Battle of Meligalas

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Battle of Meligalas
Part of the Greek Resistance
Date13–15 September 1944
LocationMeligalas, Messenia, Greece
37°13′N 21°58′E / 37.217°N 21.967°E / 37.217; 21.967
Result ELAS victory; execution of prisoners by ELAS and local peasants
Belligerents
Greek People's Liberation Army Security Battalions
Commanders and leaders
Giannis Michalopoulos (el)
Tasos Anastasopoulos
Kostas Basakidis (el)
Dimitris Perrotis  Executed
Dionysios Papadopoulos  (WIA(POW)
Nikos Theofanous
Panagiotis Benos  
Units involved
9th and 8th ELAS Regiments, elements of 11th Regiment elements, 9th Brigade staff, Reserve ELAS, Mavroskoufides (el)[1] Meligalas garrison
Strength
about 1,200 about 1,000
Casualties and losses
over 150 dead, 250 wounded[2] see below
Battle of Meligalas is located in Greece
Battle of Meligalas
Location within Greece

The Battle of Meligalas (Greek: Μάχη του Μελιγαλά, translit. Machi tou Meligala) took place at Meligalas in Messenia in southeastern Greece, on 13–15 September 1944, between the Greek Resistance forces of the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS) and the collaborationist Security Battalions.

During the Axis occupation of Greece, ELAS partisan forces began operating in the Peloponnese from 1942, and in 1943 began to establish their control over the area. To confront them, the German occupation authorities formed the Security Battalions, which took part not only in anti-guerrilla operations but also in mass reprisals against the local civilian population. With the liberation of Greece drawing near in 1944, the Security Battalions were increasingly targeted by ELAS.

Following the withdrawal of German forces from the Peloponnese in September 1944, a part of the collaborationist forces in Kalamata withdrew to the town of Meligalas, where a force of about 1,000 Battalionists gathered. There they were quickly surrounded by ELAS detachments, some 1,200 strong. After a three-day battle, the ELAS partisans broke through the fortifications and entered the town. The ELAS victory was followed by a massacre, during which a number of prisoners and a few civilians were executed near a well (πηγάδα). The number of executed people is variously estimated at between 700 and 1100 on different counts. After news of the massacre spread, the leadership of ELAS and of its political parent group, the National Liberation Front (EAM) took steps to ensure a peaceful transition of power in most of the country, limiting reprisal occurrences.

During the post-war period and following the Greek Civil War, the ruling right-wing establishment immortalized the Meligalas massacre as evidence of communist brutality, and memorialized the victims as patriotic heroes. Following the Metapolitefsi, the official support of this commemoration ceased. The massacre continues to be commemorated by the descendants and ideological sympathizers of the Security Battalions, and remains a point of reference and a rallying cry both for the far right and the left in Greece.

Political and military background[edit]

Emergence of the Resistance in occupied Messenia[edit]

Following the German invasion of Greece in April 1941, Adolf Hitler desired to quickly extricate German forces for the impending invasion of the Soviet Union. As a result, the largest portion of the occupied country, including the Peloponnese, came under Italian military control, apart from Western Thrace and eastern Macedonia, which came under Bulgarian control, as well as various strategically important areas (notably Athens and Piraeus, Crete, and Thessaloniki with Central Macedonia) that remained under German control.[3][4]

In the Kalamata Province the nascent, communist-led National Liberation Front (EAM) began its activity in 1942, promoting passive resistance to the unpopular confiscation of crops by the Italian military authorities, and began the first steps to form partisan troops.[5][6] The first left-wing groups formed across the Peloponnese, however, were limited to skirmishes with the Greek Gendarmerie and the Italian Army, and by the winter of 1942 they were almost all either destroyed or forced to evacuate to Central Greece.[7] In April 1943, when the Peloponnese was considered "partisan-free" by the occupation authorities, the wing commander Dimitris Michas, who had previously been imprisoned by the Italians, formed a new partisan group on orders from EAM. Following his first successes, and the arrival of reinforcements requested from the mainland, the group grew and began openly attacking Italian soldiers and their Greek informants.[7][8][9] By June 1943, the number of Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS) partisans in the Peloponnese reached about 500 men in total. Due to the lack of a central command and the difficulties of communication, they were dispersed and operated as quasi-autonomous groups.[10] In August 1943, according to a German intelligence report, partisan activity spiked in the mountainous areas of Messenia, where 800 men under Kostas Kanellopoulos operated.[11]

