“Major Nazi Camps in Europe, 1943- 1944”

By Bozena Nowak

The first Nazi concentration camps were created in 1933 in Germany, first one in March 1933 in Dachau, and were intended to hold political prisoners and opponents of the regime.

After 1939, when the Second World War has begun, concentration camps spread throughout Europe.  New camps were built near centres of dense “undesirable” populations, often focusing areas with large communities of Jews, Polish intelligentsia, Communists or Roma. This was one of the reasons of creating concentration camps also in Thessaloniki, where lived two main groups of Greek Jews; the Romaniote communities and the approximately 50,000-strong Sephardi Jewish community. Camps became a place where the Nazi opponents were enslaved, starved, tortured and killed.

Holocaust scholars draw a distinction between different kinds of camps.  According to Moshe Lifshitz’  work they divided  into;  Hostage Camps, Labor Camps, POW ( Soviet Prisoners of War)  Camps, Camps for rehabilitation and re- education of Poles, Transit and collection camps and Extermination Camps.

Major Nazi camps in Europe, Buchenwald indicated, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo

The two largest groups containing prisoners in the camps, both numbering in the millions, were Jews and the Soviet prisoners of war. The other large groups constituted of Roma, Poles, political prisoners, homosexuals, people with different disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic Clergy, Eastern European intellectuals, and other- including common criminals.

In most camps, prisoners were forced to wear identifying overalls with colored badges according to their categorization: red triangles for Communists and other political prisoners, green triangles for common criminals, pink for homosexual men, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses, black for Gypsies, and yellow for Jews.

Projects proposal of transforming the former Concentration Camp Pavlou Mela into a Metropolitan Park providing different social activities & memoral uses. In period of 1940 -1944 Pavlou Mela Camp used to be a place of executions and tortures of Nazi victims.

Holocaust of Greek Jewry

By Bozena Nowak, Peny Kouloglou

The Greek Jewry is the oldest Jewish community in Europe. It devides into two groups- one Greek- speaking Romaniots, who lived for one or two millennia under a host of masters, and the other -Judeo- Spanish- speaking Sephardim, who lived under Ottoman domination since the 16th century.

At the beginning of the Second World War the Jewish population in Greece numbered approximately 100,000 people.  In April 1941, the country was conquered by the Axis powers and as a result divided between three countries – Germany, Bulgaria and Italy. From the first moment severe anti-Jewish regulation took place. The Axis powers entered Thessaloniki on April 9, 1941. After 2000 years Jews were forced to live in certain ghettos and most of them were immediately deported to extermination camps. 43,850 Jews, 95% of the Jewish population, were deported from Thessaloniki, very few of them found refuge in the countryside. In September 1943 Nazi authorities started deporting Jews from former Italian occupied territories, including Athens. Thanks to a quick reaction of Greek Jewish community leaders as well as help of the non-Jewish Greeks and the Christian Orthodox Church, 50 percent of the Jewish inhabitants of Athens managed to flee or survive in hiding.

In total, at least 81% (ca. 60,000) of Greece’s total pre-war Jewish population perished, with the percentage ranging from Thessaloniki’s 91% to 36% in Volos. In the Bulgarian zone, death rates surpassed 90%. In Athens the rate riched ‘50%. The loss of Greek Jewry during the Holocaust was exceeded only by that of Poland.

Several factors contributed the loss of such a large number of Jews from Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki was under direct German occupation. The Jewish community was highly concentrated in the city. Jews had no idea that they were going to killing centers; they believed the German subterfuge that they were going to work in Poland. Because the Jews of Thessaloniki spoke Ladino, their spoken Greek was easily distinguishable. While the possibility of escape existed, most Jews, fearing separation from their families, did not take advantage of the available escape options.

The main concentration camps in Nazi- occupied Greece were located in; Haidari, Salonika, Ioannina, Volos, Kastoria, Zakynthos, Rhodes and Corfu.

Those numbers are terrifying. Questions how many Jews were in Greece before the war, how many were killed both in camps and elsewhere, how many survived, how many emigrated afterwards, etc., etc. are important to answer, however they should not cover the most significiant fact that people, not numbers, were involved.

