Villefosse, Louis de. 1950. “Makronissos, laboratoire politique.” Les Tempes Modernes, 1287-99.
Chapter 5. 1946–1949: Emphýlios
Dachau was the concentration camp Greeks knew best . It was the only name of a concentration camp that I knew when I was growing up, until I was old enough to listen to Mikis Theodorakis's Mauthausen and learn about Auschwitz and Belsen. “It is important not to forget that that the first concentration camps in Germany were the work not of the Nazi regime but of the Socialist Democratic governments, which interned thousands of communist militants in 1923 on the basis of Schutzhaft,” Agamben reminds us (1998: 167). Dachau as a camp is almost that old. Originally built as a munitions factory during the Great War, it was used as a concentration camp in March 1933 to intern political prisoners. The camp was placed under the jurisdiction of the SS, and special laws were enacted to legitimate its existence. With the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, Dachau acquired the legal framework that it needed. Greek partisans, Resistance fighters, saboteurs, and Communists, along with members of the clergy of the Greek church who had harbored English and Greek Resistance fighters and some monks from Mt. Athos, started being sent there as early as 1941. Some of them endured there until they were released in 1945, when U.S. troops entered the camp. Among them was the secretary general of the KKE, Nikos Zachariadis. Many died. Greek Jews were almost all sent to the camps, and most of them died.
“There are those who claim they knew nothing, although the regime had instrumentalized the concentration camps, using them to intimidate the German people,” Wolfgang Sofsky writes, exposing the falsity of the claim to innocence that has been erected about the camps of the Reich (1997: 6). He also exposes the use of fear as a means of manhandling the public. This is why so many arrested detainees at Yáros and Makrónisos started to sign their declarations of repentance so soon after they arrived on the islands. Despite the fact that the methods used on the islands to extract the dēlôseis always came as a “surprise” to the authorities in Athens, the rumors that were circulating were enough to produce a climate of intense fear that induced compliance. On December 2, 1949, an anonymous petition drafted in Athens made its way, in translation, to Upton Sinclair, in the United States. Sinclair sent it to The Nation on December 17, 1949, with a note telling the magazine to make use of it if they so wished. The Nation never published the letter, which was entitled “Makrónisos Island—The Greek Dachau” and ). According to de Villefosse, the only dailies to publish protests against the existence of Makrónisos, other than the Greek Mache, were the French L'humanité and La libération (de Villefosse 1950: 1290).
In 1942, this song had been composed about the children who were being sent to Dachau. I am indebted to Apostolos Papageorgiou, who sent it to me.
Katoche, 1941 (Gavriel Marinakes)
Katoche '41, ta paidakia ta kaemena
Tremouliazoun mes' stous dromous, nestika kai tromagmena
Hola tous skeletomena, peinasmena kai presmena
ap' ta spitia tous ta pairnan kai ta stoivazan sta trena.
Sto Dachau ta pegainan kai ta kanane sapouni
kai ta piata tous eplenan, hotan trogane hoi Hunoi
Occupation 1941 (Gavriel Marinakis)
Occupation in '41, the poor little children
are shivering in the streets, unfed and frightened.
All of them skin and bones, famished and bloated,
They would take them from their homes and pack them up in trains.
They would take them to Dachau and turn them into soap
To wash their dishes, when the Huns were eating.
I have not been able to find much material on Greek clergy sent to German concentration camps. One source is Cramer 2006. Cramer mentions that the majority of prisoners at Dachau were Christians (I think that he means non-Jewish, not necessarily practicing Christians), something that could be explained by the fact that Dachau was primarily used for Resistance fighters.
A pamphlet with the same title has been attributed to a member of the KKE, but I have not been able to locate its text or the pamphlet itself to see if it is the same as the one sent to Sinclair. Here is the text of the petition (I have kept the original spelling and punctuation):
If there is a remnant of civilization, every man and woman must raise their voices vigorously protesting against the abominable crimes that brought up the slaughters and criminals of the Greek government on the political transported persons of the Makronissos island.
They do inflict horrible corporal tortures on the prisoners in order to compel them to sign the declaration some thing which constitutes an insult for the human dignity.
One of these hangmen, the L/nant Rados who is characteristic type of sadique, declared openly to them that if they go on to insist refusing to sign, they shall all be killed.—
5 of the soldiers of the greek governmental army, ocular witnesses of these scenes off horror got mad. An 75 years old man nikitidis by name of kilkis's district of origin, has “commited suicide” after having been tortured for hours.
Yet a score of other prisoners have been assacinated.
After these horrible tortures the men who insisted to refuse to sign are forced to burden a load of—[the weight is not mentioned] of pebble and run during all the day If exhausted fall down, the hangmen beat them with bambou sticks in such a manner that they become infirm for all their life. The well known author dimitri photiadis, who has been transported since 19 months. although he had no political action and without a setence, suffered the same tortures.—
Shuddering nights of terror succeed the other without arrest since 15 days in this new Dachau of Greece which surpassed that of Hitler. If this S.O.S. reaches in your hands please communicate it to the U.N.O. giving at the same time the most wide publicity.—
Athens 2nd December 1949
(MS Am 2302 , Sinclair, Upton, 1878–1968. Correspondence, 1938–1949. 1 folder. The Houghton Library)
I would like to thank the Houghton Library at Harvard University for permission to publish this letter.
An anonymous letter that made its way out of Makrónisos, entitled “Makronissos Island—the Greek Dachau.” The letter found its way to Upton Sinclair, who passed it on to , with a note placing the magazine at liberty to use the letter if it wished. did not publish it. Found in archives at the Houghton Library, Harvard University. Reproduced with permission.