At the same time, in spring 1943 another Resistance group, the "Hellenic Army" (E.S.), formed by mostly royalist former officers, was established and formed its own small armed groups, which clashed with the Italians. Initially it declared itself a politically independent and neutral force, but after forging ties with royalist networks chiefly in the area and in Athens, it shifted to an anti-EAM stance by July.[12][11] The British made efforts to unify the local Resistance groups in the Peloponnese, but these failed, and in August 1943 E.S. clashed with ELAS, while some of its most prominent leaders, such as Dionysios Papadongonas (el) and possibly also Tilemachos Vrettakos, respectively sought collaboration with the Italian and German occupation authorities against ELAS. However, the apparent delay of German assistance, the losses suffered by Vrettakos' men in a clash with a German force at Pyrgaki, Arcadia (el), and the cessation of Allied air drops to both E.S. and ELAS, resulted in the defeat and dissolution of the former at the hands of the latter in October. This left EAM/ELAS as the sole organized Resistance force in the Peloponnese.[13][14]

German takeover and the establishment of the Security Battalions[edit]

German troops enter the formerly Italian zone, Corfu 1943

In the meantime, after the Italian capitulation in September 1943, the overall command of anti-partisan operations in the southern Peloponnese fell to the German major general Karl von Le Suire, commander of the 117th Jäger Division, which had been moved to the area in July. In October, Le Suire was named the sole military commander in the Peloponnese.[15] The town of Meligalas in northern Messenia, which under Italian occupation had housed a Carabinieri station, now became the seat of two German infantry companies.[16][17] The Italian capitulation led to the immediate and considerable reinforcement of ELAS in morale, personnel, and materiel,[18] and with British support ELAS forces began attacking German targets.[19] In the mountainous districts of the Peloponnese, representatives of EAM/ELAS, translated their monopoly of armed resistance into the exercise of authority, but faced difficulties with the mostly conservative and royalist local population.[20][21][22] Peasant disaffection was further fuelled by the requirement to feed the partisans amidst conditions of malnourishment and a general disruption of the agricultural production caused by the mounting hyperinflation and by the large-scale German anti-partisan sweeps (Säuberungen).[23][24] These operations involved reprisals against the civilian population, following a July order of the commander of the LXVIII Corps, Hellmuth Felmy.[25] In the Peloponnese, Le Suire carried these orders out with particular ruthlessness, particularly as the partisan threat mounted, resulting in the Kalavryta massacre in December.[26]

Soldier of the Security Battalions next to an executed civilian (1943)

In 1943, the German commanders in Greece concluded that their own forces were insufficient to suppress ELAS. As a result, and in order to "spare German blood", the decision was taken to recruit the anti-communist elements of Greek society to fight EAM.[27][28] Apart from the "Evzone Battalions" (Ευζωνικά Τάγματα) established by the collaborationist government of Ioannis Rallis, in autumn 1943 independent "Security Battalions" (Τάγματα Ασφαλείας, Τ.Α.) began being raised, particularly in the Peloponnese, where the political affiliations of a large part of the population and the violent dissolution of E.S. provided a broad recruitment pool of anti-communists.[29][30] By spring 1944, five battalions were formed and placed under the overall command of Papadongonas. One of them was the Kalamata Security Battalion (Τάγμα Ασφαλείας Καλαμών), based at Meligalas, which controlled the road from Kalamata to Tripolis and the entire area of the south.[17][29][31] The Security Battalions were subordinated to the Higher SS and Police Leader in Greece, Walter Schimana, but the development of relations of trust between the individual battalion commands and the local German authorities led to them enjoying a relative freedom of movement.[32][33] The Security Battalions served as garrisons in towns across the Peloponnese, but also increasingly participated in German anti-partisan operations; they chose those that would be executed among prisoners and themselves executed hostages as reprisals for partisan attacks on German targets (as happened after the execution of Major General Franz Krech by ELAS in April 1944),[34][35] gaining a reputation for lack of discipline and brutality.[36]

