Mark Mazower, Inside Hitler's Greece, The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44, Yale Univ. Press, 1995.

An excellent book covering the human drama as well as the political and military events of tha period. I lived in Greece during the war and this book not only revived my memories but also provided the background and explanations of the horrible happenings of those years. One thing I learned from this book was that Hitler treated Eastern Europe (including the Balkans of which Greece is a part) in a much harsher way than Western Europe. Because Greece is the only one of these countries that stayed out of the Communist block, it is also the only country where documents of that period are accessible to historians. The Germans (including the Nazis) had high admiration for ancient Greece, therefore they had a bit of a problem in dealing harshly with the modern inhabitants of the country. They solved it by declaring that modern Greeks had been “bustardized” by mixture with the Slavs and could not be considered as descendents of the ancient Greeks. As a result they were fair game for mass murder. The role of a certain Lieutenant Kurt Waldheim (of later United Nations fame) in the occupation is well documented. Many, if not most of the atrocities were committed by regular German troops rather than the SS. Thus the postwar claims of German officers that they were innocent of the atrocities are shown to be false. One of Waldheim’s contributions was to change military reports so that all references to civilians shot by the Wehrmacht were transformed into ‘bandits’ shot.

Another reason for looking at this book is a detailed analysis of the strife between the Greek left and the Greek right that started during the Axis occupation and led to the 1946-49 civil war. The analysis is objective and demonstrates that the conflict was quite complex and influenced by other factors besides politics. It includes an explanation of why the original overwhelming support for the left waned in the last year of the occupation. Such factors seem to be operating in other parts of the world as well, thus the reader gains some understanding not only of the Greek conflict but also of civil conflicts in the rest of word.

Theo Pavlidis
(June 2002 - first draft)