The massacre of the internationalist communists in Greece, December 1944

KKE headquarters, December 1944
KKE headquarters, December 1944

An account of the killings of internationalist communists, Trotskyists and anarchists by nationalist communists in the Greek resistance movement during World War II.

Submitted by Steven. on February 13, 2017

During the First World War, the executioners who governed the people put specially trained police units and professional killers in charge of the massacre of the internationalists. During the Second World War, the Stalinists took this responsibility upon themselves.

At the time of the "liberation" and the "national" government, they were the true masters of the country. In their speeches and their communiqués they missed no opportunity of assuring the world that they had no intention of seizing political power through violence, and that they were for law and order. They wrote in their journals "In times like these, safeguarding order and normal political life are a national duty. Do not take the law into your own hands. Anybody who is arrested must surrender to the police against a receipt. District secretaries take personal responsibility for this order."

The same people unleashed a ferocious pogrom against the internationalist communists and all the elements inclined to be critical. Some hundreds of workers and intellectuals, connected by their whole soul to the cause of socialism, fell under the knives, the cudgels and the bullets of the riff-raff that the Stalinist clique had recruited in the underworld for this work. We will cite here only a few of their names.

They killed the journalist Spaneas before the "liberation". He was discussing with some young workers in Ilyssia, and there acquainted them with Lenin's positions on war and the tasks of the working class. At their second meeting somebody new had come. And when Spaneas left, the newcomer shot him in the back and killed him.

After the revolution they captured and killed Dimosthenis Voursoukis(1), one of the most devoted, active and competent militants, and one of the best trained, an escaper from Acronauplia. We denounced his arrest in thousands of leaflets and a committee went to protest to Tsirimokos. The latter told us, trembling, that he could do nothing.

They killed the student Thanassis Ikonomou(2), after putting out his eyes. He had joined our ranks from Ghyzi's EPON(3) along with a number of others.

They killed Thymios Adramytidis, the purest and most modest of militants, in the courtyard of the hospital of Evangelismos, where he worked, on the morning of the 3rd of December while he was calling for a demonstration for "liberty" and the "rights of the people".

They slashed the throat of Panyotis Tsingelis, in the way they slaughter lambs a worker who escaped from the islands, just after capturing him at Vathis.

They killed Nikos Aravantinos, an old internationalist communist well known throughout the island of Cephalonia for fighting in the movement of workers and peasants, for which he had paid the price of long years in prison and exile. The Germans had killed his father, a well known progressive teacher.

They killed Y. Doxas(4), a housepainter, N. Mouskas, a café waiter, the Themelis brothers who worked in the tobacco industry, K. Haritodinis, an artisan, P. Panayatodis, a tailor, brother of N. Panayatodis(5) who was killed in Acronauplia.

They killed the archeomarxist(6) workers Zouris and Tzilkas.

They killed Stavros Verouchis(7), blinded by gas during the war, secretary of the Federation of Disabled and Victims of War(8), and elected member of the PEEA. They killed him because, at Platanistos, in Eubea, after the discovery of a store of oil, he had insisted that the oil be shared among the peasants who were dying from lack of vitamins, and not to the partisans' military stores, as the official of the Communist Party of Greece had demanded.

They killed P. Tzinieris (P. Skytalis), a teacher, graduate of the KUTV(9), secretary of the Athens regional organisation, then of the cell covering East Macedonia and Thrace, author of a series of works on the labour movement. In September 1930, the archeomarxists had beaten him up in Kavala, and unable to get treatment there he came to Thessalonika and lived with me for a time. I had the same prejudice against him as against all the kutvists. But I knew him to be a most elevated, cultivated man, devoted with his whole soul to socialism. We became friends. During the internal struggle of the Communist Party of Greece in 1930-31 he sent me a letter practically imploring me not to push things to the point where I would find myself outside the party. It seems that he had diverged from the party some years later and in his turn found himself outside the party. But he never took part for a moment in antiparty activity and was resolutely against Trotskyism. During the occupation he went to his village, at Kounina near Aigion. He was known throughout the region and not just in his own village: everybody respected him and viewed him as a pure, honest and cultivated communist. One day, Velouchiotis(10) passed through Kounina and asked for him. It was he, Tzinieris, who had taken Th. Klaras, the future Velouchiotis, onto the Athens regional committee, when all the previous secretaries had accorded him no importance. They discussed for hours. Who knows what they said to each other? Who knows how this authentic revolutionary would have criticised the archikapetanios of a nationalist movement? Some days later they arrested him and took him under escort into "Free Greece". There they put him in a concentration camp. He went on hunger strike and his executioners let him die.

