TESTIMONIES

Proimakis Manolis, “J’ accuse”, Editions “Grece Nouvelle”, 1950

Early on, from June 1947, Rizospastis, the newspaper of the Greek Communist Party, as well as the National Liberation Front (EAM) newspaper Eleftheri Ellada (Free Greece), published accounts of the dire living conditions and, later, torture at Makronissos military camp. After both newspapers were banned under Law 509, these accounts continued to appear in the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) Deltiou Eidiseon (News Bulletin).

From 1949, an international campaign was mounted aimed at closing down Makronissos. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) publishing house, Nea Ellada, issued two books that year: Makronisi: H kolasi ton dimokratikon fantaron (Makronissos: the hell of the democratic troops) and Giorgis Lambrinos’ Makronisi: To amerikaniko Dachaou stin Ellada (Makronissos: the American Dachau in Greece). The latter, which was translated into English and French, was widely distributed in the West. The parallels drawn with Nazi concentration camps, particularly Dachau, emerged as the campaign’s rallying cry. Accounts of torture were also aired on Eleftheri Ellada radio, the KKE’s radio station that was broadcast from Bucharest.

Meantime, across Western Europe, committees – most notably, in France, the Comité Française d’aide à la Grèce Dèmocratique, and in Britain, the League for Democracy in Greece – mounted active campaigns to abolish Makronissos and draw attention to rights violations and the lack of freedoms in Greece. This activity peaked in the early 1950s, with the publication of several magazine articles by the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre in Les Temps modernes and a piece in New Statesman by Kingsley Martin, who maintained close links with the Labour Party’s left flank.

Kornaros Themos, «Grammata ap’ to Makronēsi», Ekdotiko «Nea Ellada», 1952

In Greece, the conditions on Makronissos were shrouded in silence in 1948 and 1949 (as the KKE, EAM, National Solidarity and their publications had been outlawed). With few exceptions, the press was rife with laudatory references to the work being done at Makronissos. In the political climate of the Greek Civil War, marked by suspension of political freedoms and persecution of left-wing ideas, information was shared by word of mouth almost exclusively between relatives of prisoners and leftists, thus establishing – albeit,

A number of books were written in a similar vain to the testimonies published in the Press revealing conditions in Makronissos. These books were published with a militant spirit and aimed to illustrate the violation of human rights despite the consistent pressure exerted by authorities on those being on Makronissos and the fear of the authors for themselves and their loved ones.

Lountemēs Menelaos, «Kraugē sta perata», Politikes kai Logotechnikes Ekdoseis, 1955

Initially such books (by authors such as Giorgis Lambrinos, Manolis Proimakis and Themos Kornaros) were published by the “Ekdotiko Nea Ellada” [New Greece Press], a publishing house of the Greek Communist Party in Eastern Europe. Giorgis Lambrinos was an author and well-know journalist who had been tortured by the Nazis and was killed on the mountains of Tzoumerka after the publication of the book at the last stages of the Civil War. Manolis Proimakis, a lawyer, had been through the harsh experiences of Makronisos and was one of the first exiles that were elected Members of Parliament on the EDA ticket. Themos Kornaros was an author who had been exiled. More or less all three presented Makronissos as a place of torture, an island where the human condition and dignity were challenged, while they highlighted the strength of the fighters and their active participation in the antifascist effort. The book of Menelaos Lountemis, that was published by the Greek Communist Party publishing house “Politikes and Logotechnikes Ekdoseis” followed the same line of thought. These books were intended for the world of Greek political refugees and foreign readers that were interested on the topic of political repressions in post-Civil War Greece.

The books that were published on a later date were designed for a different audience. These were books published in the 1960s in Greece after the rise of the Centre Union party in power. Despite the ongoing persecution, the works of Panos Kallidonis, Giorgos Farsakidis, Vardis Vardinogiannis and above all Nikos Margaris were published and circulated in Greece during the short political, social and cultural spring of the 1960s. The authors, defying the atmosphere of fear that prevailed, documented with courage their personal testimony from the most violent concentration camp of Greece. In a vivid and well-written manner they narrated their dramatic experience in an effort on the one hand to prove the brutality of the authorities and on the other the persistence of the human nature and home.

Indicative bibliography:

Euangelos Machairas, Pisō apo to galanoleuko parapetasma. Makronēsos, Gioura ki alla katerga, Proskēnio, Athēna 1999.

Giōrgēs Lamprinos, Makronēsi. To amerikaniko Ntachaou stēn Ellada, Nea Ellada, ch.t. [=Boukouresti]1949 (gall. ekd.: «Grece Libre»,1949; anglikē ekd.: League for Democracy in Greece, Sidneu 1949).

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