Das Internationale Rote Kreuz im Lager

The International Red Cross in the camp

In December 1941 an International Red Cross steamer full of provisions destined for the camp dropped anchor in the port. Hundreds of sacks of beans were transported from its holds to the camp stores. The representatives of the IRC told us that, taking account of our number, they had themselves fixed a ration of 225 grams per individual per day, and assured us that, well before they ran out, the steamer would return again to the port with new provisions.

The Red Cross nuns visited us in the cells and themselves distributed raisins, biscuits, blankets and, above all, pullovers. Humanity, nobility, gentleness and kindness lit up their faces. What a contrast between these brave women believers and the Bolsheviks that the “leaders” had designated to escort them, and who stood at their sides, rude, severe, ferocious. They asked the questions and gave the responses, because no one other than them had the right to speak. “We are not a herd”, “whoever you are you can’t say anything without it being approved by the top”, “that is what Lenin and Stalin taught us” etc.

One of the nuns was from Corfu. Getting around the restrictions, I asked her if she knew what was happening in Corfu. She replied that the situation was even worse than in the rest of Greece, because the Ionian Islands, annexed by Italy, were not considered as occupied, and the Italian government had not authorised the Red Cross to provide aid.

The pullovers had been knitted by the women, particularly the village women, for the soldiers. After the debacle, those which were left had been given to the Red Cross. Most of them had a coin and a little greeting card stitched into a corner. In the one I received there was a twenty drachma piece and the card said “God be with you”.