Persecutions - Summer 1942

The German army left Greece in August 1944 and after that a civil war followed the already war-torn Greece. The post-war Greek Jewish community, situated between Athens and Greece, numbered only 9000 from 100.000 before the war. A significant number wanted to repatriate back to Greece but with the return had to confront not only the destruction of their house or the occupation by others but also harsh economic conditions. Many of the Jewish survivors were forced by this situation to emigrate to Israel and the U.S. The community, especially Thessaloniki’s community, decreased in number and power but never lost its strength and will to survive even under harsh circumstances.

Continuing talking about Thessaloniki’s Jewish community today there is an organized community with two synagogues in use. There is freedom of expression and religious beliefs and live among the rest population in peace and harmony as it used to be. Religious services take place every day and on High Holidays. The children of the community begin their schooling in the Jewish kindergarten and elementary school. Their secondary education follows in Greek schools with the assistance of Israeli teachers. There are two youth clubs and a community center for all the ages. The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki is striving today to provide all the means to its members in order to enhance their Jewish experience.

Photo stories

By Bozena Nowak

On July 11th 1942, 9000 men of Jewish origin aged 18-45 were ordered by the German occupation army to come to Eleftheria (Freedom) Square to be registered for forced labour. For six hours there were forced to stand in the sun and suffer from abuse and humiliation by the German soldiers. That Saturday named after that incident the “Black Sabbath”.

Eleftheria Square. Thessaloniki, Greece, 1942.

Eleftheria Square. Thessaloniki, Greece, 1942.

A Greek Jew from Thessaloniki, that just arrived in his hometown from Auschwitz Concentration Camp after his release (still wearing his camp uniform) and he is posing with his friend at Eleftheria (Freedom) square.

Eleftheria square, Thessaloniki - Greece, 1945.

“The Massacre of Chortiatis”

By Bozena Nowak

Chortiatis is a peripheral area located in municipality of Pylaia (Central Macedonia), lying at 600 metres altitude on the slopes of the Mount Chortiatis. Village that has today not more than 2,846 inhabitants happened to be place of tragic events that occurred during the Second World War, and that have made the small quiet countryside nationwide famous after the ‘Massacre of Chortiatis’.

Statue of father Dimitrios Tomaras, one of the victims of the Chortiatis Massacre from 2nd Septmeber 1944.

‘The Massacre of Chortiatis’ was a mass murder of 149 civilians by the Wehrmacht and Greek Nazi-collaborators on the day of 2nd September 1944, when the War was going slowly to its end.

The day of 2nd September dawned as a regular Saturday above the village. The residents woke up, starting their every day chores. Many of them have left from Chortiatis for their usual farming works.

There were no signs of the upcoming tragedy, though Germans had lately hardened their attitude, also due to their emerging collapse. As every Saturday, through the village was passing a van of water supply from nearby Thessaloniki that has been being provided by the water from springs of Agia Paraskevi in Chortiatis. Van with two employees has been  followed, as usually by a military vehicle with three German officers.

On that day, partisans of captain Flouris (Antonis Kazakos) had came down from the mountains, and decided to hide themselves in area of Kamara, ancient Roman aqueduct. Around 8:30 in the morning the water- supply van, moving on the public road of Chortiatis, approached the point where the ambush of the guerrilla band had been set up. The vehicle did not stop at the sign of the guerrillas, who immediately opened the fire. A municipal employee, Sideridis, was deadly injured and his colleague wounded. The German vehicle that followed the van in close distance was also under the fire. A sergeant shot in the head got killed, and a lieutenant was injured. The driver of the vehicle, although startled, managed to escape and headed for Asvestohori, where the German forces used to have their camp.

Hearsay about the incident quickly spread around the region. While the decision of revenge in Thessaloniki has been being made, the guerrilla band withdrew fast back to the mountains, where the rest of their companions were staying.

Decision and its implementation came fast. Soon the hum of the gunshots reached the village. People were in confusion, concerned for what will follow next. Most of them decided to head to the mountains, but many others, mostly women, children and elderly, stayed behind.  Among them was president Christos Batatsios, who hoped that, after the explanations he would provide, there will be no consequences for the village, as he used to have very good relations with the German commandant, to whom he often supplied firewood, animals, and other needed products.

In early afternoon to Chortiatis arrived German convoy of 32 vehicles, along with Greek security battalions. The goal was clear- taking revenge for the death of a German soldier. For the head of the operation has been indicated sergeant Schubert, known for his cruelty and the massive executions in many other areas of the country before.

