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Secret War: Greece-Middle East, 1940-1945: The Events Surrounding the Story of Service 5-16-5

Secret War: Greece-Middle East, 1940-1945: The Events Surrounding the Story of Service 5-16-5

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Secret War: Greece-Middle East, 1940-1945: The Events Surrounding the Story of Service 5-16-5

Lunghezza:
491 pagine
7 ore
Pubblicato:
Jun 15, 2003
ISBN:
9781681623559
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

A True Story of Heroism in Nazi-Occupied Greece [Some of] the most dramatic use of secret intelligence in the Western Theater resulted from covert operations against the Nazis in the cities of occupied Europe, which were implemented, to a great extent, by young men and women. For the most part, their stories remained shrouded in secrecy. Readers were carried away reading the brave feats of the partisans in the mountains, deserts, and jungles, while the strategic role of the spies and saboteurs in the cities remained almost anonymous. Rigas Rigopoulos offers a rare insight into the world of espionage and sabotage and the daily terror that characterized covert operations in Athens and Piraeus. Rigopoulos was one of many young Greeks appalled by the Axis occupation, but one of the few who was prepared to undertake the hazardous role of spy and saboteur.""
Pubblicato:
Jun 15, 2003
ISBN:
9781681623559
Formato:
Libro

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Secret War - Rigas Rigopoulos

University

INTRODUCTORY THOUGHTS

More than half a century has passed since we lived that great adventure . . .

Right after the Liberation, when we old close comrades met again, we felt that we’d rather keep our story to ourselves.

A purely emotional need drove us to this struggle, whose unforgettable moments offered us complete satisfaction. Any commotion about these experiences, full of passion and exaltation and linked to the memory of lost comrades, would disturb our contentment and peace of mind.

Even when the newspaper Ethnos (Nation) started publishing a series of articles on the activities of our Service, I requested in a letter published on March 3, 1945, that they condense and complete the story as soon as possible. The series stopped after the fifth installment.

We only allowed ourselves to honor the memory of our dead with a public ceremony in an Athens conference hall. This created a wider sensation for a few days, but shortly the commotion abated.

In the years elapsed since then, many references to Service 5-16-5 and its members — always honorable, but not always accurate — appeared in Greek and foreign books, newspapers, and magazines. No one could control or restrict them.

With the passage of time the dust has settled, and today I have ceased viewing the struggle of that epoch through my personal feelings. Historical data do not belong to individuals. Likewise, the fascination, the agony, and the creations of an era do not belong to any single person.

Living through the intense conditions and the multifarious reactions of the occupation, and also from the standpoint of the head of an intelligence organization, I witnessed the tragic drama and grandeur of an unequal struggle, decisive and effective, with incredible political and social repercussions.

I saw in the darkness of slavery the bright glow of intellectual and spiritual flashes. I saw heroic deeds filled with grandiose simplicity, and simple daily deeds filled with heroic grandeur. I met individuals who lived and died in silence, but who deserve a place in the memory and hearts of the people. I also witnessed painful errors and shameful actions by both Greeks and foreigners who did harm.

Starting with the story of some young men who constituted Service 5-16-5, I describe in this book these momentous situations and emotions, as I lived through them moment by moment in Athens and in the Middle East, trying to be as objective as possible.

Many pages are filled with love and admiration, others are marked by pain. Every word is written with complete sincerity, without prejudice but also without fear. They tell the clear and often bitter truth, a truth needed by our unsettled times and, most of all, by the restless and justifiably rebellious young generation.

Events lose none of their importance when they cease being action and become history. There is always some hope that if people turn their eyes toward a clearly certified account of the past and unscramble its magnificent as well as its terrible lessons, they may be able to better experience the present and to more wisely shape the future.

R.R.

PART ONE

THE RETREAT

(Instead of Prologue)

INTENSE MOMENTS IN HISTORICAL HOURS

After so many years I can see even myself from a distance: A lad of 26 years who had seen our victories in Albania from behind the lines. A lad who lived the wonderful exaltation of that epoch without contributing to its creation.