ELAS fighters

After suffering some early blows, ELAS managed to recover its influence, and from 1944 conducted constant sabotage on the supply routes used by the German army.[34][37] In April 1944, ELAS for the first time attacked a town held by a German garrison at Meligalas, but the assault was beaten back.[38] In the same month, EAM leader Georgios Siantos, following reports of indiscipline among the partisan forces in the Peloponnese, sent there Aris Velouchiotis as representative of the Political Committee of National Liberation (PEEA), EAM's newly established parallel government. Velouchiotis' task was to reorganize the 3rd ELAS Division, with a total strength of some 6,000 men.[39][40][41] Velouchiotis quickly imposed strict discipline, managing to reverse the decline in partisan numbers and increase the number of their attacks on enemy targets.[42] The deterioration of the military situation led Felmy to declare the Peloponnese as a combat zone in May, which allowed Le Suire to in turn declare martial law, limiting the civilian population's freedom of movement and assembly.[43][44] Nevertheless, the sweeps and reprisals by the Germans and their collaborators were not enough to reverse ELAS penetration of the countryside in Messenia and neighbouring Laconia.[45] In the area of Kalamata, where during the occupation thousands of homes were torched and about 1,500 people had been executed, the reprisals of the Security Battalions continued until late summer.[46] In late August, while clashes between the ELAS and the Germans had decreased, those between ELAS and the Security Battalions increased steadily.[47]

Position of the Greek collaborators[edit]

[...] never before was there such a fine line between the demand for vengeance and the call for justice, between anarchy and law [...]

Polish politician and theatre critic Jan Kott on the end of World War II, [48]

In November 1943, the Moscow Conference issued a joint "Statement on Atrocities" by the Allied leaders Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, concerning the prosecution and trial of those Germans responsible for war crimes against occupied nations. This also served as the basis for the condemnation of Axis collaborators in the occupied countries.[49] In the spirit of this declaration, the Greek government in exile announced the revocation of Greek nationality from the members of the collaborationist governments, while PEEA issued a legal act proscribing the death penalty for high treason to those who collaborated with the occupation authorities, including the members of the Security Battalions.[50] However, the burgeoning confrontation between EAM and the government in exile and its British backers, who at least since 1943 began to view EAM as an obstacle to their own plans for Britain's post-war role in Greece, led the British to consider the possibility of using the Security Battalions as part of the planned post-war national Greek army, or at least as a means of applying pressure and getting EAM to agree to support a national unity government. Thus, during negotiations on forming a new government, Georgios Papandreou, head of the government in exile, resisted the pressure of the PEEA delegates to publicly condemn the Security Battalions, arguing that this had already been done in the Lebanon Conference in May 1944, and in June he caused the Allied propaganda against the Security Battalions, both through the dropping of leaflets and through radio emissions, to be suspended.[51][52]

With the Red Army advancing in the Eastern Front and the invasion of Romania, on 23 August 1944 the German command decided to withdraw the 117th Division from the Peloponnese. Three days later the complete evacuation of German forces from mainland Greece was decided.[53][54] The British desired the maintenance of the status quo until the arrival of their forces and the Papandreou government, and above all wanted to avoid German arms and equipment from falling into the hands of the partisans.[55] On the other hand, EAM/ELAS and its supporters were eager for revenge on the remnants of the collaborationist Gendarmerie and the Security Battalions.[55] After the German troops withdrew from the Peloponnese, the position of their former allies became highly precarious, and fears of ELAS reprisals spread.[56] On 3 September, the military head of ELAS, Stefanos Sarafis, issued a proclamation calling upon the members of the Security Battalions to surrender with their weapons, in order to safeguard their lives.[57] On the same day the British lieutenant general Ronald Scobie, appointed joint commander-in-chief of all Greek forces, issued an order to his deputy in Athens, the Greek lieutenant general Panagiotis Spiliotopoulos, to recommend to the Security Battalions personnel to either desert or to surrender themselves to him, with the promise that they would be treated as regular prisoners of war. This order, however, either did not apply to the Security Battalions in the Peloponnese or was in the event ignored by them.[58] As EAM had joined the Papandreou government on 15 August, on 6 September a formal declaration of the new national unity government was issued, in which the members of the Security Battalions were designated as criminals against the fatherland, and called upon to "immediately abandon" their positions and join the Allies. At the same time, the declaration called on the Resistance forces to stop any acts of reprisal, insisting that dispensing justice was a right reserved by the state and not of "organizations and individuals", while promising that "the national nemesis will be implacable".[59][60][61]

German withdrawal and aftermath[edit]

