Yiannopoulos, D. Yiorgos. 2001. Makronissos: Martyries Enos Foititi 1947–1950 (Makró?nisos: Testimonials of a University Student 1947–1950). Athens: Vivliorama.
Chapter 5. 1946–1949: Emphýlios
Hubert and Mauss provide the anthropological definition: “Sacrifice is a religious act which, through the consecration of a victim, modifies the condition of the moral person who accomplishes it or that of certain objects with which he is concerned” (1964: 13).
The state, however, by naming its own secular practices as sacrifice, engages in an act of self-sanctification. By refusing to recognize the act of the Leftist as sacrifice, it not only desanctifies the Leftist but also refuses to recognize the Leftist as selfsame, meaning as human. It is in light of this twisted gesture of the state that Yiorgos Yiannopoulos writes, making a comparison to Dachau: “At the Nazi concentration camps extermination was primarily on the level of the body, whereas in Makrónisos the primary care was for the moral and psychic extermination of ánthropos” Yiannopoulos 2001: 118; .
Louis de Villefosse triangulates this comparison between Dachau and Makrónisos by engaging with one more metaphorical gesture: “A regime that is larded with old collaborators [of the Germans] has been imposed through the military intervention first of the English, then of the Americans, during the course of a civil war, has instituted Dachau in the Ile d'Ouessant. A Dachau worse than the previous one, according to the testimony of a detainee who knew both” (de Villefosse 1950: 1298). The detainee, a soldier named Vyron Perakis, was interned first in Dachau and then on Makrónisos. Describing his experience of both places as a political prisoner, Perakis brings together the question of what is human and the question of soundness of mind when he says, “at Dachau, we suffered from famine. But here, they torture us, they render us 'crazy' ” (quoted in de Villefosse 1950: 1295).
Villefosse, Louis de. 1950. “Makronissos, laboratoire politique.” Les Tempes Modernes, 1287-99.
There cannot and ought not to be an analytical approach to comparing atrocities. Yet one must look at how they are articulated. The question is not whether the Greek paradigm is “the same” or “comparable” to the German one. Greeks who were taken to Dachau and Auschwitz and then to Yáros and Makrónisos seemed to think that there was a horrific comparison to be made on two levels. First, as prisoners in Germany they could still retain their fundamental alterity from the authorities: “We are Greeks; they are Germans.” Second, they recognized that the German project was ultimately an enumerative one: so many Jews, so many Gypsies, so many Communists, so many homosexuals. The Greek project, by contrast, aimed to reconfigure the mind. Therefore, on one level its regime of enumeration was indefinite, whereas on another level it was completely metaphysical.
Hannah Arendt has posited this question precisely: “Who would dare to measure and compare the fears human beings experienced?” (1994 : 298). When describing the German reprisals after a group of Dutch Jews in Amsterdam attacked a detachment of German security police in 1941, however, Arendt herself falls into a discourse of comparing terrors. She writes that in reprisal to the attack 430 Jews were arrested, “and they were literally tortured to death, first in Buchenwald and then in the Austrian camp of Mauthausen. For months on end they died a thousand deaths, and every single one of them would have envied his brethren in Auschwitz, and even Riga and Minsk. There exist many things considerably worse than death, and the SS saw to it that none of them was ever very far from their victims' minds and imagination” (1963: 12). Tony Judt has compared atrocities when he compared the warders on Makrónisos and their disciplinary practices to those of the “Romanian Communist techniques in the prison at Pitesti in the same years, albeit marginally less vicious” (2005: 505), an interesting assessment if one keeps in mind that the vast bibliography on Makrónisos has not been translated into English, so someone who cannot read Greek can hardly engage in comparing atrocities on such a microlevel.
The Ile d'Ouessant mentioned by de Villefosse is actually a cluster of deserted islands off the coast of Armorique in France. Only two of the islands are (very sparsely) inhabited, and they are colloquially known in France as “wild islands.”