2014 Zoullas Lecture Series Focuses on Greece’s Heroism
By Catherine Tsounis
“300: Rise of an Empire” movie mesmerized many Americans. The Chinese community of Queens New York was fascinated by Greece’s heroic fight for freedom and Democracy against the super power Persia. The young and old I communicated with respected a people who preferred death to slavery. Two thousand years later, Greece again fought a heroic fight for freedom in WWII.
“The Role of Greece in WWII” was presented by Dr. Andre Gerolymatos at the 2014 Sophocles N. & LouizaZoullas Memorial Hellenic Lecture series at the Nicholas S. Zoullas Hellenic Center of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Kimisis Tis Theotokou) Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons on Saturday evening, July 19th. The audience was from business, professional diplomatic and mainstream American community of all ages.
Dr. Gerolymatos is Professor of History at the Chair of Hellenic Studies and Director of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby BC, Canada. Refreshments followed. The participants exchanged memories of family and friends who lived during WWII. Coincidentally, the event coincided with the one hundred centennial of WWI in 1914 that changed the history of the world forever.
Visit https://kimisishamptons.org website to see a photo gallery of the lecture by John Mindala.
Nicholas Zoullas created the lecture series in memory of his parents, Socrates and Louisa. The Zoullas’, who are now deceased, were philanthropists in Athens during the German occupation of WWII. They helped save their starving compatriots. They worked behind the scenes in their Southampton community, helping the hospital and Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church. Nick Zoullas sponsors lectures twice a year, during Lent and the summer.”
Dr. Peter Michalos who introduces the Zoullas Lecture series, said “It is always an academic and religious event held twice a year,” said Dr. Michalos. “We have heard from prominent speakers such as: Supreme Court Justice Kennedy; leading space scientist Prof. Krimigis, who sent spaceships to Mars and Saturn and Dr. Col. Neimyer who spoke of America’s foreign war in 1805 with the Barbary pirates and the major role that Greeks played as the first Marines for the United States.”
Mr. Nicholas Zoullas funded this exceptional event free to the community for persons of all background. His generosity is enabling mainstream America to meet the top religious thinkers and prominent persons shaping the image of the twenty-first century the global community.
“Civil Wars are not very civil,” explained Presbyter Rev. Constantine Lazarakis of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church. “Director Gerolymatos chairs the largest Hellenic Studies Center in North America,” said Mr. Nicholas Zoullas. Dr. Peter Michalos indicated that “four thousand persons are taking online Greek courses under Dr. Gerolymatos directorship.” Protopresbyter Rev. Alexander Karloutsos concluded the program’s introduction by saying “the Greek-Italian War, German Invasion and Resistance will be explored by a unique scholar.”
Dr. Gerolymatos began his presentation by stating the Athenians reply to Zerxes in the Second Persian Wars, Herodotus, Book 8: Urania (144). “There is the bond of Hellenic race, by which we are of one blood and of one speech, the common temples of the Gods and the common sacrifices, the manners of life which are the same for all; to these it would not be well that the Athenians should become traitors. And be assured of this, if by any chance ye were not assured of it before, that so long as one of the Athenians remains alive, we will never make an agreement with Xerxes,” quoted the speaker. He was comparing Greece’s 1940 struggle against the Axis powers to the Athenian fight for freedom. Many in 2014 saw this struggle in the movie sequel to “300”.
“In 1940, the Greeks were united when the Italian army invaded from Albania,” said the speaker. “Benito Mussolini took on Greece, because she would be an easy conquest. He believed the Greeks would not fight for the autocratic leader Ioannis Metaxas. The Greek army stopped the invasion at the Pindus Mountains. The Italians were pushed back into Albania. They won the first victory for the Allies. The Greek successes and the inability of the Italians to reverse the situation, forced Germany to begin a diversion in the Balkans.
Greece never wanted to go to war. When the battleship ‘Elli’ was sunk on august 15th by Italy, Greece was restrained. On October 28, 1940, they were forced into war. The Athenians and all Greeks cheered to fight for freedom. Adolph Hitler was very upset, calling Mussolini an idiot to go to war in the fall,” said Dr. Gerolymatos.