Men of the Security Battalions rest in the countryside (1943)

During the last months of the German occupation, Walter Blume, the head of the German security police (SD) developed the so-called "chaos thesis", involving not only a thorough scorched earth policy, but also encouraging the slide of Greece into civil war and chaos. While Blume's more radical proposals concerning the elimination of the (mostly anti-communist and pro-British) pre-war political leadership were halted by more sober elements in the German leadership,[62] as they withdrew from the Peloponnese in early September, the Germans destroyed bridges and railway lines and left weapons and ammunition to the Security Battalions, laying the groundwork for a civil war with ELAS.[57]

Based on the denunciation of the Security Battalions by the national unity government, ELAS considered the Security Battalions as enemy formations.[56] At Pyrgos, the capital of Elis Prefecture, the commander of the local battalion, Georgios Kokkonis, announced that he placed his unit under the command of the exiled king George II and the national government. Kokkonis conducted negotiations with ELAS, trying to prevent its entry into the city before the arrival of an official government representative, while ELAS demanded the immediate disarmament of the unit. In the end, ELAS attacked on 9 September and after a bloody struggle seized the city on the next day.[63][64] At Tripolis, the negotiations between Colonel Papadongonas and 3rd ELAS Division quickly broke down. As the partisans surrounded the city, mining the roads and cutting off its water supply, and their own ammunition began to run out, the Battalionists descended into panic. Some defected, but the remainder installed a regime of terror in the city: anyone even suspected of ties to the partisans was imprisoned and Papadongonas threatened to blow them up if ELAS attacked, while his men mined the city and executed people on the streets. Nevertheless, Papadongonas was able to hold out until the end of September, when he surrendered to a British unit.[46]

Events in Messenia[edit]

At Kalamata, the Germans departed on 5 September, leaving the Gendarmerie as the sole official armed force in the city.[65] Using representatives of the Allied Middle East Headquarters as intermediaries, ELAS approached the prefect of Messenia, Dimitrios Perrotis, proposing the disarmament of the local Security Battalions and their confinement as prisoners until the arrival of the exiled national government. After the proposal was rejected, ELAS attacked the city at dawn of 9 September.[66] As the partisans overcame the Battalionists' resistance, large numbers of local civilians began arriving in the city to take revenge on them.[67] About 100–120 Battalionists, under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Nikos Theofanous and Perrotis, managed to escape the city via the unguarded railway line and sought refuge at Meligalas. A strong force of c. 800 Security Battalion men was already ensconced there, and was further reinforced by another 100–120 men who arrived from Kopanaki on 11 September.[68]

Consequently, the capture of Meligalas assumed a major importance for ELAS in its bid to secure its control over the Peloponnese. The archimandrite Ioil Giannakopoulos (el) along with two British officers, went to the town to deliver a proposal for the disarmament of the Battalionists and their transfer to a secure prisoner camp until the arrival of the government, in order to secure life and property for themselves and their families, but Perrotis rejected it. Pleas by relatives of the Battalionists who arrived from nearby villages had a similar fate.[69]

Battle of Meligalas[edit]

The Battalionists installed a heavy machine gun in the clock tower of the main church in Meligalas, Agios Ilias, and distributed the c. 50 light machine guns they possessed in houses around the church and in semi-circular ramparts around the paddock of Meligalas.[70] ELAS forces, numbering c. 1,200 men from the 8th and 9th Regiments, launched their attack on the morning of 13 September.[71] The attack followed a plan laid down with the participation of Giannis Michalopoulos (el) (nom de guerre "Orion") from the staff of the 9th ELAS Brigade: 2/9 Battalion assumed the sector between the Meligalas–Anthousa and Meligalas–Neochori roads, 1/9 Battalion assumed the sector northeast of Profitis Ilias height, 3/9 Battalion the northern sector up to the road towards Meropi, and 1/8 Battalion the eastern plain until the road to Skala. At the Skala heights, ELAS also positioned its sole 10.5 cm gun (lacking a gun carriage), commanded by the artillery captain Kostas Kalogeropoulos.[71] The ELAS plan aimed at the rapid advance of 2/9 Battalion, under Captain Tasos Anastasopoulos ("Kolopilalas") from the edge of the settlement to the main square, so that the Agios Ilias fort could be attacked on two sides.[72]

