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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 04 November 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 4 NOVEMBER 2017 21 GREECE Liza Koutsaplis (L), Mrs and Mr Nikolaos Koutsaplis (second from right) and Jim Claven (right). PHOTO: JIM CLAVEN German troops enter Myrina, Lemnos in 1941. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED at nearby Diapori Bay. Angelo’s father Stavros - who had at one time been a waiter in Smyrna - was conscripted to cook for the Germans billeted in Kontias. The local German commander - known as ‘Bill’ - allowed him to take the surplud food he had prepared for them, including soup, marmalade, bread, and coffee. In his work, Stavros would boil up a large cartload of coffee and take it to the troops located around the village. The remainder - often as much as 10 litres - he would distribute among the locals. The local German commander loved his wine, and in return for some wine from the vineyard of Stavros’ uncle Aristides, the German supplied more food for the locals, even turning a blind eye when Stavros used the German food stores to help feed his family, friends, and other locals. In the phrase of the time, Stavros’ house was so full of plenty that it was named ’America’. After the war, villagers recounted to Liza Koutsaplis how her grandfather saved them from starvation by giving them flour and oil that he successfully hid from the Germans. Acts of kindness by individual German troops were not unknown: Nikolaos remembers a soldier who brought gifts at Christmas for the children of a poor relative who had recently lost her husband to illness. As the occupation dragged on and German food supplies to the island’s troops were disrupted, the Germans extracted more food from the population. angelo remembers how local troops took food from his family by taking him to Cannonia to work as punishment for using a banned kerosene lamp in the evening. His Judith Gunnarsson and Angelo Kalomiris. PHOTO: JIM CLAVEN family had to provide a dozen eggs to secure his release. While those in rural areas were able to produce some of their own essentials, these new exactions nevertheless made life more difficult for the local population. Angelo remembers that although noone starved to death on Lemnos – as many did in Athens and other parts of Greece – he saw many villagers go hungry and become ill due to lack of proper nutrition. Despite a level of initial cooperation, German repression took its toll on Lemnos as it did across Greece. Along with forced labour and food confiscations, people were arrested and some killed. Those locals of the Jewish faith – mostly former Asia Minor refugees – who could not hide, were removed and murdered during the Holocaust. The long years of occupation saw the growth of resistance on Lemnos and across Greece, the resistance was formed around the EAM organisation and its armed wing, ELAS, the local leader on Lemnos was Andreas Noulas. One report states that 20 Lemians were executed by Germans during the occupation. A memorial stands to the north of Myrina listing the names of those executed by the Germans throughout the occupation, and this contains the names of four Lemnians as well as those andartes from other parts of Greece, including Lesvos, Thessaloniki, and far off Zakynthos. Ordinary people disrupted the German occupation too. Angelo recounts how an attempt was made by some local youths to destroy the bridge linking Kontias to Cannonia and while they failed, it resulted in the German threat 1941-44 Martyrs Monument in Myrina, Lemnos. PHOTO: DIMITRIS BOULOTIS to destroy Kontias if another attempt was made on the bridge. Nikolaos remembers talk of how many of the Germans garrisoning Lemnos cried when they received their orders to move to the Russian Front, and indeed a number of soldiers defected to the resistance on the island. By 1944, a number of the German troops on Lemnos were from the 999th Rehabilitation Battalion, which included many socialists and communists who had been jailed for their opposition to Hitler and we know that a number of these joined the resistance on Lemnos, including Lieutenant Ludwig Preller, who later wrote of his time on the island. An amazing photograph has survived showing these armed German soldiers having deserted to the resistance with their new andarte comrades. Soon the long-awaited liberation of Lemnos would commence - but that is another story. * This is the first of two articles on the occupation and liberation of Lemnos in WW2 based on witness testimonies and historical research. The second will deal with the liberation of Lemnos in 1944. * Jim Claven is a historian, freelance writer and the secretary of the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee. He acknowledges the work of Lemnos historian Aristides Tsotroudis on the German occupation and thanks Angelo, Chris, Nikolaos, Liza, Haroula and Dimitris for sharing their memories. Anyone with more stories of the occupation and liberation of Lemnos should contact Jim at jimclaven@ yahoo.com.au.
28 October 2017
11 November 2017