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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Memorial monument Shadows unveiled on Greek island of Makronisos

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

Monument honours the many thousands of leftists and Communists who were held prisoner, tortured and who died on the island.

Dimitris Koutsoumbas at the unveiling.

On September 6, 2020 a hauntingly spare memorial monument to honour those who suffered on the prison camp Greek island of Makronisos was unveiled.

As the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) press release about the unveiling stated:

The monument of the CC [Central Committee] of the KKE named “Shadows”, crafted by Markos Georgilakis, a sculptor and associate professor of the School of Fine Arts, stands proudly in a land strewn with the imprints of the imprisoned militants of Makronisos. Five human figures, a woman and four men, emerge from the soils of Makronisos, stand proudly on them, spread their shadow and presence in the field, and compose the monument - tribute to the thousands of militants who martyred in this place.

The website Greece Travel has a short history of what happened on Makronisos. Noting that the "men who lived and died here were the first victims of the Cold War", the site details how: 1946 while the rest of Europe was celebrating the peace after World War Two and trying to get back on their feet, Greece had entered another period of misery as Civil War erupted with the British backing the most reactionary of the Greeks. The leftist parties of the KKE, ELAS and EPON were outlawed. Military tribunals were set up all over the country. Thousands of leftists were executed. 50,000 were imprisoned and tens of thousands were exiled to remote islands.
In 1946 under a government directive from Prime Minister Sofoulis, communists of draft age were sent to the barren island of Makronisos off the coast of Attika, between the town of Lavrion and the island of Kea. The future prime minister Kannelopoulos (who was overthrown by the Junta) had called Makronisos ‘Greece’s new Parthenon’. In much later years, he regretted having said this.
The plan was to rehabilitate these 'bad' Greeks into model citizens. Despite the fact that they had participated in the national resistance against the German occupation they were considered 'traitors' and 'enemies of the state'.
Their rehabilitation was called the Baptistry of Siloam and consisted of torture, living in tents in extreme hot or cold weather, hunger and thirst, solitary confinement, threats and brainwashing. When their spirit was broken they could sign a declaration admitting wrongdoing and asking for forgiveness. They were then sent to the front lines to fight against their comrades. Those who refused to sign were tried in a tribunal court, executed by firing squad or locked up in the Military Prison of Makronisos. The vast majority were left on the island to be tortured and abused.
In the northern part of Makronisos civilians and officers were held in what was called D Battalion. These were groups of 500 men crowded fourteen to a tent and isolated from other groups by a fifteen foot high barbed-wire fence. A Battalion was worse and prisoners were beaten and tortured with bats, iron bars and bamboo canes resulting in broken bones, spinal injury, blinding, psychological trauma and death for thousands of prisoners. This went on even after the Civil war ended in 1949.

After the fascist coup the "military junta that ruled Greece repopulated the island with inmates during the 1967-73 period."

General Secretary of the CC of the KKE, Dimitris Koutsoumbas spoke at the unveiling:

Every time we step on this rock we feel duty, honor and responsibility towards those who martyred on Makronisos, those who experienced first-hand the scientific, organized violence of the bourgeoisie with one and only purpose: To subordinate them, to make them repent and renounce the KKE and their ideas.
We do not forget that this hell started operating in 1947. It was done in close co-operation with the British and American allies of the ruling class to crush the workers' - people's movement that demanded the justification of its sacrifices for the liberation of Greece from the yoke of the fascist and Nazi occupation”.
The “Stone lions” of Makronisos, the thousands of members and cadres of the Party who fell in the battle but "quiet, like those who have done their duty", who were not bent by the tortures, the executions, or the bitterness from the defeat of the revolutionary movement, due to the insidious strategy of the imperialist allies of the anti-fascist axis, but also the very mistakes of the International and Greek Communist Movement.

The island was made a protected site in 1989 and, as a result, is uninhabited and undeveloped. In 2019 it was declared an archaeological site.



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