The attackers, however, encountered a minefield of improvised mines (boxes with dynamite) planted by the Battalionists the previous afternoon and evening, during the negotiations with ELAS.[73] A new plan was made, aiming at the storming of Agios Ilias by a company od 2/9 Battalion under Kostas Basakidis (el).[74] This new assault forced the Battalionists to dismount the heavy machine gun from the clock, while the attack of 1/8 Battalion forced the garrison of the railway station to retreat to the bedesten, where a number of EAM sympathizers were being held hostage. From the afternoon to nightfall, the lines of the combatants remained the same, but the losses suffered by the Battalionists led to a fall in their morale and unwillingness to continue the battle.[75] Their commander, Major Dionysios Papadopulos, sent a delegation to request aid from Panagiotis Stoupas in nearby Gargalianoi, but the delegates abandoned their mission as soon as they left Meligalas.[76]

At noon of 14 September, a group of 30 partisans attacked by throwing German Teller mines on the barbed wire protecting Agios Ilias, but was repulsed amidst a hail of fire by the Battalionists. A squad under Basakidis managed to breach the barricades of the defenders, but left without support, they were thrown back in a counterattack led by the sergeant major Panagiotis Benos.[77] The sight of wounded ELAS fighters, and news of a murder committed by Battalionists heightened the hostile mood among the civilians observing the battle from nearby.[78]

On the morning of 15 September, the leaders of the Security Battalions met in council. Major Papadopoulos proposed attempting a breakthrough in the direction of Gargalianoi, but the council was abruptly interrupted when the house was hit by a mortar bomb. In addition, rumours of the breakthrough plan were spread by Perrotis' men, panicking the wounded Battalionists, but also the imprisoned EAM sympathizers.[79] The council was terminated for good following a new ELAS attack on Agios Ilias, during which Basakidis' men, using hand grenades and submachine guns, managed to push the Battalionists back. From their new positions, four ELAS partisans began firing with their light machine guns into the interior of the town, while on the sector of 1/8 Battalion, Battalionists began raising white flags in surrender. A few dozen Battalionists under Major Kazakos tried to escape to the south and thence to Derveni, but suffered heavy casualties from the Reserve ELAS, the Mavroskoufides (el) (Velouchiotis' personal guard), and a squad of 11th ELAS Regiment at the heights near Anthousa.[80]

Reprisals and executions[edit]

The lawyer Vasilis Bravos, head of the ELAS court martial that ordered the executions at the well.

The end of the battle was followed by the invasion of Meligalas by civilians, and an unchecked plunder and massacre.[81] According to a contemporary report preserved in the archives of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), these were inhabitants of the village of Skala, which had been torched by the German army.[82] Among the captive Battalionists held in the bedesten, Velouchiotis—who arrived at Meligalas shortly after the end of the battle with his personal escort[83]—recognized a gendarme whom he had previously arrested and then released, and ordered his execution.[84] The first reprisal wave, tacitly encouraged by ELAS through the deliberately loose guarding of its captives,[85] was followed by a series of organized executions.[17][84]

A partisan court martial was set up in the town, headed by the lawyers Vasilis Bravos and Ioannis Karamouzis (el). This court summarily condemned not only the c. 60 officers and other leaders of the Battalions—lists with their names had been provided by local EAM cells—but also many others, including for reasons having more to do with personal differences rather than any crime committed. The executions took place at an abandoned well ("πηγάδα") outside the town.[17][86] According to usual practice, to avoid the executioners being recognized, the executions were carried out by an ELAS detachment from a different area, most likely a squad of 8th Regiment, whose men hailed from the area of Kosmas and Tsitalia in Arcadia.[87]

On 17 September Velouchiotis moved to Kalamata,[83] where Perrotis and other collaborationist officials were also brought. At the central square of the city, the enraged crowd broke the ranks of the ELAS militia and lynched some of the prisoners, while twelve of them were hung from lampposts.[56][46]

Casualty estimates[edit]

The cemetery of the victims of the massacre

In an ELAS communique of 26 September 1944, Major General Emmanouil Mantakas reported that "800 Rallides [the derogatory nickname for the Battalionists, after the collaborationist PM Ioannis Rallis] were killed",[88] a number repeated by Stefanos Sarafis in his own book on ELAS.[89] A Red Cross report, which generally tried to be as objective as possible, stated that the number of dead "exceeded 1,000",[90] while a year later, the team of the noted Greek coroner Dimitrios Kapsaskis (el) reported that it recovered 708 corpses from Meligalas.[91]