When the bells of war sounded in Athens on October 28, 1940, I rushed to enlist, but all my enthusiasm was drowned in a railway battalion storehouse in a small station in the village Amfiklia, near Mt. Parnassos.

There came the news from the front. There came the thrills of courage and the palpitations of daring and sacrifice. Echoes from far away. There I was named an officer: Second Lieutenant of Administration . . .

I would rush to the station to see the Italian prisoners in the trains. Our soldiers would offer them cigarettes to renounce Mussolini.

"Mussolini, critsi critsi," they said while moving a hand across the throat, and taking the cigarettes. This was my contact with the enemy.

I asked to go to the front and faced the rage of my superiors. What would happen if we all went ahead . . . Everyone has his role . . .

In Amfiklia, I filled my idle hours by studying, as an amateur, a bolt-action mechanism that could be fitted occasionally into a Mannlicher rifle to allow it to shoot full automatic fire. Thus I was passing my time with a rather war-like occupation. This study was examined by the Technical Service of Artillery and was found to be theoretically correct. I was called to Athens and they decided to post me to the base in Volos, near the factory that would try to manufacture it.

There I had my baptism of fire. The baptism of bombardments near non-combatant civilians.

We gawked at the Italian planes flying high among the anti-aircraft fireworks, and we sometimes heard their bombs without seeing them.

In April we were surprised by the new enemy, the Germans, who darted low over the roofs, embroidering the earth around us with their machine gun fire. I jumped blindly into a trench and fell face down into the mud that had gathered there. I hurriedly took off the wet overcoat of my uniform, feeling full of humiliation and anger.

Now the news from the front was bad. The Germans had thrown all their weight against us to save the defeated Italians. The last tenacious resistance at the Macedonia fortifications seemed to be able to stop them. The enemies spoke with admiration for the defenders of our fortifications. But they attacked through Yugoslavia and easily passed onto Greek soil. Their heavy motorized divisions were coming down towards Larissa. General Tsolakoglou would sign the capitulation. Our victorious army was breaking up.

Holy Friday, April 18, 1941, our commander called an officers’ meeting. In a few hours perhaps, he said, the Germans will enter Volos. We must receive them with self-control, keep order, and avoid needless bravery.

My blood rushed to my head. Others had defended the honor of our country, freezing in the snow for months and months, and had won and brought glory to Greece. The frontier and the mountains of Albania were littered with the bodies of those who had resisted. There in the north history was written by a few distinguished men who disregarded the number and means of the invaders, who went to die and succeeded in winning, chasing the Italian legions to the sea.

Now I, out of the war and having lived in comfort, would be among those who would bow their heads to the conqueror. With self-control. With order and with dignity. Every fiber of my being revolted.

Other young officers in the meeting must have felt the same way. Spontaneously we formed a small pocket of opposition.

No, we’re not going to stay here to receive the enemy. We won’t be able to control ourselves . . .

You may go if you wish, gentlemen, said the commander, but I don’t see where you’ll be able to go.

Wherever there’s a free rock, we answered.

I heard that as we were leaving he had damned us to hell.

Using a truck we found, we headed south. I drove frantically on the wretched roads, stopping now and again to hide when we saw airplanes. Along the way, we picked up wretched soldiers who were going on foot.

Saturday evening we arrived in Kifissohori, a village at the foot of Mt. Parnassos. Tired and hungry, we slept in the railway station.

Early Easter morning, we were awakened by an aerial bombardment. We burst out of the collapsing building and fell into ditches, each of us wherever he could. In a few moments, the little station became a hell of fire. A stationary train full of ammunition burned at our side, and the bullets exploded and zipped around us.

For more than two and a half hours, the barrage kept us immobilized at the focal point of the bombardment. The airplanes were following the rails and passed in continuous waves, so we didn’t have time to get out of the target area.

I lay side-by-side with a young lieutenant — I still remember his name: George Kontoulis — and around us everything was dug up and ruined.

