Was the Greek junta communist in 1967 74

German-Greek relations

Manuel Gogos

Dr. phil, born 1970 in Gummersbach, is a freelance author and exhibition organizer. His "Agency for Spiritual Guest Work" operates in Bonn. www.geistige-gastarbeit.de

The democratic struggle against the Greek colonel's dictatorship (1967-1974)

With the coup d'état of April 21, 1967, the chief of staff of the army Papadopoulos takes power in Greece. Thousands of Democrats are arrested within a very short time. The coup government is heavily criticized for this by the West. And members of the opposition who are expatriated from Greece are given alien passports in Germany out of solidarity.

Demonstration for a free Greece in front of the Stuttgart City Hall on May 1, 1967. (& copy Bundesarchiv, Bild-183-F0503-0204-005)

The coup

Since the Second World War, Greece has been torn apart by serious political unrest. At the same time, Greece's economic, social and political plight is undermining democratic structures. The permanent domestic political crisis after Georgios Papandreou's dismissal from the office of Prime Minister on July 15, 1965 culminated with the coup d'état on April 21, 1967: in agreement with King Constantine, the army chief of staff, Papadopoulos, took power. The colonels are acting decisively, according to a plan that had been in preparation for two years. The military coup is going like clockwork. A curfew is imposed on the population, schools remain closed and newspapers are not allowed to appear. Athens is like an army camp. Tanks secure the royal palace and are constantly present in the streets. The first provisional "internment camps" are set up on the football fields of Athens and Piraeus, which are surrounded by heavily armed soldiers. Waves of arrests take place under cover of night, thousands of democratic personalities, mainly from the liberal Center Union, the Democratic Left Coalition EDA and the Lambrakis youth, are arrested in a very short time using black lists. The Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis is one of them. The military junta bans his songs and four years in prison for selling a record. Theodorakis is banished to a mountain village, and with the help of tiny sound reels in the buttons of his nine-year-old son Giorgios, he smuggles his songs out. His music becomes the shibboleth of the opposition, like an inner "hum" it spreads over the whole country.

In the wake of the revolt

Meanwhile in Germany there is a plethora of activities against the dictatorship. On the first weekend after the coup, there were first demonstrations among the Greek guest workers in Germany. Germany, with its already well-established colony of Greeks, becomes a focus of this anti-dictatorial agitation in Europe. These oppositional activities intensify the concern of the German Interior Ministry that radical left forces might have entered the country with the guest workers. Every form of communist activity on the part of guest workers is under observation by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The Lambakis youth, headed by Mikis Theodorakis, are considered to be decidedly communist, and they are considered to be very active in Germany - even the "Z" as a symbol of the association can be seen on German house walls in Hamburg, Hanover, Stuttgart and Munich.

It is the time of the German student revolt. Because the German left wants to see the guest workers as their new revolutionary subject, many politically motivated people go to the factories to agitate the guest workers. At that time, many in the Republican Club - an association of the extra-parliamentary opposition in Berlin - enthusiastically shared the revolutionary imminent expectation, or even tore down the cultural boundaries in shared accommodation. Rudi Dutschke proclaims Greece to be "Europe's Vietnam", as politically persecuted Greek exiles become heroic figures in the eyes of many German leftists. The student revolt developed a clear thrust against the last dictatorships in Europe. It is precisely in dealing with their own National Socialist past and the elite continuities in the Adenauer state that the German protesters gain their profile. The existence of fascist or fascistoid regimes in Greece, Spain, Portugal, but also in Iran or Chile must appear scandalous to them in particular. Bahman Nirumand, Iranian exile and author of the book "Persia, Model of a Developing Country" (1967), recalls:
"Little by little things came out of the recent past of the Federal Republic of Germany. And each of this information was a shock. And then they looked around and saw: In their own country the same people are still in government. And all around Europe - in Portugal, in Spain, in Greece - the fascists were also at work - this is a system! And this system must be broken. " (Bahman Nirumand, Berlin, in an interview with the author in 2008)
But it is not only that "small radical minority" of the 68ers who find it scandalous to be "surrounded" by fascist systems, so to speak; Churches, trade unions, critical media and, last but not least, parties like the SPD took up position at the end of the 1960s as "Against the dictatorships in the cradle of democracy". Robert Wieland, IG Metall representative of the Rheinisch-Bergischer Kreis, sparked a campaign against the Greek social councils as henchmen of the colonel's regime at a press conference in Cologne in mid-May 1968, and on June 7, 1968, "Monitor" also brought a report that was decided turns against the Greek Embassy in Bonn as an "outpost of the junta".

