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Memories of the Occupation in Greece

Important terms

Important terms for German Occupation in Greece


KKE (Kommounistikon comma Ellados): Communist Party of Greece. It was founded after the First World War.


Andartiko: The armed resistance in the mountains.


EAM (Hellinikon Apeleftherotikon metopon, National Liberation Front): It was founded on September 27th, 1941 by the Communist Party. It was the largest resistance organization in Greek history.


ELAS (Ellinikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos, Greek People’s Liberation Army): On February 16th, 1942, the National Liberation Front (EAM) announced the establishment of the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS) to lead the fight against the German and Italian occupation forces. It developed into the strongest military power in the Greek resistance movement.


EPON (Ethniki Panelinios Organosi Neon) National Panhellenic Youth Organization: The youth wing of the EAM.


EDES (Ethnikon Dimokratikon Eleftherotikon Metopo): National Republican Greek League. The largest non-communist resistance group in Greece. From 1943, a series of internal conflicts began between EDES und ELAS, which led to the Greek Civil War.


Syntagma Eyzonon 5/42 EKKA: National and Social Liberation. EKKA was founded in November 1942 by a circle around Colonel Psarros. The unauthorized disarming of EKKA units by ELAS is one of the dark aspects of ELAS history.


Aris Velouchiotis: He was the leader (Kapetanios) of ELAS and he became a legendary figure of the liberation struggle. After the war, he decided to continue the struggle. Aris opposed the Varkiza Agreement, which disarmed ELAS, and returned to the mountains. In June 1945, his small armed group was surrounded in Mesounda (Arta) and Aris killed himself. The bourgeois army desecrated the corpses of Aris and his comrades, cutting off their heads and displaying them in the central square in the town of Trikala.


Napoleon Zervas: The military leader of the republican EDES. From mid-1942, Zervas had British military help, along with Epirus guerrilla units, against the Germans. He signed a gentlemen’s ceasefire agreement with the German Wehrmacht. After the war he became a politician.


Gorgopotamos: On November 25th, 1942 British special forces and about 150 andartes (resistance fighters of ELAS and EDES) blew up the Gorgopotamos bridge. It was without doubt one of the greatest acts of sabotage during the war in Greece.


Ethniki Allilegii: (National Solidarity): Founded in 1941 in Athens. Members of the organization were mostly women, offering support for prisoners.


PEAN (Panelinios Enosis Neon Agonizomenon): Panhellenic Union of Fighting Youths, whose leader was the dynamic Lieutenant Kostas Perrikos. On September 20th, 1942, PEAN blew up the headquarters of the Greek collaborationist organization ESPO (National- Socialist Patriotic Organisation) in downtown Athens. The attack marked the end of ESPO.


PEEA: Political Committee of National Liberation. On March 10th, 1944 the EAM and its armed wing, ELAS, founded the Political Committee of National Liberation in Viniani Evrytania (Central Greece). It was a provisional government whose sole job was to conduct free elections. PEEA undertook to reorganize the Andartiko (armed resistance), to administer the liberated areas and to guarantee individual freedoms.


Security Battalions (Tagmata Asfaleias): Armed collaborative units. The backbone of the Security Battalions represented those who—for political and / or personal reasons—were EAM opponents and were local volunteers or members of national organizations. The Security Battalions were both a political and a military/police instrument against the resistance. Prime Minister Ioannis Rallis established the Security Battalions in the fall of 1943 on the initiative of SS Lieutenant General Walter Schimana, who was High Commander of the SS and the police in occupied Greece. Their force consisted of 22,000 men at most, divided into 9 “evzonic” and 22 “voluntary” battalions.


Collaborators: In Greece, the number of politically-ideologically motivated collaborators was extremely low. The three puppet governments of prime ministers Tsolakoglou, Rallis and Logothetopoulos collaborated politically with the German occupying forces and completely subordinated to the Nazi occupation authorities.


Operation Mercury: After the German Wehrmacht invasion of Greece and Athens in April 1941, Crete was conquered between May 20th and June 1st, 1941 by German paratroops as part of Operation Mercury. Despite the final success, the attackers suffered heavy losses because of the strong resistance of the Cretan population.


