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10 April 2010

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Perry

My parents have told me of this horrible time. Luckily, they lived in the horio and were able to feed themselves, and also some relatives who made it there from Athens. In a recent trip to Greece, I asked my uncle (then over 80 years old) what experiences shaped his life. His one word answer came without hesitation: HUNGER!

Stavros

Perry,

I too have listened raptly to many accounts of that time. My mother in law was 10 years old in 1942. She had two younger brothers. Her father died in the famine. Her mother kept the family together and somehow they all survived. They lived in a one room shack which was burned to the ground along with all their meager possessions during the Dekemvriana.

The lessons learned in the school of poverty are not easily forgotten.

elias

Hunger, hunger, hunger.Every morning when daylight arrived, one would find corpses in the street. At night one would hear the muffled sounds and cries of " voithia, pina",from indigent Greeks, by dawn the sounds and cries had died down in corpses. The main culprit were the so called allies, the British which clamped a merciless and ruthless blockade for Greeks to suffer , and in their view to egg them into revolts and guerrilla insurrection . For the Germans there was nothing to plunder in Greece. Greece is rocks and water. An occupation is a terrible thing. At least in 41-44 everyone knew that sooner or later the occupational forces, Ita's and Germans would leave and go; unlike the occupation Greece is suffering today trampled underfoot by millions of immigrants, who will never leave and depart, but continue to grow and augment their numbers consolidating their occupation into a permanent condition.

It is noteworthy that the German troops, stories to the contrary, were fed and supplied via Italy and the north.They could not feed themselves in Greece. German soldiers'ration serving in the Western countries, amounted to 10 packets of cigarettes a month ( in Greece only 1 packet) 7 kg of meat a month ( in Greece 1.5 Kg) 30 bars of chocolates a month ( in Greece 8 ). It was not fun for the Deutchen soldaten to serve in the occupation of Greece. In contrast the Italians had a princely existence. Their supplies of pasta and farinaceous was limited but plentiful to go around to share with their "girlfriends". The Italian soldiers were tourists in Greece, flaunting their skinny wallets and chasing skirts instead of enemy forces. The british bastards who clammed the blockade needed to die a merciless death, not the innocent Greeks. That is why when my papu sees a british tourist, goes ballistic and wants them out of sight.

N.Kanavis

Stavro,
First I have to tell you that I enjoy your essays and commentary on Greek life and the history of Greece and its people. At times they bring merriment and at other times painful reminders that have been etched in our memories.
For me, living in Greece during the German occupation has left indelible memories of fear,hunger, depravation and disgust for the inhumanity of a so-called "civilized"people.
I was in my early teens when the Germans came to Thessaloniki. My father was a reserve officer in the Greek Navy and he was stranded in one of the islands after the Battle of Crete.The Germans requisitioned our house and we had to move with relatives, three families crowded into a small apartment.Food was difficult to get, the Germans requisitioned most of the meat and fishing became impossible in the mined gulf.The government of the Greek collaborators was forced to pay the cost of the occupation so inflation reached meteoric proportions.What meager food was available was in the black market and then only with valuables, not inflated million-drachma notes.
I remember 1942 and the hunger, the fear, the despair. But for Thessaloniki the worst was to come.The Holocaust followed.Our neighbors had to wear the yellow star,their besiness expropriated and later saw my childhood friends led like cattle to die in the creamatoria. I remember our mothers telling us that if we were randomly picked on the street to show that we were not circumcised.It has been 70 years since and the memories remain indelibly etched in the mind and the heart.
So it is with some disgust that I read Elia's frivolous comments. Am I to feel sorry for the German occupier who got only 8 chocolates per month and only 1.5 kilos of meat? They had the power and authority to requisition and expropriate anything they wanted...and they did! Indeed, there was a blockade but where was the food to come from for the Greek population and would the Germans have allowed it ? Later in 1943-44 when the International Red Cross (I remember the Swedes) brought some food the collaborators and Security Battalions saw to the distribution and much was sold in the black market.
Blaming a poor British tourist and romanticizing the Italian occupation it seems to me ludicrous and a complete distortion of historical facts.I do recommend to Elias and to others Mark Mazower's "Inside Hitler's Greece", Kostas Stassinopoulos "Modern Greeks:Greece in WWII.." and for my fellow Thessalonians Mazower's "Salonika, City of Ghosts: Christians,Muslims and Jews,1430-1950"

Stavros

Mr. Kanavis,

Thank you. Glad to hear from you again and I apologize for dredging up events in your life that I'm sure even now are a source of pain. I appreciate you taking the time to write about them. I agree that Mazower has done a good job of documenting what for most people like myself is second hand information.

There is no doubt that the Germans looted Greece to such an extent that they precipitated the famine. An act of indifference and selfishness but it was not an intentional effort to exterminate the Greek population. That effort was focused, of course, on the Greek Jews.

The Germans blamed the famine on the the British blockade. It was a misguided effort by Whitehall to use one of the few weapons it had against the Germans in occupied Europe. It was indeed the outcry in the USA and in Great Britain among the public that contributed to its eventual lifting. In particular, the issue was highly publicized by Greek-American Relief organizations.

Elias,

Thanks for commenting. I find that much of history is inevitably dependent on trying to understand the viewpoints of those who actually lived it. Their experiences may differ based on time, place and a variety of other factors. In studying history so that we derive some use from it we must understand all the elements that shaped it. I have no doubt that your papou, from his vantage point, believed the British were to blame. History can often be very complicated. From my reading, and I don't profess to be an expert, far from it, a combination of factors contributed to the famine.

One of the reasons I decided to post this excerpt is because history shapes a people; in order to understand them, one must understand their history.

maria v

i just bought this book myself
here's my post about hunger in crete during ww2:
http://organicallycooked.blogspot.com/2010/02/war.html

Stavros

Hi Maria,

Good to hear from you. I very much enjoy reading your posts, especially this one. Hope you and your family are well.

Kristina

It was not until after my father death that I understood he had survived as a young boy a famine.

Among his stories were how he followed a woman home because she offered him chocolate. He recounted he didn't remember if he stayed with her for days, weeks or months but so great was his hunger that he forgot he had a mother and father, and forgot he had siblings until one day he heard his brothers calling for him in the streets.

Anyone have suggested reading on this?

Stavros

Kristina,

The Greek sources are probably your best bet. Inside Hitler's Greece by Mazower is the best book in English I have read on the subject.

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