Some of residents that stayed in the village, started now to run away in a panic, to hide in the forest, the others were trying to lock themselves in their houses, waiting tight-hearted for the upcoming events. This what has followed passed however all expectations, and left the fears beyond the imagination.

As soon as the convoy reached the village, the German soldiers rushed to the streets shooting, riding and setting on fire the houses and looting to their vehicles everything they found valuable or useful. The other soldiers at that time were gathering the people in the village’s main square, just in front of the restaurant ‘Kipos’, that was belonging to the president Batatsios. Members of security battalions, pretending to be Greek guerrillas were calling people to come out of their hideouts, shouting all around the village and assuring them of their safety.  Each one that was trying to leave the village has been shot.

Gathered people, mostly women and children, were trying desperately to save their lives.  Germans, however, did not show any disposition to listen to their explanations. The village priest Dimitris Tomaras, surrounded by tens of people, tried to act as a mediator, in vain. Independence freedom fighter was forced to witness the torture and rape of his two daughters, followed after by his own torturing and execution. Equally cruel fate met president Batatsios, who approached the leader of the operation sergeant Schubert offering to shake his hand, but was injured with a knife losing his consciousness from bleeding. Afterwards, he was burnt, along with his family, in the Gouramanis’ bakery oven.

The whole village was set now on fire. German soldiers, but first of all, members of security battalions- Greek collaborators, burst into cruel and violent acts. They were in cold blood shooting indisposed old people, snatching babies from their mothers’ arms and killing them with relentless cruelty – hitting them against the walls or stepping on their heads with boots, raping women, cutting their fingers in order to steal the rings.

They seemed to enjoy it. They were drinking and laughing. A woman tied to the tree was forced to witness the successive rape and murder of her young daughter. Somewhere else in the village, another mother has been executed with the baby in her arms, who continued to suckle its dead mother. The killers were laughing, just laughing. Chortiatis on that sunny Saturday afternoon was filled with dead bodies, cries and sobs.

The circle of death had just been opened. The original plan was to lead people to the cemetery and execute them all in there. However killers got inspired by the moment and gave their imagination freedom to maneuver.

The former Gouramanis' bakery, that turned that tragic day into a crematorium.

They arranged people in rows of two or three and formed processions from the main square to the house of Daboudis and to the Gouramanis’ bakery. Both turned now into improvised in a rush crematoria. A tiny window placed at the back wall of the bakery became true window to life for few smallest children, who managed to leap outside and find the way to salvation.

Some people in a paranoid desperation were trying to save themselves by escaping through the main door. They were losing their senses. Some died because of the smoke, some were burnt alive, and some others shot. In this turmoil, few children managed to save themselves, even though they had to pretend to be dead on themselves, hiding under the dead bodies of their parents for hours. The scratches on the walls inside of the house of Daboudis that have left afterwards testify the effort of desperate, trapped people to save themselves from the flames.

By the late evening nothing in the village of Chortiatis has left to be burnt or loot. 149 people have been killed, among which 109 women and children, 32 of them under the age of 12. More than 300 houses and buildings had turned to ashes. Another black page in the history has been written.

“A story from the past- Christos Chrisikos”

By Bozena Nowak

Pompous residence in which is living Mister Chrisikos today, has been built 1936 by his father,  a professor of classic philology ( it’s a family tradition, philologists have been all closest family members, also Mister Christos, today retired, used to work as a high school teacher).

Mister Christos Chrisikos (78) at his home in 40 Ekklisies, Thessaloniki.

When 1940 the war in Greece has started Christos was a little boy.  To the house have moved in two German officers and they have stayed its inhabitants, living next to the family, during the whole period of the occupation. In his memories they remained very polite, high educated  and helpful gentlemen.

Little Christos has been seeing things that were happening around in the place which he used to love so much, and could not understand the reasons. He saw fire, heard the shots, and listened to the howling dogs, while watching from the balcony of his house the English aircrafts bombarding the square ( in that place today  there’s located Kaftanzoglio stadium).

In his memories he’s watching until the present day, the scenes of killing people by shooting into the back side of the head under the fortification walls in Ano Poli and Sykies, and hears the screams resounding public executions in Eleftherias square.

Today he can clearly understand witness of what events it occurred to him to be and wishes his grandchildren will never have possibility to see what he has seen.