Only our position seemed to be intact, and we waited from moment to moment for our turn, screaming at the airplanes and blowing off our nervous excitement with jokes and pleasantries. We bent our heads every now and then when we saw bombs coming towards us, to avoid being blinded by the stones and the dust that blasted out and covered us.

In such a moment, an incredible incident saved our lives.

As we lay with our eyes closed, we felt our ditch shift and displace us. Just like that, without any noise, without the sound of a nearby explosion, a movement of mystery in the general turbulence. Kontoulis raised his head.

Are we dead? he asked me.

How do I know? I’ve never died before . . .

We looked around us. One meter from our position a bomb had stuck in the earth without exploding. We jumped up, disregarding everything. Other bombs were coming from above. We had hardly fallen behind a ruined wall when the earth trembled under our feet and our temples thumped from a dreadful explosion, much louder than all the other horrible explosions. The whole place where we had been before was now a shapeless pit chocked with smoke and dust. Our time had come, but we were not there. We had been driven away by the bomb that hadn’t exploded.

From our new position, the retreat was easier. Jumping every now and then and stumbling among dispersed bodies and blood, we pushed on. We met with another two or three colleagues – we never saw the others — and went up the mountain.

Night overtook us in the village of Agoriani. The old villagers saw us as deserters who had abandoned the front. Why did you dump your arms and run away? they asked. Show us your marching orders. We didn’t have any.

We hurried down the other side of the mountain towards the sea and found ourselves in the little town of Itea. The German stukas — their infamous dive bombers — were attacking the ships in the harbor. We came upon a small caïque — a boat with both motor and sails — that was just lifting anchor, and we embarked for Aigion.

We finally arrived by train at Nafplion. We had heard that from there we could cross over to Crete and help keep this island free.

Greek and British units — soldiers and officers — were concentrated in Nafplion to escape captivity and slavery.

There was a complete lack of organization. Food and medicine were minimal. The hospitals were full.

A big ship full of ammunition was burning in the harbor, in danger of exploding and blowing up the whole town. Other ships, already burnt, were sunk in the shallows. The German stukas were bombing continuously. Regarding departure, not a word. Only the British remained self-controlled and cool-headed. They maintained radio contact with their ships, waiting for them to come pick them up.

In this deplorable atmosphere, the only exception was the heroism of a young lieutenant. To save others, he towed the burning ship out of the harbor with a small vessel, risking to be blown up any minute. I regret I never learned his name.

Without anything to do, without any mission, and doubting whether our departure would ever take place, we hung around our headquarters hoping to hear some good news . . .

But all we heard were the air raid sirens, the enemy’s bombs, and the curses of the general standing in his wide open window, screaming as we rushed to the shelters.

Can you really be Greek officers, hiding in holes like rabbits? Get out of there, immediately! You should be ashamed!

In the meantime, I found myself something to do: with two soldiers and a lorry I gathered as many wounded as I could. Most of them were horribly mutilated and died along the way. We gathered Greek and British indiscriminately — something surprising to the British — and I left them in the hospital corridors with very little hope that they would receive medical attention.

Doctors and nurses seemed to have passed the limits of their endurance. I struggled not to be seized by desperation.

I soon realized that if I didn’t take care of myself, I risked falling prey in Nafplion to what I had avoided in Volos. The Germans were approaching. An organized departure of Greek units was totally out of the question. Under the continuous pounding, the town was being deserted little by little.

I went to the British. Their commander received me with great pleasure. He needed an English-speaking officer to deal with the Greek fishing-caïque captains who would ferry his troops to their warships outside the harbor. I think I can take you with us, he said. I’ll let you know soon.

I reported to my commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Kyriakos Valassidis, who undertook to cover my absence. He was a kind and understanding man. I congratulate you, he said. I would like to follow you, but there are reasons which oblige me to stay. Good luck!

The British sent word to me that same night. The ships were waiting for us in the open sea. That whole night we helped the British troops embark.

We filled the caïques with soldiers and watched them vanish in the dark waters, out of the harbor, and return to us empty. It was as if the sea was swallowing their human cargo.

