid.: 239).
As seductive as this proposition is, life on the ground bespeaks a different reality. Asdrahas bases his argument primarily on the economic and intellectual exchanges that were afforded to the islanders through the merchant marine. However, the retention of local identities by the islanders themselves (the Kalymnian, for instance, being distinct from the Lerian, to the extent that as late as 1981 a woman from the island of Leros married to a Kalymnian man was known in the Kalymnian capital, Pothia, as “the Lerian [he Leriá]”) or the distinctiveness accorded to each island in folk songs invite a different reading: if we play along with Asdrahas's notion of the archipelago as a “unifying sea or plain-like expanse,” then the distinctiveness of each island would point to the metaphor of villages in a plain and not a city (should one wish to preserve a metaphor, though Asdrahas does not metaphorize but concretizes the image of the archipelago as city).
Nowhere does this question of the archipelago become more painfully complicated than in the testimonials of prisoners on Yáros. Some of the few instances of literature on Yáros come from Andreas Nenedakis, in his 1964 book Apagoreuetai (It Is Forbidden) and scattered in various of his short stories. Nenedakis was a lawyer and writer who participated in the Mutiny of the Middle East (when Greek soldiers and officers demanded that the government in exile include representatives of the Resistance and were arrested and imprisoned in British military prisons across the Middle East and North Africa). After the end of the war, Nenedakis returned to Greece, where he was arrested as a Communist and sent first to Yáros and later to Makrónisos. Michael Herzfeld published an ethnographic critical biography of Nenedakis in 1997, in which he brings to the fore the immense complexities that made up Nenedakis as a political and literary figure who had become a legend among people who had served in the Middle East, on Yáros, and on Makrónisos. In 1977, for instance, when Nenedakis's niece Eirene and I were asked to help establish a cultural association in our neighborhood that would be named after Kostis Palamas (the major Greek poet whose funeral during the occupation was followed by hundreds of thousand of Athenians as an act of resistance against the Germans, who had prohibited large congregations of people), I told my grandfather, who had fought in the Middle East from 1942 to 1944, that the two of us were working together. I remember the awe in my grandfather's eyes when he said to me: “She's Nenedakis's niece.”
Writing of Yáros, Nenedakis emphasizes the deep alienation that the prisoners on the island felt at knowing that they were in the midst of an archipelago. He relates how the prisoners would see, far away, commercial liners sailing from island to island, twice a week, “to other worlds. Farther away from you are other islands. …Other humans, just like you, live there. Humans who wake up without being cursed, without being beaten with whips. Humans who board a ship, travel, speak with each other, sleep, wake up, walk. …And when they sail past Yioúra they might even ask about this island. They might have heard about the prisoners. They must have heard something, it's impossible not to…” (Nenedakis 1964: 165).
The issue of women prisoners is multiply complicated, and I cannot address it here adequately. Women were imprisoned for a variety of reasons: as members of the (eventually) outlawed Communist Party; as aiding and abetting Communists; as conspiring with Communists; and, based on the old 1871 law against brigandage, for their kinship ties to the partisans. Women's bodies, undisciplined and unruly, lacking the kind of order and discipline that could be recognized by the military, presented a particular challenge to the wardens, the military police, and torturers. With the exception of those who were captured as members of the DSE and had been trained as active soldiers, women had not encountered military discipline and training in their civilian lives. Military commands were not easily understood, and acts of resistance by women prisoners took a form completely different from those of men. They included singing, the sharing of child rearing, and caring for each other. As Tasoula Vervenioti has noted, even the most simple of military commands, such as “Attention!” could be impossible to follow, since some of the prisoners were carrying their infant children or were wearing traditional clothing (with long full skirts or long wide trousers), which prevented them from moving freely (Vervenioti, 2000: 103). On the position of women in the Resistance see Hart 1996; on women in exile prior to the Second World War, see Kenna 1991 and 2001; the most comprehensive work on women in the concentration camps, and on Makrónisos in particular, remains Vervenioti 2000. A number of memoirs have been published over the past five years by women who were interned as young adults on Chios, Trikeri, and Makrónisos. No women were sent to Yioúra.
As Alivizatos (1981) notes, Greek governments before and during the civil war managed not to slide into an outright dictatorship, but maintained at least the façade of democracy. Thus they could claim that the strife was between the democratically elected government and a political minority motivated and guided from abroad.