Mister Christos Chrisikos, born in 1933, lives all his life long in Thessaloniki, city that he loves more than anything else, in a house built by his parents short after his birth in 40 Ekklisies area. He is retired proffessor of classic philology. He likes drinking coffee in the terrace of his residence, from where he can enjoy the perfect view of whole Thessaloniki. In the house, that draws attention of all passers-by, he is hosting students from countries all over the world, sharing with them his impressing knowledge, experience and love to the city.

Recent historiography on Thessaloniki’s Second World War victims

By Charalampos Minasidis

Occupied Thessaloniki had a great diversity in its victims. Of course, most of them belonged to the Jewish community, which was transferred to the Nazi concentration camps and almost totally wiped out. But German occupation forces did not focus only on Jews. Great number of resistance members was executed and a lot of people were murdered during reprisals or military operations by the Germans and their Greek collaborators at the ‘unfriendly’ – for them – areas of the city. Finally, many were those who just starved to death during the winter time.

In this short article, I will try to present you a part of recent historical research on Thessaloniki’s Second World War victims. Although its significance, the research on this field did not attract a lot of historians, but ‘amateur’ researchers or people who wanted to write their memoirs for this dark period of the city. Nevertheless, small but significant number of some really important history books on the occupied Thessaloniki was published during the recent years. Even smaller is the number of those that deal with the non-Jewish victims. Here I will present you three of those books.

In the mid 1980s the Municipality of Thessaloniki decided to finance a research on the National Resistance during the occupation period of Thessaloniki, but the political rivalries that followed delayed the publication for almost 15 years. Fortunately, in 2001 Vasilis Gounaris and Petros Papapolyviou published the «Ο Φόρος του Αίματος στην Κατοχική Θεσσαλονίκη. Ξένη Κυριαρχία – Αντίσταση και Επιβίωση» (The Tax Blood in Occupied Thessaloniki. Foreign Domination – Resistance and Survival). A much needed book for a hidden and almost forgotten era of the city.

The first chapter by Maria Kavala deals with hunger, survival and economy during the occupation period. The second one, by Petros Papapolyviou explains the resistance movement in Thessaloniki and the third by Efstratios Dordanas, the German occupation authorities and Greek administration. George Kazamias analyses the German reprisals and the international law and finally Gounaris and Papapolyviou discuss about executions, violence and starvation.

In this last chapter, Gounaris and Papapolyviou analyse the methodological and technical difficulties in calculating the victims of the city of Thessaloniki. The authors find themselves obliged to explain even the term ‘victim’. Finally, they decided to include all victims of the occupation period and not only those who were executed by the German occupation forces, in order to understand the impact of the war on the city. Among those executed by Germans, many were killed by their Greek collaborators or the Greek resistance movements and, lastly, some were killed by the allied bombardments. Another difficulty, is the fact that almost 450 victims, 30%, were killed by ‘machine gun’ but ‘unknown cause’, and among these people, some were just passing by at the wrong time, in the wrong place. Finally, there are some unofficial lists of victims and information of mass graves, mostly from the period of inter-Greek fighting between the Greek collaborators and the resistance fighters. A great number of people that lost their lives because of ‘fractures’, ‘wounds’ or ‘bleeding’ were not registered at the official statistics unless an additional information could be found.

As the registers do not cover all the victims of the last period of the occupation and there is no way to identify who from the ‘unknown’ was killed by whom, Leonidas Giasimakopoulos’ diary is being used as an ancillary source. Only 85 people are recorded as being executed at the Thessaloniki Registry, although the number must have been higher. Moreover, from the 1.570 deaths by ‘machine gun’ about 850 were committed by the Germans. But Greeks were not the sole victims. Among the 1.570, were 19 Armenians and 57 Greek-Jews. 465 were killed during reprisals because of previous sabotages and 400 others were executed or sentenced to death, charged rightly or not as resistance members. This number is close to the testimony of Petros Sioris, General Inspector of municipal cemeteries during the Occupation, who claims that 500 people were buried. Concerning the nature of the executions, single ones took place the first two years and mass during the last two. During the summer of 1944 the Security Battalions alone killed more than 250 people and as the leftist resistance movement ELAS (Greek People’s Liberation Army – Ellinikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos) dominated the northwestern areas of the city, the fighting grew stronger.