The post-war right-wing establishment insisted on a considerably higher tally, with estimates ranging from 1,110 to over 2,500 victims. Thus the National Radical Union politician Kosmas Antonopoulos, whose father had been executed by ELAS, wrote about 2,100 executed people at Meligalas, although he cites data for 699 people.[17][92] In contrast, authors sympathetic to EAM reduce the number of executions considerably: the most detailed account calculates 120 killed in action and 280–350 executed.[17] Ilias Theodoropoulos, whose brother was killed in Meligalas, in his book (distributed by the "Society of Victims of the Meligalas Well") mentions from 1,500 to over 2,000 dead, and provides a list with 1,144 names (of whom 108 from Meligalas) of those killed in action and those executed by ELAS (including some of those lynched in Kalamata, such as Perrotis).[93] Among the victims are 18 elderly,[17] 22 women and 9 adolescents (8 boys and a girl),[93] while all the rest—with some exceptions where age is not mentioned[93]—are men of fighting age.[17][94]

Aftermath[edit]

The events at Meligalas and Kalamata were detrimental to EAM, whose leadership initially denied that any massacre had taken place, only to be forced to acknowledge it later and issue a condemnation. The more moderate leaders of EAM, Alexandros Svolos and Sarafis, insisted that they faithfully carried out the orders of the national unity government, and issued orders to "stop all executions".[56]

These events demonstrated the willingness of ELAS to take into account significant losses in order to gain control before the arrival of British forces, and its ability to succeed in this goal, led to a shift in British policy: the British liaison officers in the Peloponnese, who until then were under orders not to get involved in events, were now directed to intervene to secure the surrender, safekeeping, and delivery of the Security Battalions' weapons to British forces, to avoid them falling in the hands of ELAS.[95] As a result, due to the mediation of British liaisons, the Red Cross, representatives of the Papandreou government, or even the local EAM authorities, in many towns of Central Greece and the Peloponnese the Security Battalions surrendered without resistance or bloodshed.[96] There were nevertheless several cases where Battalionists, having surrendered, were killed, either by ELAS partisans, or by civilian mobs and relatives of Battalionist victims, as at Pylos or in some places in northern Greece. This was mainly the result of the widespread desire for vengeance among the population, but some cases involved the co-operation or even instigation of EAM cadres.[97] The social polarization between EAM and its opponents, both Liberal and nationalist anti-communists, resulted in the adoption of a sort of double speak. EAM proclaimed that it supported order and the restoration of government authority, while at the same time launching a large-scale bloody extrajudicial purge, in order to secure its political domination before the arrival of the British forces, improve its negotiating position within the government, and satisfy the popular demand for revenge, so as to then demonstrate self-restraint and respect before the law. EAM's rivals on the other hand guaranteed its participation in the government while simultaneously trying to preserve the lives of the collaborationists.[98]

In general, however, in the power vacuum in the wake of the German withdrawal, the EAM/ELAS officials who assumed control tried to impose order, preventing rioting and looting, and resisted calls for revenge by the populace. According to Mark Mazower, "ELAS rule was as orderly as was to be expected in the extraordinary circumstances that prevailed. Passions ran high, and intense suspicions were mingled with euphoria". Furthermore, EAM/ELAS was not a monolithic or tightly controlled organization, and its representatives displayed a variety of behaviour; as British observers noted, in some areas ELAS maintained order "fairly and impartially", while abusing their power in others.[99] When British forces landed in the Peloponnese, they found the National Civil Guard, created by EAM in late summer to assume policing duties from the partisans and replace the discredited collaborationist Gendarmerie, maintained control and order. In Patras, for example, Joint patrols of British soldiers and Civil Guard men were carried out until November 1944.[56] Reprisals were also a common phenomenon in other European countries that suffered under Nazi occupation, from the mass expulsion of the Germans in eastern Europe to mass executions of collaborationists: over 10,000 in France, and between 12,000 and 20,000 in Italy.[100][101]

On 26 September 1944, the Caserta Agreement was signed by Papandreou, EDES leader Napoleon Zervas, Sarafis on behalf of ELAS, and Scobie. The agreement placed ELAS and EDES under Scobie's overall command, and designated the Security Battalions as "instruments of the enemy", ordering that they were to be treated as hostile forces if they did not surrender. After the agreement was signed, Scobie ordered his officers to intervene in order to protect the Battalionists, disarming them and confining them under guard.[102][103]

