May Day, the Athens 2009 Sequel
Part of my ZNet Commentary of May 5, 2009 ("May Day of Pain and Hope") was dedicated to the execution of 200 Greeks who were detainees at the "Haidari" Nazi concentration camp, on May Day of 1944. The execution took place at "Kesariani", a neighborhood close to the center of Athens.
Sixty-five years have gone by since 1944. As usual, a commemoration ceremony was held both in Haidari and in Kesariani to honor the 200 dead. A brief description of the ceremonies is quite interesting and possibly quite instructive.
"Entering Athens from the West one meets on his left an area called Haidari... For all of us living in Athens during the 1941-1944 Nazi occupation the name of 'Haidari' was a synonym for death. Haidari was a concentration camp run by the Nazi SS..." Today, on part of the grounds of Haidari a hospital was built, while the rest was turned into a training base for the Greek Army.
The Nazi concentration camp of Haidari consisted of 21 small and large buildings. Part of building No. 16 (Block 16) was used as disciplinary isolation unit for women detainees. "All women put into the isolation unit [Block 16] were never to be seen again", words of Anthony I. Floutzis in his book "Haidari", of 1974, page 23. Floutzis, a doctor, was one of the survivors of Haidari. Hitler, a kindly "father figure", took care of the "comfort" of his SS elite unites, as did Hirohito who used Korean "comfort women" for his troops. Has anyone thought to investigate the "comfort" situation of the US troops of W. Bush [or now of Obama] in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, etc? Is not Michelle Obama the right person to feel the pain of the women of the world that undergo the same treatment by the US troops as did the Greek women of Block 16 by the SS? If she does not know what is, "possibly", going on in these places, is not she in a position to know? The same holds for Nancy Pelosi. All the ladies have to do is ask ConDolcezza Rice!
Next to Block 16, at Haidari, there was "Block 15", the isolation unit for men. Today, the only building that had not been demolished is the building of Block 15. A two-story building with masonry walls, which is situated in the army- base part of the grounds. There is an effort going on to have "Block 15" designated by the United Nations as a building belonging to the "human heritage", or something.
On Saturday, May 16, 2009, on 5:30 p.m. a commemoration ceremony was held in front of Block 15 for the 65th anniversary of the execution of the 200. Present were about 50 persons. About 20 of them were officials. There were the usual speeches, laying of wreaths, etc.
The entire event was an opportunity for an instructive observation of the "fabric" of a parliamentary democracy of the 21st century, the "contemporary" Greek Democracy. The peak point of the event was the laying of wreaths at the steps of the entrance to Block 15. Wreaths were laid by the representatives of the parties in the Greek Parliament. The governing rightist party of "New Democracy" ["New"(!) democracy? What constitutes an "old" democracy?], the "socialist" party [the "opposition"!], the Communist Party, and the "Coalition of the Radical Left" [formerly euro- communists]. Missing was the representative of the neo-Nazi party, who obviously did not dare appear at such an event.
The communists had the right to lay a wreath, as the 200 executed by the Nazis were communists. The "socialists", basically a rightist party, were there pretending that they "cared" about the 200 dead. Their representative, a fellow civil engineer of mine, did his "duty" and laid a wreath. And then, there was the representative of the "New Democracy", the rightist party whose forerunners had handed the 200 to the Nazis in 1941, when the Nazis entered Greece as occupiers. The rightists were represented by a youngish lady, member of Parliament for New Democracy, elegantly dressed in a stunning red dress [ I suppose to honor the commies!] and high heels, who proudly and with profuse confidence walked to the steps of Block 15 [in spite of the difficulties presented by the high heels on the irregular rather gravelly soil surface] and laid the wreath on behalf of the "conservative" part of the Greek population.
