The First Victory: Greece in the Second World War

by George C. Blytas


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From Chapter 17: Occupation

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In his war diaries, George Theotokas describes the psychological conundrum that gripped the Athenians in the weeks following the occupation. Although Greeks had never cultivated warm feelings toward the Germans, they nevertheless harbored a remote sense of admiration for their strength, organizational ability and seriousness of purpose. Those feelings evaporated when they saw German troops engaging in the systematic pillage of shops and homes. From then on, the Greeks viewed the Germans with contempt. Their feelings were aggravated by the thought that the Germans had perpetrated a terrible injustice when they joined the Italians in attacking Greece. The praises with which Hitler had tried to placate the Greeks were not convincing.
The feelings of the Greeks toward the Italians were different. Both Greeks and Germans scorned the Italians. Popular songs ridiculing Mussolini were heard again in Athens, now sung by the Germans themselves to taunt their defeated allies. Germans were seen encouraging Greek urchins to sing songs about ‘Benito’ whenever Bersaglierri were in evidence.
On the other hand, support for captured British Commonwealth soldiers who were still in Greece knew no bounds.  The appearance of Allied prisoners being transported through Greek cities precipitated mini-riots. Civilians mobbed the processions, often risking their own lives and causing the German or Italian guards to resort to violence. In some cases, the boisterous disturbances would permit some daring prisoners to escape in the confusion. Those who escaped were quickly absorbed into the milling crowds. They were spirited away and given cover and protection.
These acts of defiance were spontaneous and were emanating from the same inner strength that had made heroes of simple men and women on the mountains of Epirus and in the villages of Crete. There was no political leadership to inspire the people. In fact, whatever leadership there was, was confused and confusing.

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© 2008 by George Blytas

Theotokas, Giorgos, Tetradia Imerologiou (1939-1953), [Diary Notebooks (1939-1953)], Athens: Estia, 1992, 264-265.