Hunger: Since the beginning of the Occupation, the country was cut off by the British continental blockade of overseas supplies. Greece could not expect imports for the duration of the war. The most terrible period was the first winter of 1941–1942: tens of thousands of people died and the illegal black market was extended to all areas of the everyday economy.


Repression and reprisals: Repression was a trait of the German Occupation. The best-known forms of repression were hostage killings, mass terror and mass murders, especially the destruction of entire villages. This bloody repression policy was directly connected with the strategic goal of the German Occupation in the Balkans, namely to break the resistance of the partisans. Among the most terrible reprisal actions was Operation Kalavryta in December 1943, where 25 villages were burned down and 674 men and 22 women and children were killed.


Martyred villages / martyred places: At the end of the German Occupation, about 1,600 Greek villages and towns were destroyed. In 1998, the Greek government passed a law that recognized places that were destroyed by Nazi forces during Second World War as “martyred villages / towns.” The most emblematic are Distomo and Kalavryta.


The massacre in Kalavryta: On December 13th, 1943, units of the 117th Jäger Division carried out a “retaliatory action” in Kalavryta (Peloponissos) after the liquidation of 81 German prisoners by ELAS partisans. The entire male population of Kalavryta (490 people) was exterminated and the town of Kalavryta was destroyed. It is the most serious single case of war crimes committed during the Axis occupation of Greece. Twenty-eight communities—towns, villages, monasteries and settlements—were destroyed. In Kalavryta itself about 1,000 houses were looted and burned and more than 2,000 livestock seized by the Germans.


The Distomo massacre: Distomo is a site of memory for the victims of German war crimes. On June 10th, 1944 Waffen-SS troops of the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division massacred 218 unarmed civilians in Distomo. The victims of Distomo—mostly women, old people and 38 children aged from 2 months to 10 years—were killed in a brutal fashion. According to survivors, the Germans were “bayonetting babies in cribs, stabbing pregnant women, and beheaded the village priest.” The massacre was an act of revenge for the villagers’ participation in a partisan attack on the German unit – which later was proven to be a lie.


 Shoah: The Hebrew word “Shoah” (catastrophe) is equivalent to the more commonly used term “Holocaust” and means the extermination of the Jews during the Second World War. The term “Shoah” spread throughout Western Europe mainly due to the nine-hour documentary “Shoah” by Claude Lanzmann (1985).


The bombing of Piraeus: English aircraft bombed German targets in the port of Piraeus, Greece, for three hours in January 1944. The infrastructure was completely destroyed. Apart from the equipment of the German military and the navy in the port area, all the surrounding residential areas were hit particularly hard.


Klouves: An open railroad freight car enclosed by barbed wire used to carry Greek hostages. It was coupled to the front of the train in order to have a deterrent effect on partisan attacks and thus prevent acts of sabotage.


Mploka: This method was applied to terrorize the population. The usual procedure was as follows: at dawn, German Einsatzgruppen, along with members of the Greek Security Battalions, surrounded a place and all the male inhabitants were asked to gather immediately. All communists and sympathizers of the EAM resistance were immediately arrested. Emblematic is the mploko of Kokkinia, an area near Athens, where on August 17th, 1944 about 100 men were killed. Three to four thousand men were initially deported to Chaidari Concentration Camp in Athens and then to forced labor camps in Germany.  


Lebanon Conference: May 1944. The admission of EAM / PEEA into the Government of “National Unity” under Georgios Papandreou was agreed upon.


Dekemvriana — December clashes: The clash between the National Liberation Front EAM / ELAS against the new Greek Government and the British that began at December 3rd, 1944. On January 5th, 1945, the beaten ELAS units withdrew.


Varkiza Agreement: On February 12th, 1945, a peace treaty between the EAM delegation and the Greek government was signed in Varkiza, near Athens. The EAM undertook to release all hostages. The accord also promised that members of the EAM-ELAS would be permitted to participate in political activities if they surrendered their weapons.