Finally, the representative for the "Coalition", Pericles Korovesis, a member of Parliament, walks to the steps, lays the wreath, and kneels in front of Block 15. He is the only one who has the "right" to do that. During the 1967 US- instigated military dictatorship, Korovesis was arrested by the Greek security police and brutally tortured. He described this experience in a 109-page booklet, "Anthropophylakes" ["Guards of Humans"], which was published in Greek in 1974. This booklet could be a helpful manual for any person investigating the torture "feats" of the W. Bush gang.
Observing the way the memory of the death of the 200 was "used" by the "mainstream" parties of a Parliamentary system for political gain, one is prompted to ask: what could have been the treatment of the memory of such a tragic event, as the execution of the 200 by the Nazis, in a pareconish society.
I think that the moral core of a pareconish society would not allow people who not only do not give a shit about the death of the 200, but who bear the same ideology as those that handed the 200 to the Nazis, to, even, be present in front of Block 15. The elimination of cynicism and hypocrisy is a vital part of the pareconish moral core.
The neighborhood of Kesariani (now a mayoralty) lies about a few hundred yards from the "Athens Hilton" hotel on the east side of Athens. The name Kesariani ["Kaesariani" in refined Greek] comes from a Christian monastery that was built in the area by the Byzantines in the 11th century. In the classical times at the site there was a temple dedicated to...Venus, as there was a spring there the water of which was supposed to help barren women. Even Ovid had written about the temple. As usual, the Christians demolished the Venus temple and built a monastery. Then in the middle of the 19th century Otto, the Bavarian Catholic Christian, imposed as a king on the Greeks, closed the Orthodox Christian monastery.
In the early 1920s the Greeks were "ordered" by the Great Powers to invade Turkey through Asia Minor. The Turks resisted and drove the Greek population of Asia Minor to the Greek mainland as refugees. Some of the refugees were housed in 1923 in a group of buildings that became the Kesariani neighborhood, and which, eventually, became a bastion of the Left.
On Sunday, May 17, 2009, on 10 a.m. there was the annual commemoration at the site of the execution of the 200 at Kesariani. Again, there were about 50 persons at the ceremony, of which about 20 were the officials. And, again, there was laying of wreaths by the representatives (different ones than Haidari) of the four parties as above, etc. The mayor of Kesariani gave a speech on the 200 and a brief analysis of the present world situation. An analysis which would be applauded by any honest American.
However, the ceremony at Kesariani had a development of paramount importance. Present at the ceremony was the ambassador of Germany to Greece, Dr. Wolfgang Schultheiss! Laying a wreath by the ambassador was just a formality. What is important is the fact that he had the courage to attend that specific ceremony and the fact that there could not be a public relations factor in his presence, as the ceremony, after almost three generations, is not even mentioned in the media.
I left the site with the feeling that Dr. Schultheiss was really moved by the sight of men and women in their advanced 90s, who walked with difficulty or could barely stand, give short speeches at the podium to honor their executed comrades or relatives, as did a woman of advanced age who recited a poem dedicated to her executed brother.
Yet, even if the German ambassador had the courage to attend the ceremony for the 200, the Greek neo-Nazis made their cowardly presence felt. As I walked by the masonry wall that encloses the execution site at an area which is a bit isolated I found on the ground about 15 neo-Nazi leaflets, probably thrown there in haste. The leaflets were 5" by 7" and were printed in black on both sides. One the front side it had the sign of the German neo-Nazis, a Christian cross superimposed on a circle, and printed was the title: "Autonomous Network of Nationalists". On the back side it was printed: "The Workers Have Fatherland. Long Live the Greek May Day". That the neo-Nazis write "Long Live" the (Haymarket) May Day is idiotic. Yet, these are murderous idiots. In Greece, as in Italy, Germany, etc, they have started to attack immigrants.
The insistence on relating the events about the execution of the 200 could be taken as an effort to appeal to "strong emotions". No, Haidari and Kesariani relate to what is happening in the world this very moment. There are dozens of "200"-cases taking place in the world every day thanks to the efforts of the pious "Leaders" of the world. It is about time for all of us to start thinking about doing something. One way to start is by installing a new Nuremberg!