They killed Assimidis(11) (G. Konstantinidis, Gatkos), a graduate of the Lenin School, nominated by the Communist International in November 1931 to Zachariadis'(12)] central committee. He quickly found himself in disagreement, and, as was the rule in the party, was expelled. He abandoned all political activity then, and devoted himself to his profession as a lawyer. But he had been in disagreement with Zachariadis, and had accused him of being paranoid and a gangster, and that was enough for them to kill him.

They killed Stergiou in Thessalonika, an old communist tobacco worker and self-taught cartoonist. He produced all the cartoons for The Workers' Voice. This comrade was loved by all, regardless of their tendency.

They killed Al. Douvas. He was with Assimidis at one stage, but he had withdrawn from activity at the same time. He gave him a "position" in Acronauplia. Every morning he distributed the cigarettes which the Group allocated to each of the detained. They killed him because he had once been a partisan of Assimidis.

Stalin had executed his brother, G. Douvas, secretary of the Federation of Communist Youth, member of the Political Bureau of the CPG and of the Executive Committee of the Communist Youth International, in Russia during the great massacre of communists in 1936-38.

They killed Damaskopoulos, the most active cadre in the civil servants' union.

They killed Gakis and Kapenis(13), old cadres of the CPG, when the latter were fighting in the ranks of ELAS. They had sinned by disagreement with Ioannidis(14) and Bartzotas(15) in Acronauplia.

They killed Yannis Kalogeridis(16), one of those who had killed the policeman Gyphtodimopoulos on May Day in 1931. He had been condemned to many years imprisonment and eventually ended up in the prison of Egina. There he came into conflict with Tyrimos, a CPG Deputy, who later joined the security police and during the occupation the tsoliades of Rallis(17). After being released from prison, Kalogeridis took no part in any political movement. He worked in a small restaurant, where they found him and killed him because he had disobeyed Tyrimos some years previously.

They killed Kostas Speras(18), an anarchist cigarette maker, secretary of the trade union centre in Athens before the foundation of the trade union federation and principal leader of the rising of the iron miners in August 1916. He had taken part in the first two congresses of the CGT where he had defended anarcho-syndicalist ideas. But subsequently he had distanced himself from all political activity.

They killed Stelios Arvanitakis(19), the anarchist cigarette maker, who had been alone in Greece in protesting against the massacre at Kronstadt. During the general strike of August 1923, he was one of the leaders of the Communist Union, the combat organisation that led the workers of Pireus. Expelled from the CP on the decision of the International, he lived outside any organisation after that, like a worker supporter of anarcho-communism. When I was in Thessalonika I used to see him often and we discussed frequently. He remained faithful to his convictions to the end.

And these were only a few of the hundreds, if not thousands of militants, or of simple innocent people, of people above suspicion whom the OPLA(20) killed. At Kokkinia, at Agrinion and possibly other places, the women in black were the mothers or the wives of the old communists assassinated by the national communists of Siantos and of Ioannidis.

Most of these crimes occurred during December.

This "popular republic" which we knew and experienced in December 1944 in Athens was the worst possible discredit, ridicule and condemnation of socialism. The workers, when they were not being used for auxiliary tasks, went in peril of their lives in the town, looking for food to keep themselves alive, while the ELAS fighters were exchanging fire with government troops.. The OPLA groups, the civil guards and the judges were the incarnation of the "peoples republic", and presented its true face. These groups searched night and day for suspects to feed to the judges and the cemeteries. A suspect was anybody who did not appear in their card index. They requisitioned all the houses and searched the passers by. If you were found with Trotskyist newspapers it was the death penalty, carried out on the spot. It was equally suspect to be in possession of Rizopastis(21) or Marxist literature; why would anybody read them who did not appear in their card index? It was dangerous too to be found with any bourgeois newspaper whatsoever, or with a photograph of the king.

They had arrested Gl., a communist schoolmistress for many years, who had been a member of Pouliopoulos's(22) organisation for a long time. But they didn't know it, and that saved her. They arrested her because she was known as an old communist, but not as a member of the CPG. She came to find me after her interrogation, to tell me to be careful because they had questioned her about me. "How can I tell you, I knew the judges and the police her as well as I did in Poland when I was active in the movement, but I have never met such bestiality and such stupidity as in this EAM(23) judge. His questions were imbecilic, most degrading and coarse. I had to restrain myself from hitting him in the face with my handbag. Next to me, in two or three groups, a bunch of poor women and small children were trembling while waiting their turn to go up in front of this brute."

