The dire living conditions, deprivation, hard labour and torture took their toll on the health of many detainees in the military camps. While there was a military hospital on the island (housed in a building near the camp command headquarters), the inadequate medical care and the command’s indifference to the detainees’ serious health conditions, or those caused as a result of their incarceration, resulted in the death of many prisoners from heart problems, cancer and other causes. It is estimated that 120 soldiers and civilians died in detention at Makronissos.

Γυρίζοντας από το Έκτακτο Στρατοδικείο Αθηνών, 23/5/1948

Γυρίζοντας από το Έκτακτο Στρατοδικείο Αθηνών, 23/5/1948

Aside from those who died on the island from various medical causes, a large number of soldiers were killed during the especially violent incidents that took place on 29 February and 1 March 1948Massacre of the First Battalion (29 February–1 March 1948)
The camp administration arbitrarily interpreted an assembly of detainees as a protest and thus, by extension, an “uprising”. This action was met with guns and the firing of live rounds. The official record shows there was a very small number of fatalities, but hundreds were killed in reality. The camp administration chose this method as a means of pushing almost the entire battalion into signing the repentance declaration. Subsequently, several soldiers were court martialled in Lavrio on charges of “instigating revolt”.

On the morning of 29 February, while on their way to the auditorium for roll call, detained troops from the First Sappers BattalionFirst Sappers Battalion (First Special Privates Battalion, A ETO)
Military unit created in the First Army Corps after a decision was taken not to remove citizens with “suspect political beliefs” from the army’s ranks but instead to assign them to units comprised of “undesirables”. From the outset, the First Battalion consisted of soldiers who refused to sign a repentance declaration upon arrival at Makronissos. Over time, many of those persisting in their refusal landed in this battalion, which became known as the “red battalion” or the “Democratic Army of Makronissos”. Conditions changed after the massacre of 29 February–1 March 1948. After its operation at Makronissos, the unit was renamed the First Special Privates Battalion (A ETO).
became embroiled in a verbal altercation with Military PoliceMilitary Police of the Battalion (alfamites, from its Greek abbreviation)
Special unit charged with the military’s internal security. On Makronissos, this corps engaged in extensive torture and continuous use of violence.
, resulting in the beating of the former by the latter. This provoked a reaction from other detainees and, in the ensuing melee, the MPs opened fire on the unarmed detainee soldiers. Five were killed and ten others injured. The battalion’s commander, Antonios VassilopoulosVassilopoulos Antonis
Commander of the First Battalion during the 1948 massacre. He was accused with financial misconduct before assuming the battalion’s command. He was also accused of misconduct during his command of the First Battalion. He was transferred from his position after Vrasidas Papagiannopoulos became head of the Organisation of Makronissos Rehabilitation Centres (OAM) under the Plastiras government.
, arrived at the scene shortly afterwards and promised to investigate the bloody incident. Fearing the worst, the detained soldiers gathered in the middle of the camp, placed the dead inside a tent, and declared a symbolic hunger strike in a gesture of mourning for the victims. The following morning, 1 March, 200 armed soldiers from the Third BattalionThird Sappers Battalion (Third Special Privates Battalion, C ETO)
Military unit created in the Third Army Corps after a decision was taken not to remove citizens with “suspect political beliefs” from the army’s ranks but instead to assign them to units comprised of “undesirables”. Under the command of Captain Panagiotis Skaloumbakas, it was the harshest and most brutal unit at Makronissos. Because such a large number of soldiers serving in the unit signed repentance declarations, it was dubbed the “blue battalion” and “the pool of Siloam”. Subsequent to its stationing at Makronissos, it was renamed the Third Special Privates Battalion (C ETO).
surrounded the detainees; the camp commander, Colonel Georgios BairaktarisBairaktaris Georgios
Colonel in the artillery and commander of the Army General Staff’s Directorate BXII who set up the military camps at Makronissos. He oversaw the detainees’ and exiles’ “rehabilitation” and, according to some sources, monitored the massacre of the First Battalion in 1948 from the deck of a navy vessel. .
, ordered them to surrender the instigators of the previous day’s “mutiny” and proceed to the area adjacent to the Seventh Company. The detainees did not comply and were attacked by the armed soldiers, who wielded clubs and opened fire. This assault resulted in more casualties than the first, although the exact number of fatalities is unclear as even official accounts of the incident differ: all told, between 11 and 16 detainees were killed and 54 injured. According to the civilian detainees, between 50 and 60 people were killed. After this murderous assault, the detainee troops were taken to the Seventh Company where, under extreme duress and beatings, many of them signed declarations of repentanceDeclaration of repentance
Tangible proof of a signatory’s condemnation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), National Liberation Front (EAM), Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS) or United Panhellenic Youth Organisation (EPON) and the signatory’s activity within those organisations. Essentially, the declaration marked the political annulment and elimination of the signatory as, once signed, it was publicised in the signatory’s home community and village, including in local media. The declaration of repentance was a set tactic of Greek authorities to invalidate the left’s moral foundations. Up until 1974, the KKE did not admit anyone to its ranks who had signed a repentance declaration.

The epilogue to the bloody events of 29 February–1 March was written in May 1948 when 114 soldiers were tried before Athens Special Military Court on charges of “insurrection”: five were sentenced to death (but not executed), five were sentenced to life imprisonment and 32 others received lesser sentences.

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