Following the Liberation of Greece in October 1944, in some occasions the families of Meligalas victims received pensions based on the collaborationist government's law 927/1943 on military and civil officials murdered "by anarchist elements" during the execution of their duties, a law which was retained by the post-war governments.[104]

Commemoration[edit]

Since September 1945, an annual memorial service for the victims takes place. It is organized by the local authorities and has official representation, including government members during the Greek military junta.[17]

The Meligalas events were utilized politically and ideologically.[105] The right-wing establishment after the Greek Civil War represented Meligalas as a symbol of "communist barbarity",[106] while the Battalionists were commemorated exclusively as opponents or victims of the communists, since the post-war Greek state drew its legitimacy not from the collaborationist government, but from the government in exile. In newspaper announcements for the annual service and the speeches held there, every mention of the victims' membership in the Security Battalions was omitted; instead, they were referred to as "murdered ethnikofrones [national-minded persons]" or "patriots".[107]

In 1982, following the electoral victory of the socialist PASOK in 1981, the Ministry of the Interior declared that these commemorations were promoting intolerance and for 40 years had been promoting division, and decided the cessation of official authorities in the memorial service. Its organization henceforth was undertaken by the "Society of Victims of the Meligalas Well" (Σύλλογος Θυμάτων Πηγάδας Μελιγαλά), established in 1980. The relative marginalization of the memorial service was accompanied by the transformation of the speeches from celebratory to apologetic for the victims' role in the Security Battalions. In recent times, the service is attended by relatives of the victims and by far-right or even neo-Nazi groupings such as Golden Dawn.[17][108]

A 2011 graffiti of the "EAM-ELAS-Meligalas" slogan at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

In the early 1980s, the Meligalas events became a point of reference in confrontations between university students close to the "Rigas Feraios" communist youth movement (el) and the Leftist Clusters on the one side and the right-wing ONNED youth organization and its student wing, DAP-NDFK. After the PASOK government officially recognized EAM's contribution in the Greek Resistance in 1982, "Rigas Feraios" members coined the slogan "EAM-ELAS-Meligalas" ("ΕΑΜ-ΕΛΑΣ-Μελιγαλάς") as a counter to the positive portrayal of the Battalionists by the right-wing groups.[105] The slogan remained current in the university students' conference of 1992, following Civil War-era and anti-communist slogans used by DAP.[109] In the late 2000s, when the political slogans and rhetoric of the 1940s increasingly resurfaced in Greek political discourse,[110] and with Golden Dawn's entry into the Greek Parliament in 2012, the Meligalas events were re-evaluated in a positive light by the Greek left as an example of militant anti-fascist action. Reference to them is now commonly combined with typically anti-authoritarian slogans.[109]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Moutoulas 2004, pp. 574, 579.
  2. ^ Lymberatos 2009, p. 93 note 170.
  3. ^ Mazower 1993, pp. 19–22.
  4. ^ Mayer 2004, pp. 36–37.
  5. ^ Mazower 1993, p. 112.
  6. ^ Mayer 2004, p. 97.
  7. ^ a b Fleischer 1995, pp. 98–99.
  8. ^ Mazower 1993, p. 113.
  9. ^ Mayer 2004, pp. 97, 134–135, 182–183.
  10. ^ Mayer 2004, pp. 125, 187–188.
  11. ^ a b Mayer 2004, p. 158.
  12. ^ Fleischer 1995, pp. 95–98, 109.
  13. ^ Mayer 2004, pp. 194, 201–204.
  14. ^ Fleischer 1995, pp. 97, 100–108, 109–110.
  15. ^ Mayer 2004, pp. 90, 117–118, 170, 228.
  16. ^ Kousouris 2014, p. 110.
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  105. ^ a b Giannis N. Boskozos (23 September 2012). "Ο Μελιγαλάς και ο «μύθος» του. Τα συνθήματα ένθεν κακείθεν που έγραψαν Ιστορία και οι σύγχρονοι νοσταλγοί του εμφύλιου μίσους" [Meligalas and its "legend". The slogans on both sides that wrote history, and those nostalgic of civil hatred]. To Vima (in Greek). Retrieved 30 August 2018. 
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