That happened in Pancrati. In other areas it was the same thing, sometimes worse.

I was living in Pyrgotelous Street in Pancrati with A.M. On the morning of Monday the 4th, Kleanthis arrived from Kaissariani, persecuted by people he had himself recruited to communism. Less than half an hour had passed when we heard the loud sound of boots on the stairs; four armed men appeared, demanding our papers and began a search. They found nothing, because we had made sure there was nothing to be found. I had false papers. They left after asking us several questions. We left immediately after them. As our neighbours recounted to us, hardly a quarter of an hour later a detachment of ten men entered the house. They seized whatever they found in our room, carried out close questioning about us and took five or six people in front of the judge to complete the enquiry.

I went to Thalis's place, two or three streets further down. Thalis was a doctor and ELAS had signed him up. Up above Vyronas, on the heights, he had improvised a hospital and run up the Red Cross flag. But they (ELAS) had camouflaged a cannon next to it. Thalis told them it was not right to put a canon under the Red Cross flag. He drew upon himself this furious response, admitting of no reply: "Doctor, mind your own business and not ours." At this juncture, we learnt that they asked the residents of the neighbourhood if they knew or had heard anything about the Trotskyists. On the evening that Thalis told us what kind of reply he had got from them, towards midnight we got ourselves on the way under cover of darkness, under fire from bullets and mortar shells, stumbling over corpses with every step, and eventually getting ourselves to Nea Smyrni.

I stopped first of all with Tam, and later with Kal. The national guard and the English arrested us. They too interrogated us, they sniffed our hands in case they smelled of gunpowder and then let us go.

They also arrested Castoriadis in December. But those who had caught him by luck did not know that he figured among the highest on the list of those they were hunting, and they let him go after questioning.

1. A leading member of the OKDE (Organisation of Internationalist Communists), later of the KDEE (Internationalist Communist Union) Ða rival organisation to which Stinas belonged. Imprisoned in the Acronauplia camp during WW2 where he participated in the famous debate among imprisoned revolutionaries. Dazy reports him explaining Aeschylus to workers in Piraeus.

2. According to Dazy he was 18 years old when murdered.

3. The Unified Pan-Hellenic Youth Organisation.

4. Yorgos Doxas, born in Karabourna (Asia Minor). Joined the archeomarxists in 1928 and the Leninist Opposition in the CPG in 1932. Thereafter co-founded the group "Nea Diethnis" and later the "Workers Press" when it split from the Bolshevik Tendency. Contributed to the attempts to unify the Trotskyist groups in Greece.

5. A supporter of the KDEE

6. The "Archeomarxists" were named after their journal "The Archives of Marxism". They split off from the Communist Party of Greece in 1923 to follow a course of building a "true communist party" on the basis of a serious theoretical education (which was the purpose of the journal). From 1929 to 1934 they were the section in Greece of the International Left Opposition. After a split in 1934, one section supported the London Bureau, while the other merged with the Spartacus group (which itself had split from the CPG in 1927, led by Pouliopoulos) to become the 4th International section in Greece.

7..Verouchis is known to have joined the KDEE with a group from the OKDE in 1933. During the occupation he was active in the resistance (EAM) and elected to its leading body (the PEAA Ð Political Committee of National Liberation) by the Platanistos district. At this time he argued that the resistance could be transformed into a movement for socialist revolution, and that consequently the revolutionaries should integrate themselves into it. As Stinas points out (p 80) Verouchis's tragic end demonstrated the falsity of his illusions in the nationalist resistance movement.

8. The Federation of Disabled and Victims of War was organised after WW1 and had branches in most cities and towns. Pouliopoulos was among the early leaders, with other CGP figures

9. Communist University of the Peoples of the East organised in Moscow

10. An important leader and commander of ELAS Ð the army of national liberation. Dazy (pp 268-9) reports that in the Agrignon district the Trotskyists, led by Anastasiou Panayotis, organised the local EAM. Velouchiotis invited them to a conference at his headquarters in Agraphlia and had them shot.

11. A founder of the Federation of Communist Youth. Went to the Lenin School in Moscow during 1928, and on his return to Greece became part of the new CPG leadership installed by the Comintern in 1931. Opposed the turn to social-patriotism of 1935 which was supported by the majority of the central committee. According to Stinas, the Assimidis tendency was the final appearance of revolutionary politics in the CPG.