Standing still and silent in rows of four, the British waited patiently and embarked in strict order. Only the sound of their feet, as every unit passed towards its caïque, broke the monotony in the thick darkness.

I had continuous work, as I was the only one who could communicate with the British and with the Greeks of the caïques. I was coming and going from the commander to the caïques and from the caïques to the units. Little by little, as the hours passed with this monotonous and silent night endeavor, fatigue and weariness overtook me. The fatigue and weariness that were dropped on me by God’s hand, to save me once more from death . . .

We few officers and the last soldiers remained on the shore, no more than a single shipload of men. All the caïques went away full of soldiers, and I had arranged for the last one that would return to take us. My work had finished.

I collapsed into a corner and leaned my head back to have a short rest while we waited. I instantly fell asleep. A sleep heavy as lead. An irresistible bodily need.

Suddenly, the sun struck my eyes. I jumped up in confusion. The coast was deserted. Only an old fisherman from last night was sitting near. He looked at me as if I were a ghost.

How come you didn’t embark with them? he asked me.

I fell asleep and they left me behind.

The Englishman was looking for you. It was God’s will that you be saved.

Saved? What happened?

The last caïque hit a mine in the open sea. We didn’t find anybody.

First the bomb which did not explode. And now the caïque which was blown up without me. Badly shocked from the loss of so many men and from the cold grip of death which I had narrowly escaped, I began to view these accidental events as purposeful exceptions granted to me for some unknown reason by my destiny.

I will not die without fighting, I thought.

Nafplion now seemed completely empty. It was a dead town. Every now and then the stukas bombed the ruined houses, the burnt ships, and the vehicles which the British had rendered useless.

Going by the British barracks I saw a rough inscription. Go to Monemvasia. I met two of our soldiers who ran up to me asking me questions.

We have to go to Monemvasia, I said. About 200 km. Let’s find a car.

Among the many lorries in a big field, which were more or less put out of commission by the British, I found one with little damage. Only its distributor cap had been broken. We searched the other vehicles and found another cap in good condition, which I tried to fit into our lorry.

For a long time I methodically rearranged the position of the wires in the six sockets, hoping to find the correct combination. In the meantime, airplanes forced us to hide now and again in a semi-ruined shelter made from propped-up sand bags. The ground quaked with every bomb. The dust blinded us. We risked losing the lorry before we had time to repair it.

Finally, the engine caught right when they were bombing. I couldn’t leave it now for them to destroy. I accelerated among the explosions and hid the lorry under the trees.

Driving out of Nafplion we found some British soldiers walking. We took them with us and they told us that British troops would embark from Tolo, just a few kilometers away. And Monemvasia? This might have been written purposely to mislead enemy spies.

In Tolo that evening we found the British waiting at the seashore. They promised to take me with them.

A very dark British naval officer, a man of strange racial features, suggested that we go to the open sea with the only fishing boat available. He wanted me to get on with the boatman. He was the liaison with the ships of the fleet, and he had to give agreed signals with his flashlight so that the ships would approach and take us. I followed him, and we went out into the dark sea.

He gave signals in all directions.

During the night we sailed out of the gulf four times, giving signals without getting an answer. The last time the naval officer gripped the tiller and, instead of turning towards land, he headed to the open sea.

Look here, he said. The ships aren’t going to come. Ask the boatman if he has enough fuel and if he would agree to sail the three of us to Crete.

I thought of the people on the shore, expecting their salvation from this officer and from the fishing boat.

That’s completely unacceptable, I answered. We can’t abandon so many people waiting for the ships, taking the only caïque that could serve them . . .

The foreign officer interrupted me in a fury. In a tremendous rage, he screamed that if we didn’t leave immediately, we would be condemned with the others. It was impossible for me to change his mind.

I explained to the fisherman what we were discussing, with the hope that he would not accept the British officer’s proposal, but he agreed. If I insisted on reacting now, I would have two men against me. I feared that they would take me with them against my will. I had to gain time.