Another group of victims are those who died of starvation or malaria. In total, 3.090 people died of starvation and 1.708 of malaria, namely the 2% of Thessaloniki’s population. Of course, a lot of people died from other illnesses, as hunger had weakened their immune system and are really difficult to be count. Although the German propaganda blamed the British naval blockade for the lack of food, the true reason was the lack of means (vehicles, trains) for the transportation of the food supplies from the countryside to the major cities. The occupation forces requisitioned all the tracks to help their needs and coal was rare. Moreover, Greek farmers were hiding their crop from the Greek gendarmerie and the occupation forces. Athenians and Thessalonians acquired what they needed through informal channels, such as black market, or formal, such as associations, unions, etc. Plus 198 people died by the allied bombardments between the October of 1943 and September of 1944. Two, more, categories of victims are the collaborators and the inhabitants of Thessaloniki that died outside of the city. The former are 46, according to the registry of Thessaloniki, and all of them were members of the ‘Pan-Hellenic Organisation of Nationalistic Battalions’. Most of them died between May and October 1944 and many more were just register as ‘unknown’.We are not in the position to know if they were collaborators or not. As for the latter, assiduous research was almost impossible to be done and only 64 names were found. They were executed in other cities, during their fight against the Germans or the Greek collaborators and as prisoners in camps in Germany and in Austria.

The authors continue presenting some statistics about the age and the gender of the victims. Age is known only for 467 people, who are categorised into four groups, 8% were younger than 20 years old, 45% were between 21 and 30, 31% between 31 and 40 and 5% were older than 50 years old. The Security Battalions killed the 109 of them. Most of the people registered as killed, namely 1.630, are men. Women numbered 77, 33 were killed by the Security Battalions and 13 by the Germans, no one was executed because of reprisals and only one was executed by the OPLA (People’s Struggle Organization Guard – Organosis Perifrourisis Laikou Agona) that belonged to the leftist resistance movement EAM (National Liberation Front – Ethniko Apeleftherotiko Metopo).

As for their origins, most of them were inhabitants of Thessaloniki. Many of them however originated from Northern Greece. The latter were taken prisoners as suspects or hostages because of sabotages and resistance acts at their area. That is why Germans executed 106 farmers and 96 small tradesmen and 188 Thessalonians, who were mostly workers. As for their occupation, workers were almost 1/3 of the total of the registered victims and the freelances the 1/4.  Students followed with 61 victims, public servants, officers and gendarmes (30) and, lastly, teachers and nurses (17). These types of professions were the backbone of the Communist Party of Greece. The camp of ‘Pavlos Melas’, which was used as a prison during the German occupation, was a known destination for a lot of communist-prisoners. Furthermore, some of these professions had to do with the refuge of the British soldiers and officers that could not be evacuated by the Royal Navy during the withdrawal of the Commonwealth forces.

The five indexes that complete the book are bringing more light to the period.  The first index covers the executions, the second one presents four interviews from people that lived the German occupation, the third is about the most known who were executed, the fourth is a chronology of events and the fifth a list of the executed.

Naturally, Gounaris and Papapolyviou book introduces a forgotten period of the city and helps to its understanding. However, one can not isolate Thessaloniki from its surroundings. Fortunately, more researches came to give some more light.

A deeper view on German and Greek collaborators’ reprisals in Thessaloniki and in Greek Macedonia was contacted by Stratos Dordanas. His two books «Έλληνες εναντίον Ελλήνων. Ο κόσμος των Ταγμάτων Ασφαλείας στην κατοχική Θεσσαλονίκη, 1941-1044» [Greeks versus Greeks. The world of Security Battalions in occupied Thessaloniki, 1941-1944] and «Το Αίμα των Αθώων. Αντίποινα των Γερμανικών Αρχών Κατοχής στη Μακεδονία, 1941-1944» [Innocent’s blood. German Occupation Authorities’ Reprisals in Macedonia, 1941-1944] give some more light at the war crimes conducted by the Germans and their collaborators. Using archive material from four states – Germany, Greece, United Kingdom and the United States – and taking a lot of interviews from people that lived during that period, he manages to present the bloodstained story behind the German occupation in Greek Macedonia.     In his book about the German reprisals, Dordanas discusses about resistance and occupation in Macedonia. He analyses the development of the resistance movement in Macedonia and at the same time the German response, which year-by-year was more-and-more brutal. Macedonia was of great strategic importance and the German occupation forces could not leave the Greek resistance movements, mostly ELAS, to control their supply lines. Although collective reprisals were introduced in Macedonia since September 1941, the years of 1943 and 1944 were really harsh from everyone. A greater number of villages were burned and looted during the German counterinsurgency operations and their inhabitants were executed or taken as prisoners in ‘Pavlos Melas’ detention camp. In Thessaloniki itself only for a sabotage that led to the destruction of two German tracks in Dépôt area, twenty communist-prisoners and the two of the three saboteurs – after their arrest – were executed. Although German Ambassador to Greece Hermann Neubacher and the military command made an agreement to pursue the responsible for the resistance acts and not commit mass reprisals that gave bad image to the German Army, as the Commander-in-Chief of South-East Europe was worried about, mass reprisals continued.