12. Nikos Zachariadis arrived in Greece from Constantinople in 1922-3 among a wave of immigrants. Was active in the Federation of Communist Youth in the mid 1920s. Sentenced to imprisonment in 1925 under the Pangalos dictatorship and escaped from the fortress prison of Yedi Koule to return to political activity. Supported the Stalin line against the Left Opposition in the 1927 Congress of the CPG. In 1931 was part of the new leadership installed by the Comintern, a de facto purge of all elements remotely suspected of support for the Left Opposition. Zachariadis in effect became the "party boss" at this time. In October 1940 published, from prison, an open letter advocating support for the war against Italy. This was published in the press by the Government. At first the CPG activists still at liberty denounced it as a fake. Stinas cites Zachariadis convoluted attempts to blame Tito for the disastrous defeat by the "Democratic Army".

13. Stinas (p 214) quotes from "Acronauplia" by Yannis Mannousakas (which does not seem to exist in any language except Greek) as follows. "Finally to close this sad chapter, I feel it is my duty to say two words on their end. At the beginning of the occupation Gatkis received orders from the Volos organisation to join the maquis. A short time later, the partisans recognised his bravery and ability by appointing him as chief of ELAS in Pelion. But when Bartzotas and others were released from Sotirias, and Ioannidis from Petras, the sent an order to the Thessaly organisation to decapitate Gatkis. The also killed Kapenis whom they found in the region of Agrinion where he was the EAM leader for the village. They put the word around that they had been captured and killed by ELAS while serving with the Germans. So Bartotas and Ionnaidis did not allow them, even after the iniquitous death they put them to, to find a little rest in the soil of their own country, the history of which, I am sure, will show that they struggled for the people and progress, and that they died with honour."

14. Yannis Yoannidis established a reputation in the CPG in the early 1920s by refusing to issue party cards bearing the portrait of the former social democrat Benaroyas. Later became, in Stinas's words "a most sinister bureaucrat". According to Dazy it was Ioannidis who, when Germany invaded Greece, persuaded the guards at Acronauplia that the Stalinists should be released as they were covered by the Stalin-Hitler pact, while the Trotskyists should remain in prison to await the arrival of the Nazis. Many were then held as hostages and killed in reprisal for resistance activity against the occupying Nazi forces.

Not to be confused with the Y. Ioannidis who belonged to the KDEE.

15. Stalinist cadre in Acronauplia

16. Kalogeridis refused the demand of the Stalinists in Acronauplia to reject his archeomarxist past, and as a consequence was not permitted by them to take part in a mass escape.

17. Prime Minister during the occupation. He created the tsoliades (often known as the evzones), to hunt down the resistance.

18. In September 1920 Speras had opposed the CPG's proposal for "reciprocal representation", which would have meant a takeover by the CPG of the independent trade unions. Stinas had been present at his congress, and met Speras again in prison during 1938.

19. Described by Stinas as "for many years the voice of the most extreme tendencies in the Party". The Communist Union was made up of CPG members who found it necessary to break from the party in order to give adequate support to strikes and struggles. Following "bolshevisation", the rank and file were re-admitted but not the leadership.

20. Organisation for the Protection of the People's Struggle

21. "The Radical", the CPG's daily newspaper, from 1916

22. A central figure in the history of the left in Greece. Born 1900. Delegate to the 5th Congress of the Comintern. Member of the CC and eventually Secretary general. Improsined at age 18 for the CPG's support for Macedonian independence. Expelled from the CPG in 1927 for opposition to Stalinism and founded the Spartakos group. Shot by Italian troops with over a hundred other militants in June 1943. The CERMTRI publication (see introduction above) provides a longer biographical note.

23. National Liberation Front

Taken from, published in Revolutionary History Vol 3, No 3, November 2004. Originally an extract from "Memoirs: A revolutionary in 20th century Greece" by A. Stinas, translated by John Plant.


Working Class …

2 years 5 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Working Class … on December 3, 2021

Not criticising the accuracy of this article overall, however on one particular element we believe it is incorrect, about Kostas Speras. A reader of WCH social media accounts got in touch with us to inform us that Speras had become a fascist. They sent us scans of various documents arguing this. Some of them were simply articles from Communist Party newspapers accusing him of being a fascist, which isn't necessarily evidence. However one scan was of an article with the headline: "Inauguration of New Officers of the National-Socialist Party of Greece". The second-to-last paragraph mentions Speras, as being put in charge of organizing among workers.
We ran the documents by a couple of native Greek speakers, who agreed that demonstrate pretty conclusively that Speras had become a fascist.