It is only in the past ten years that it has been possible for Greeks to study the German occupation of Greece and the civil war that followed liberation with any detachment. That means without the rigid ideological conventions imposed by the protracted civil war climate in Greece, which was itself influenced by the international cold war climate.
The following four books are examples of recent historical studies that are based on new sources or an impartial reading of old sources, and of the past from which they come.
During the German occupation of Greece, some Greeks not only showed no desire to resist: on the contrary, they warmly welcomed the invasion from the outset. Two recent works, ‘Enemy’ Within the Walls and Greeks Against Greeks, are remarkable studies of the Greek quislings who, for diverse motives and purposes, collaborated with the Germans. Thousands of people took up posts in the German-run occupation administration and staffed the Security Brigades. What makes these books interesting is that they seek the human roots of the phenomenon: the relations of the collaborators with the local communities, their fantasies of the power they wielded and the fear they inspired, their ideological inflexibility, and the extent of their dependence on the invaders.
At the same time, 70 percent of the Jews of Greece were exterminated, an extraordinary percentage compared with other countries under German occupation. Similarly, another minority, the Muslim Tsams of Epirus, was ‘cleansed’ in the same atrocious manner. These grave, murky issues – bound up with a homegrown racism that was subtly fomented by religious prejudice – are persuasively brought to light in Giorgos Margaritis’s Unwanted Soldiers. Such works have a lot to say in this era of fundamentalism.
Finally, The Other Captains dares something that has not been done before in such scientific fashion. It meticulously documents the groups of rebels who were not communists: those who resisted the Germans but also fought the communists; those who collaborated with the Germans from the beginning; and those who, having started out fighting the Germans, came to see the communist rebels as a greater danger.
The authors of these books belong to a new generation of scholars and academics who deal with the national wounds of Greece that derive from the occupation and the protracted civil war by a rational evaluation of sources and evidence and the composure that comes with a temporal distance from the events. A fresh, daring and original look at the dark side of the moon that was post-war Greece.