Hunger

Elendiger Hunger im Lager stoppt jegliche Diskussion. Nur die stalinistischen Kader bleiben gut genährt. Nationalistische griechische Gendarmen oder italienische Faschisten, wer neigt er zu einem Akt von menschlicher Solidarität?

Famine

The camp had some stocks of flour when the German occupation began. So for the first months we had bread and it wasn’t too difficult for us to find dried beans. But the stocks became exhausted. The camp administrators told us straight out that they couldn’t do anything for our subsistence, that they had nothing. The Germans and the Italians had stated from the beginning that they had no responsibility for our supplies and that they had no obligation in that regard. We had to get by on our own.

This event is not very well-known and it seems that those who speak and write about Akhronaflia haven’t given it much importance. We were prisoners or hostages. They had locked us up in a strictly guarded prison building, awaiting the firing squads. Those who had locked us up and those who guarded us and those for whom they guarded us declared that they were in no way concerned with our subsistence. We were condemned to death by hunger. I am not aware, and in any case I have not read or heard anything about, whether a similar situation has any precedent.

In the beginning we managed to get a large enough amount of beans and potatoes from Tripolis, but without oil or bread, and without salt. But all this disappeared from the market very quickly. We sent out SOS calls in all directions. Those who had family or relations in the villages wrote to them to ask for help. From Macedonia there came to Nafplio whole “convoys”, as they were called by those leading them, of horses and mules laden with household utensils and foodstuffs, primarily wheat flour, trachanas(18), pasta etc. Most of the people were originally from Pontus(19). They showed the greatest solidarity. Undoubtedly these people are among the best.

Once every twenty four hours we would eat some dry beans or some noodles, without oil or salt. Often we remained completely unfed. Two or three times, we rose up, desperately, and the Italians(20) gave us some pasta.

Hunger reduced us to wrecks. Discussions had stopped. We remained sprawled on our beds so as not to use up calories and we were no longer capable of thinking of anything but the next mid-day, of our next handful of chickpeas, trachanas or gruel. Something peculiar: those who had gastric problems were cured. When, two or three times, a handful of olives made up the whole of our meal, some of those who had solid teeth collected the stones and, transforming their mouths into a grinding mill, ate them. This included those who had previously suffered from stomach problems and had been on a light diet.

I will mention here two facts which say a lot about the gendarmes, our compatriots, and the Italians, the foreigners, and about human and class solidarity. The Italian soldiers often passed or threw us cigarettes from the top of the walls which dominated the square. Because they weren’t short of them. The sympathy and the pity could be read on their faces. You could say that perhaps they were Communists. But with the following episode we are talking about fascists.

I had to sign a document, and for that I had to go down into the town to find a notary. I received authorisation. The gendarmes who escorted me had kept my handcuffs on during the journey, but also at the notary’s place, so that I couldn’t sign. Two Italian soldiers, with the uniform and insignia of the fascists, watched the scene. Furious, they came forcefully into the office, showered the gendarmes with abuse, and made them take off the handcuffs. When they left one of them tapped me amicably on the shoulder and said: “Signore, tutti i uomini siamo fratelli” [“Sir, all men are brothers”].

What is said about this by the Greeks who never stop talking about their common history, national solidarity and all that blather?

The hungry camp nevertheless had its well-fed occupants

Six hundred men were condemned to death by starvation, apart from certain detainees who never knew famine: the cadres of the CPG.

With the authorisation of the governor they were assembled in a special wing, an extension of the Second. They had opened a door between the two sections and fifteen or twenty of them went through it under the pretext that they were ill. They were also exempted from forced labour.

These gentlemen did not know hunger and they ate plenty and well. Two or three times a day the orderlies passed by the multitude of their starving supporters who lay on their beds with covered plates of I don’t know what delicacies destined for the chiefs. We knew that to attain the heights of the Stalinist hierarchy you had to abdicate any human sentiment (if you had any), but didn’t they take account of the impression that this cynical provocation would produce on the mass of their supporters? No. The masses had to learn that only the cadres and the chiefs were called upon to survive. And, judging from their attitude, they seem to have assimilated, integrated and become habituated to that. Perhaps never have slave owners had such a contempt for the life and dignity of their slaves, and the slaves supported such contempt and degradation on the part of their masters.

(18) A dried up gruel of semolina and milk curd.
(19) i.e. the Greeks of Pontus (Black Sea Region) expelled in 1922 who had been established in Macedonia.
(20) Nafplio, with the Peloponnese, made up part of the occupation zone of the Italians.