Voglis, Polymeris. 2002. Becoming a Subject: Political Prisoners During the Greek Civil War. New York: Berghan Books.
- Chapter 5. 1946–1949: Emphýlios
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In antiquity Makrónisos was named Helene, after Helen of Sparta (or Helen of Troy, depending on one's position in history), because that is where, legend has it, Helen and Paris found refuge after the fall of Troy, as Pausanias mentions in his Attika. The ancient ruins found on the island indicate that in antiquity it was used as a sacred place of worship, without permanent residents. Some itinerant shepherds occasionally brought their goats to the island, and at the end of the First Balkan War, in 1912, a group of Turkish prisoners of war ill with cholera and tuberculosis were abandoned there. Russian and “undesirable” Greek soldiers were brought there in 1922, as were briefly, in 1929, refugees from the Asia Minor expedition. During the war the Germans established watch towers there.
When established as a place of exile and internment in 1947, Makrónisos had a single purpose: to reeducate Greek Leftists into the principles of nationalism (ethnikophosyne) and Christianity and to obtain from them written declarations renouncing communism and submitting to legality, the famous dēlôseis nomimofrosynis. From 1947 to 1958, over one hundred thousand people were deported and tortured on Makrónisos, Yáros, and Trikeri before being transferred to exile on the other “small islands” or dying. As Polymeris Voglis has convincingly argued, the islands constituted a space where new political subjects were systematically produced by the postwar governments Voglis 2002). This process of reformulating political subjects rested upon a form of governmentality convinced that populations (in this case, the population of Greek Leftists and dissidents) could be inscribed and reinscribed, almost ad infinitum, in new subjective positions through a process of reeducation and rehabilitation.
The distance between Makrónisos and Yáros is significant and is made even more so by the roughness of the seas. Communication between detainees in the two places was impossible. The prisoners of Yioúra knew about Makrónisos, so much so that in the Memorandum of 1950/51 Yáros is described as “the largest prison for democratic detainees and the most frightful place of annihilation after Makrónisos.” But the same cannot be said of the detainees of Makrónisos—or, better, the detainees of Makrónisos either knew very little of the conditions on Yioúra (as one of my interlocutors who had spent time on Ikaria, Makrónisos, and Ai-Stratis said when I asked him about this) or those who were sent to Yioúra after 1950 thought of it as “summer camp” (as another of my interlocutors said, a person who had been in exile starting in 1937 under Metaxas, had participated in the Resistance, had been jailed in the Middle East, and had been sent to Makrónisos, from there to Yioúra, and from there to Ai-Stratis before being released in 1963). Whatever Yioúra was, a “summer camp” it was not. The accounts in the Memorandum (Petris 1984), Nenedakis 1964, Mahairas 1999, and in interviews I have conducted with prisoners who were held on Yioúra between 1947 and 1950 all mention a dreaded place where torture was a technology of manufacturing compliance and submission.
1984. Yioúra: Hypomnema Kratoumenon Pros ton Hypourgo Dikaiosynes tes Kyverneseos Plastera. (Yioúra: Memorandum of the Detainees to the Minister of Justice of the Plasteras Government)., ed. Yiorgos Petris Athens: Ekdoseis Gnosi.
Nenedakis, Andreas. 1964. Apagoreuetai: To Hemerologio tes Yiouras (It Is Forbidden: The Yioúra Diary). Athens: Themelio.
Mahairas, Evaggelos. 1999. Piso apo to Galanoleuko Parapetasma: Makrónisos, Yioúra, ki alla Katerga (Behind the Blue-and-White Screens: Makrónisos, Yioúra, and Other Dungeons). Ed. . Introd., ed. Aggelos Sideratos, and Giorgos Petropoulos Athens: Ekdoseis Proskenio.
Approaching Makrónisos. On the slope to the right is the open-air church of Hagios Antonios. The long white building in the center of the photograph is the main bakery of the camp. The occasion of the visit was a two-day concert of the music of Mikis Theodorakis on the poetry of Yiannis Ritsos. Ritsos and Theodorakis were detained on Makrónisos for a year (1949–50), within months of each other. Theodorakis was brought to Makrónisos from exile on the island of Ikaria, Ritsos from exile on the island of Lemnos. Theodorakis was so brutally tortured on Makrónisos that he had to be taken to Military Hospital 401 in Athens. He suffered broken bones throughout his body and a dislocated jaw. After several weeks at the hospital, he was sent back to Makrónisos. After more torture (and the collapse of DSE on August 29, 1949) his father managed to have him released and took him to Crete. For ten years after Makrónisos, he would wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and shivering. In the summer of 2004, at an interview given to the Greek newspaper , he mentioned that Makrónisos still sends shivers down his spine. I watched as the police helped him leave the theater after the recital, amidst red revolving police lights and a convoy of police cars. I wondered how he must have felt at that moment, his first time back on Makrónisos since 1950, being taken away from the island again by the police. The question was answered the next day when a photograph of him taken during the recital was published in the newspapers—the face of a person in deep pain. The concert was organized by the Athens Festival and took place at various sites throughout Greece, including the exile islands Samos, Lemnos, Ai-Stratis, Lesvos, Leros, and Ikaria. The Athens Festival had arranged for transport buses from the small harbor of the cove of the First Battalion, where the ferry docked, to the theater of the Second Battalion. These are the buses visible in the photograph. Photograph by the author.
Part of the classical structures on Makrónisos, or, better said, of what was thought to be classical. The only connection to classicism that this bas relief has is through the classical sensibilities of fascist and Nazi aesthetics. At the top of the photograph is a watch tower. Photograph by the author.
The exterior of the sanctuary of the chapel of Aghios Georgios of the Second Battalion. The church was built by the detainees with whatever materials could be found, produced, and engineered on the island. Both the exterior and the interior of the church are plastered and whitewashed. Whitewashing requires fiber to stay on the plaster, but fiber could not be found on the island. The evening of the recital a tall Makronisiotes, sitting on the bench next to me, patted his still-thick hair and said, “Do you see this hair? When we needed hair for the whitewash and none could be found, the lieutenant ordered us all shorn and used our hair for binding.” Photograph by the author.
Part of the Second Battalion structures. Some of these structures were first erected for the Turkish POWs in 1912. Photograph by the author.
Looking up the hill toward the main road that connected all the battalions and coves. The low vegetation is afàna (akin to sagebrush). The detainees had to clear out the area by hand and level the slope in order to build the structures or fix their tents. Without interference from humans, afàna takes over parts of the island. Photograph by the author.
One of the arched entrances to the Second Battalion. Photograph by the author.
The ruined administrative buildings of the Second Battalion. All the buildings on Makrónisos had wooden beams and roofs, but the wood was plundered after the camp was abandoned. The photograph is taken at the end of the recital, August 30, 2003.
The authors of the “Memorandum” coined a new word to denote Yáros and Makrónisos as places of existence: exontōtêrion. It conjures up the horror of the total annihilation of the other on the level of existence as being (ōn) (Petris 1984: 66 ).