Listen, I said to the stranger. The trip is long. The passage won’t be easy. There are also the enemy planes, which don’t miss a thing. Let’s wait at least until tomorrow night. Maybe the ships will appear by then.

I argued in this vein for some time, and finally I convinced him.

Tomorrow night, he said, without fail.

We returned to the shore. I was cold and terribly hungry. The previous day I had eaten only a lemon, which I ate with its skin. I lay down in a corner to sleep. In the morning I tried to see the British officer. He had disappeared. The fishing boat was also nowhere to be seen.

The fault was mine. I should have prevented this disgrace more forcefully.

Seventeen hundred British, seven hundred of them unarmed, were waiting in Tolo. I also met three hundred Greek soldiers, originating from Crete, without arms. They had come from Athens to embark for Crete. They all gathered around me. I was the only Greek officer in Tolo.

I accommodated them in a school and tried to improvise a mess for them. Four gendarmes and as many customs guards eagerly offered me their assistance. I also met a local industrialist, Elias Papantoniou, who helped as much as he could. As we were making these arrangements, we heard machine gun fire behind the hills.

Don’t move from here, I said to the Cretans. I’ll go see what’s happening.

Somewhere behind the hills, German paratroopers had been dropped. I climbed to see their position. I lay beside some British and we saw them advance with small bounds towards a hill opposite us. From there, they could fire directly into the village. The British estimated their number at about 450.

I rushed down as quickly as I could and told the gendarmes and customs guards to evacuate a large part of the village that might be hit by enemy shells. The inhabitants would have to move to the part of the village near the mountain, which was safe from enemy fire.

The people made the officers’ job very difficult. They didn’t want to leave their homes. It is an order of the . . . ‘garrison commander’, the officers said, and they sent them along against their will.

In the meantime, the Cretans were furious about being kept inactive and made quite a fuss. Find us knives to eliminate them!

I would have liked to have been able to arm them. With great difficulty, I kept them inside the school and left again for the hills.

The German shells were soon exploding in the evacuated part of the village. No one was hurt.

The British held their positions steadily throughout the day. They fought with coolness and accuracy.

All I had with me was my useless revolver as I lay beside a British officer who was firing a machine gun. I was trained as a machine gunner as a recruit, and I craved it childishly. I finally took it in my hands when he left it to eat prickly pears, which were growing close by. Those pears were our only food that day. He tried them after he saw that I, who had been eating them for some time, had not died.

We kept our position until late in the evening, taking turns firing the machine gun while the German bullets whistled over us. At that point, we were informed that we had surrendered.

I thought I misunderstood what the motorcyclist who screeched up to us had said. I couldn’t comprehend how 1,700 British could surrender to 450 Germans who had not advanced a single step.

I went down the hill and asked for an explanation from the Colonel in command of the British.

I have nothing to answer, he replied, looking in a very British way at the one little pip on my uniform.

Sir, I said while standing at attention, I have 300 unarmed Greek soldiers under my command, which your decision obliges me to surrender to the enemy. I am the only Greek officer in this area. I think you owe me the explanation I am asking for.

He turned and stared directly into my eyes.

The Germans captured 20 of my men, he answered. They sent word that they would execute them if we don’t surrender in half an hour.

Hand me over 300 rifles, sir, I said. We can attack by bayonet while you are surrendering. The Germans will have no time to react.

He looked at me condescendingly.

In an open field of 500 meters, no one ever attacks with bayonets. They will mow you down. Besides . . . I promised to surrender with my arms. There is nothing to be done.

Meanwhile, the British began boarding their trucks with shocking composure. I had to admire their self-control. They went to give up as if they were starting a parade.

I rushed to the Cretans.

It was in our destiny to be enslaved, I said. Scatter away. In fives at the most, not to be obvious. Get into the mountains to avoid being taken prisoner.

I turned to go to the mountain, but the local people wouldn’t let me. We will give you civilian clothes and hide you in our houses, they said.

I was terribly excited.

I will not take off my uniform, I screamed. I am not going to hide. I will go away . . .