Dordanas does not lose the chance to present personal stories too. One can learn about the commander of the First Police Station of Neapoli, Efstathios Vamvetsos and the squad leader Konstantinos Kyriakopoulos, who helped almost 500 people to escape from ‘Pavlos Melas’ as early as July and August 1941, just four months after the German invasion. The two men were arrested and executed in Mikra. A place where a lot of executions took place and mass graves were found as there was a lack of space at city’s cemeteries after a while. Among other stories one that distinguished itself is the arrest of nine members of the student resistance organization ‘Eleftheria’ (Freedom) by the German authorities and the Greek Special Security. Two of its members, Elias Kapesis and Socrates Diorinos were executed afterwards.

At the same time Dordanas presents the other side too. Perpetrators like Frits Schubert and his Jogdkommando (Hunting Command), the group of the Greek collaborator and fascist Georgios Poulos are to be blamed for a great number of killings and massacres throughout Macedonia and Thessaloniki itself (ie. Hortiatis, Giannitsa, etc.). However, more details about the Greek collaborators one can find in his book about the Security Battalions, which were formed in 1943 by Ioannis Rallis’ collaborationist government as a mean to fight EAM. Greek anti-communist collaborators like Michail Papadopoulos (Michalağas), Fragkiskos Kollaras, Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Kisa Baçak), Antonios Vichos, Antonios Dagkoulas, etc. and their men committed themselves to the German cause, others were mostly anti-communists and others just found an easy way to gain power and make money, by looting the victims and their properties.

Thessaloniki was the centre of all these gangs, especially after 1944, when ELAS dominated the Macedonian countryside. Poulos and his group terrorised Thessalonians, even policemen, since 1943, but they were more brutal when they were leaving the city.  However, Dagkoulas and his men were the most bloodthirsty. An ex-ELAS member, Dagkoulas left ELAS because of some personal dispute which made him change sides – a familiar attitude for many nationalist resistance fighters that preferred serving the Germans rather than ELAS. Dagkoulas’ group had problems with Greek police, as well, but the latter could not do anything against it. His men tortured and executed, almost daily, communists or who ever they thought as a communist. The executions could take place throughout the city, but mostly at the riverbed of Gallikos, outside Thessaloniki. Raids and roadblocks were common too: 14 people were executed in Nea Efkarpia at 31 July 1944, eleven in Kalamaria at 13 August, seven in Kato Toumpa at 24 September and five in Thessaloniki’s districts at 4 October.

Some of these collaborators, like Poulos, followed the German retreat. Others stayed and try to change sides for once more or killed/executed by ELAS during the fighting that followed. Few faced charges because of their criminal behaviour and their complete concurrence with the National Socialist cause. Times were harsh and the war against the communists needed men. Nevertheless, their actions had a great impact on the city and traumatised a vast number of people. Both German occupiers and their Greek collaborators became part of Thessaloniki’s public memory. A memory that recent historiography keeps alive and enriches with new evidence and views. Of course, research continues, as there are a lot of questions still unanswered.


By Bozena Nowak

Dertification issued by Hellenic Red Cross, in 1948.

Christos was 25 when they sent him to forced labour camp. He had just graduated from mathematics. Security Battalions came to his house on April 23, 1944 and arrested him along with two brothers; Byron and Pericles. Reason? Some days before Pericles was listening to a British radio broadcast in a friend’s house. They were turned in by a young woman being in love with a Greek officer collaborating with the occupiers. Another way to impress the beloved one. In the name of love reported have been by her also other neighbours, friends, relatives… In retaliation she was later on executed by partisans, despite being pregnant. Eye for an eye, once again made people blind.