The "Mathiopoulos Case"

Basil Mathiopoulos at his first meeting with Willy Brandt as the newly elected mayor of Berlin November 12, 1957. (& copy Basil Mathiopoulos)
During the Colonel Putsch, the Greek journalist Dr. Basil Mathiopoulos with a television team around the prominent television journalist Thilo Koch in Athens to shoot the film "They came and stayed" about Greek workers in Germany. Since the journalist Mathiopoulos has always been a strong advocate of democracy and freedom in Greece, his name is also on the colonel's arrest list. In his need he sought refuge in the German embassy in Athens, after three weeks he was flown out at the personal intervention of the German Foreign Minister Willy Brandt.
"The junta was angry. They didn't expect such a reaction from Germany. Papadopoulos was furious. He didn't understand why. The Germans, he thought, are conservative! You know, Europe reacted this way for the following reason : it was the first dictatorship in a European country after the Nazi era. Franco and Salazar had been there for years. But in Greece of all places, where every educated person said that democracy is made in this country ...! "(Basil Mathiopoulos, Bonn, in an interview with the author 2006)

Background diplomatic activities

The Greek military government had hoped for recognition from the western alliance from its commitment to consistent and militant anti-communism. But the new, SPD-led government is sending out different signals: when Greek consulates begin to take passports from opposition members and expatriate them from Greece, they are issued aliens' passports in a gesture of express solidarity in the Federal Republic of Germany. One of the stateless persons who receive such an alien passport is Basil Mathiopoulos:
"On November 10, 1967, the German press said that I had been expatriated. And on that day, Willy Brandt, still Foreign Minister, had his first press conference in the Tulpenfeld. 200 people, Germans and foreigners. He talked about everything there, and At the end he gets up and says: 'Dear colleagues' - because he was also a journalist -' Today we read very sad news. It is about a good friend and colleague of ours. I know exactly what that means - because the Nazis did the same to me ...! " (Basil Mathiopoulos, Bonn)

Wallraff's action in Greece

But the German-Greek solidarity during the junta era has taken on even more radical, self-sacrificing forms. In 1973 the investigative journalist Günter Wallraff chained himself at Syntagma Square in Athens to point out the untenable state of a dictatorship in the cradle of democracy.
"I had ancient Greek at school, Greek classics were formative for me. I recently read Socrates, the stoics, these are life tools, techniques to assert oneself against a hostile environment. But there are also connections on a very profane level : I have worked in factories and have repeatedly seen Greek workers who were opponents of the regime, democrats, socialists, communists, who were monitored, harassed, and subjected to interrogation because of their opposition - yes, our surveillance apparatuses have Working hand in hand with such oppressive apparatuses - none of that must be forgotten today. " (Günter Wallraff, Cologne, in an interview with the author 2006)
Over time, the junta in Greece shortened the ban on going out, banks started working again, airfields started operating, cinemas opened. After the strict warning against criticizing the regime in any way, the newspapers are allowed to appear again. The dictatorship becomes "invisible".
In 1974 Günter Wallraff set an example against the dictatorship in his famous Greece campaign: in the role of a Greek oppositionist chained to a light pole on Syntagma Square in Athens, he deliberately allows himself to be beaten up by members of the Greek secret service. The artist Klaus Staeck took Wallraff's "Martyrium" as the occasion for this poster. (& copy Klaus Staeck)
One no longer believed in an imminent end. And it was precisely at this time that I said to myself: Now you will put yourself in the role of a political prisoner. There wasn't much to do with that. Simply to chain me to a light pole - that has a symbolism too - to manifest myself there in front of the former parliament building on Syntagma Square, and then to distribute leaflets in different languages, Greek, German, French, English, where I demanded free elections, release of political prisoners, and another tourist boycott announced. And that was taken very seriously. Plainclothes police came very quickly and beat you up on the spot. Beats in the spleen, then I couldn't scream anymore, I was hit bloody on the head with some kind of batons, the head repeatedly hit against a concrete edge, so I was badly beaten up on the spot. I think I was in this cell for two days, then I was convicted. I was sentenced to fourteen months in prison - by the way, that was calculated in the same way, I had expected six months to two years, mistreatment, torture probably. I said in court: They have nothing to offer besides guns and tanks anyway, time is working against them, at best they still have the American CIA behind them as a pimp - so I provoked them too. By the way: For me, the Greece campaign was the most important, the most formative and the most important event I ever did in my life. (Günter Wallraff, Cologne, in an interview with the author 2006)