They led me to a little house up the dark mountain.

Wait here, they said, and let’s see what happens. There is time for you to leave for higher up.

From up there we saw the headlights of the German vehicles as they entered Tolo. After such a long blackout, this bold illumination of our conquerors seemed to me strangely tragic. I was choked by pain and rage: pain without hope, rage without vent. Whatever I had tried to this point was now finished. Everything was now under enemy control.

Soon someone came up from the village and said that the Germans spoke to the people through an interpreter. The Germans had said that they liked the Greeks and were coming as friends. Only the British would be treated as prisoners of war, and it was strictly forbidden for the Greeks to hide them. The Greeks should go on about their work as before. The Greek officers and soldiers were free to circulate in uniform. Nobody would touch them. The Occupation authorities would give them any assistance needed to return home.

Come on, they said to me. See? There was no need to run to the mountains. Come down, now, just as you are.

Bring me civilian clothes, I said, to go down . . .

They thought that I had misunderstood the Germans’ concessions. When I insisted, they looked at me, wondering.

You are a strange man, they said. When we offered you civilian clothes to hide you, you didn’t want them. Now that they let you circulate in uniform, you want to take it off . . .

Finally, they sent word to the industrialist Papantoniou, and he brought me one of his suits. He also took me to his house. After such a long stint in the military, it was strange to find myself in a family home with his wife, their baby, and an elderly lady.

We were all quite upset. We were living amid circumstances unknown to us. I sympathized with the agony of a man with a family, worried by problems without solutions. I thought of my family in Athens. How would things be there? . . .

Heavy knocks surprised us, hammering the door. Papantoniou rushed and opened it himself. I heard the Germans speaking to him. I saw Papantoniou turn, terrified.

I don’t know, but I think that they want the house . . . Speak to them, please. You know their language. Tell them we have a newborn baby. Please, please . . .

I went into the corridor and spoke to the German officer. I pleaded with him. He had already posted the requisition notice on the door. He glanced, he saw the baby and smiled at me genially. He also praised my good German.

Very well, sir, he said. The house will not be requisitioned. Heil Hitler!

I bent my head slightly to return his salute. As I shut the door in front of me, I opened the kitchen door and shut myself in. A cry came to my throat and I couldn’t stop it. Between my heavy, uncontrollable sobs, Papantoniou tried to calm me.

Oh, no, my lieutenant . . . They are not worth it . . . Not you, our brave one . . . No . . .

The humiliation and dishonor I felt were unbearable. I was broken by the thought that a Greek officer, camouflaged in civilian clothes, had pleaded for — and accepted — the favor of an enemy who had come into his country as a conqueror.

In two or three days I left for Nafplion, still in civilian clothes, with Elias Papantoniou and a few others. My 300 Cretans had returned to Tolo and I wanted to report to my superiors and get orders for what to do about them.

As we passed our headquarters, I saw the General sitting in the garden. He was the tremendous one who had cursed us when we hid during the bombardments. Some officers stood around him. I asked my friends to wait outside the low fence. I entered the garden and reported myself officially.

Second Lieutenant Rigopoulos Rigas, I have the honor . . .

What’s this? he interrupted me. Is this the appearance of an officer? You have thrown away your uniform as soon as you found the occasion?

Outside the fence Papantoniou interrupted aggressively.

My general, he said, you can’t speak that way to the lieutenant. He was the only one who fought till the last moment in Tolo.

Did you fight in Tolo? the General interrupted again.

Yes, my General, I answered with a hidden satisfaction.

Who told you to fight? he roared. You expose us with such initiatives! Did you have such an order?

With lips trembling from restrained rage, I answered him: No, my General, I had no order. I only kept the officers’ oath: ‘To defend our arms and the flag till the last drop of my blood.’

He looked at me in confusion. For a while he didn’t say a word. Afterwards, with a low voice, he apologized: Lieutenant, the Germans are keeping me here under restraint. You are free to return home. I don’t know if I will see my family again. I am too upset. I take back what I said before. Please tell me what you have to report.