Nazis, they had understanding for feelings, too. As long as the efforts of three brothers to explain the misunderstanding and their innocence did not bring any results, the argument about the need of keeping at least one of the sons next to the mother convinced Nazi officers. Their choice fell on Pericles…

Next month, Christos and Byron were transferred to the barracks of Pavlos Mela camp, where they stayed until the end of May. In the beginning of June they were informed that they would go to work free in Germany. The war was at its highest point and Germans needed hands to work. With their best clothes packed in suitcase Byron and Christos were boarded on a commercial train, with 50-60 other workers in each wagon. .Wagon, served all purposes, including sleep and toilet.

After arrival up to Neungamme, in Germany, a young man of 25 at that time, full of dreams, ceased to be Christos Baloglou. From now on he became 32356. He became a number.

They understood very well what was lying ahead for them when they started to get off from the train wagons. They saw those piles of alive, emaciated people. An order was given through ferocious yells and gun beatings to move ahead without the luggage. Next order: to strip naked. Further: to hand in rings, watches, jewelry. Bathing, cutting the hair, prison uniforms, loaf of bread, a spoon, wooden shoes- that’s how welcoming looked in a concentration camp.

Around September 1944 the two brothers along with other prisoners were transported to the Concentration Camp Vechelde in Brunswick region, to a manufacture of bomb hulks. Here, they went through the worst tortures. People in forced labor camps generally were supposed to be working. There was no need to execute them. They were dying from exhaustion on their own.

One night Christos was trying to fall asleep in his ward. He could not. The screams of tortured man from a nearby ward were much too loud. He didn’t know that night it was Byron.

One other night Christos made decision of committing suicide. He could not stand it anymore. Some days before he was watching a German soldier eating a sandwich with cucumber.  Cucumber, whose scent had led him almost to insanity. He didn’t kill himself. In a dream he saw their mother asking him and his brother to return home and “bring her a loaf of bread”.

In March- April 1945, since the Allies were getting close, the camp authorities decided to move all the workers from Vechelde to the Concentration Camp Ravensbrueck. That trip lasted around 6- 7 days. Incredible cold, exhaustion, weakness meant that Byron would not return home. He died along with the majority of other prisoners during transportation. Some of those who arrived alive were so weak that they could hardly move.

Defeat was close. Germans aware of the war coming near the end decided to kill witnesses of atrocities that were happening in camps. This order was followed in many places. But prisoners of Ravensbrueck were rescued by a miracle. It is being said that one Polish forced laborer, Dr. Moritz, a physician fluent in 6- 7 languages managed somehow to convince the camp director.

Identity Card of membership of E.O.N., 1940.

The freedom came in May 1945 with the showing up of a Russian cavalry officer. Those who did not die the last days, they were free. But for most of them their health destruction was already irreversible. Christos, weighting at the time of arrest 60 kilograms, returned home in September 1945 being a 40 kilograms shadow of a man. Also the land he had left wasn’t the same. In Greece there was a civil war. And this war was even crueler- here Greeks were killing Greeks. People were asking; why you were taken to the camp? You must be a communist. But he wasn’t. During studies he belonged even to E.O.N., Youth Fascist Organization created under regime of Metaxas. Soon he was taken to the army. A man weighting 40 kilograms after the one year spent in Concentration Camps. Though suspected of being a communist Christos was appointed to serve in crucial communications unit. But still he was being spied even years after the civil war has finished.  Tag of a communist doesn’t leave one easily.

In 1956 International Red Cross returned him his watch, that 12 years before he had to hand in in Neungamme together with all his properties that he took going to work free in Germany.

That he was a Resistance fighter has been certified by the government of PASOK in 1988, more than 40 years after the end of the war.

Still later, around the turn of the century, the German Supreme Court equated one year taken from life of, at that moment 25 years old mathematician, physical and psychological tortures, loss of the brother and a luggage of nightmare memories for the whole further future, to compensation of about 7,000 euros.

Christos Baloglou, Homeros number 32356 (1919- 2002)

[ ***”Homer(os)” = “hostage”, “war prisoner”, just like the famous poet had been.***]

Link to the video of Christos Baloglou performing ‘ Arni’ during an extended family gathering. ‘ Arni’   (Lamb) used to be sung before executions at the Pavlou Mela camp during Thessaloniki’s occupation by the Germans, in May 1944  ( recorded February 1999):

Link to translated into English document that Christos Baloglou sent in late 90’ to the German Supreme Court, describing his experience from Nazi concentration camps:  



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