Nothing, my General. Allow me to be dismissed.

I saluted, standing at attention, and went out of the headquarters garden.

The next day I wore my uniform so that the Occupation authorities would allow me to leave for Athens. I presented myself and arranged the necessary documents. Going toward the railway station, I saw the British behind wire fences. Something was steaming in a huge cooking pot that the Germans had brought to them, and they rushed to meet the pot with obvious impatience. Who knows how long they had been without food. But then I saw them overturn the pot and dump it out in a rage. It contained only plain tea.

I went on my way feeling terrible revulsion about gaining my freedom through submissiveness, wearing my uniform which secured the protection of my enemies, acting polite during my obligatory contact with them, and having in my pocket the German permit and the ticket for Athens. An irresistible need for reaction grew in me with increasing intensity, and I felt unbearably suffocated by the anguish of my inability to do anything about it. Rage and shame boiled within me.

Thus, I departed with a troubled conscience. In two days I was in Athens.

Sketches of symbols on German vehicles

(the writing indicates their colors)

CHAPTER A

PREPARATIONS

AN UNUSUAL ATHENS

There are many who believe the Germans entered Athens like beasts. But beasts they were proven later.

In the beginning, their tactics and general attitude toward us were disciplined, in a deliberate program of good relations. One could see their obvious intention to befriend the Greeks, or at least to soften our first reactions.

I have spoken before about their initial friendly manifestations, where I saw them, and about their treatment of our military personnel in Tolo and in Nafplion. In my own contacts with the German authorities I met eager assistance and impeccable behavior. German sentries formally saluted Greek officers, and the German officers expressed their admiration for Greek bravery at every opportunity.

Our Führer, they would say, honors and respects the Greek people. You fought as was dictated by your duty.

This appreciation of our fighting virtues by warlike people like the Germans seemed to be sincere, in spite of the fact that this behavior stemmed from orders intended to facilitate the domination.

In Athens, the Germans’ attitude was similar.

The Occupation authorities used the Greek puppet government, which was immediately formed by the generals who had capitulated, as their mouthpiece. They promised safety and prosperity to the Greeks. It would be essential, with such promises, to put to rest the fighting spirit they knew they would face.

At the same time, they accused the Greek government, which had escaped abroad with the King, of both abandoning the Greek people and betraying them. These were easy accusations intended to divide the Greeks, a people inclined to internal strife.

German officers had orders to rise when receiving Greeks in their offices and to salute when they entered public places. We loved watching them, when they entered central pastry shops, stand by the entrance, stretch their arm, and stomp their foot in a Nazi salute. Of course, nobody responded. When the Italians took over the command not long thereafter, kids amused themselves by passing in front of the sentries again and again, saluting, and thereby making them snap to attention and tap their guns on the pavement.

Soon the Occupation authorities realized how unnecessary these ceremonious courtesies were and abolished them.

At any rate, Athenians showed from the beginning that they had no desire for friendly relations of any kind. Nor did they desire any kind of contact, no matter how necessary. They were certainly terrified by the idea that a foreign conqueror had stepped onto their land and was ruling as an absolute master. But they hid their fear with dignity, which they soon counterbalanced with a persistent animosity. They did not hesitate to show their aversion openly whenever the conquerors tried a friendly approach.

Reaction was something that emerged from the beginning, simply and spontaneously.

Just a glimpse of the Nazi flag with its swastika flying on the Acropolis was enough to upset us. Furthermore, the enemy uniforms that filled Athens, the black boots and the heavy, rhythmic stomping that echoed loudly in the night silence, the shouts and orders heard in a foreign language — all these, from one day to another, created a suffocating atmosphere under the Athenian sky, chilling us and keeping us in a continuous state of tension. Even the Germans’ marching songs, with their pleasing harmonic structure and characteristic staccato rhythm, were incompatible with our temperament. They displeased and infuriated us.

The first orders of the German Commandatur, without being unreasonable, revealed the hard tactics that would follow:

It is forbidden

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