“Germany invaded and captured Greece,” he explained. “They invaded Crete from the air, meeting stubborn resistance. They won the island, securing any attack of their oil resources in Romania. Their Greece campaign delayed the invasion of the Soviet Union by a month. This was disastrous, resulting in the German army failing to take Moscow. The Greek navy was effective. They suffered casualties and became the second largest Allied Navy after Britain.
The Greeks had British arms. Metaxas tried to keep Germany out of Greece. His death was a major loss. There was no one to continue his diplomacy.”
Dr. Gerolymatos gave quotes from leaders that inspired all. “On the 28th of October 1940, Greece was given a deadline of three hours to decide on war or peace but even if a three day or three week or three year were given, the response would have been the same,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt. “The Greeks taught dignity throughout the centuries. When the entire world had lost all hope, the Greek people dared to question the invincibility of the German monster raising against it the proud spirit of freedom…The heroic struggle of the Greek people. Against Germany’s attack, after she so thunderously defeated the Italians in their attempt to invade the Greek soil, filled the hearts of the American people with enthusiasm and moved their compassion.”
Field Marshal Georgy Constantinovich Zhoukov of the Soviet army, said “Regardless of what future historians shall say, what we can say now, is that Greece gave Mussolini an unforgettable lesson, that she was the motive for the revolution in Yugoslavia, that he held the Germans in the mainland and in Crete for six weeks, that she upset the chronological order of all German High Command’s plans and thus brought a general reversal of the entire course of the war and we won.”
Dr. Gerolymatos explained “Adolph Hitler said to the Reichstag on May 4, 1941 that ‘for the sake of historical truth I must verify that only the Greeks, of all the adversaries who confronted us, fought with bold courage and highest disregard of death.’ Only in Greece was the Greek army allowed to go home.” My father-in-law, George Siolas was one of the soldiers who returned home to Paleopyrgo, Arcadia from Yugoslavia.
“The price of resistance was starvation,” said Dr. Gerolymatos. “Greece was raped. There was nothing left.” Another source, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_ (Greece) describes “the “Great Famine” as “a period of mass starvation during the Axis occupation of Greece, World War II (1941–1944). The local population suffered greatly during this period, while the Axis Powers initiated a policy of large scale plunder. Moreover, requisitions together with the Allied blockade of Greece, the ruined state of the country’s infrastructure and the emergence of a powerful and well-connected black market, resulted in the Great Famine, with the mortality rate reaching a peak during the winter of 1941–1942. The great suffering and the pressure of the Greek Diaspora eventually forced the British to partially lift the blockade, and from the summer of 1942, the International Red Cross was able to distribute supplies in sufficient quantities; however, the situation remained grim until the end of the occupation.”
The article continues saying “In general, the Axis powers viewed conquered nations as sources of raw materials, food and labor. As a matter of policy, subjugated nations were to provide material support to Germany and Italy. According to this principle, already from the outset of the occupation, German and Italian troops initiated a policy of wide-scale plunder of everything of value. Moreover, pillage, torture, executions, and civilian massacres throughout Greece were also part of the Axis agenda during the years of occupation….”
Dr. Gerolymatos believes “Greece is still paying the price of the Greek Civil War. Few people know about Greece’s sacrifice.” To this day families, who lost loved ones on both sides, refuse to discuss the subject. Revisionist materials on the Greek Civil War describe the guerilla fighters in patriotic terms. This material is widely distributed in Greece 2014. Isn’t the American Civil War in 1860 a subject that hurts the southern part of the United States to this day
Many now in hindsight say Greece should never have fought the Axis powers because of the high loss of the civilian population, alienation of left wing guerrilla fighters resulting in the Greek Civil War. My opinion on this subject can be summarized by the inspiring words of Themistocles at the Battle of Salamina as seen in the dramatic movie “300: Rise of an Empire” “Today is a privilege to call our own,” said Themistocles. “A story that will be told for a thousand years. Let our final stand be recorded to the histories and let it be shown that we chose to die on our feet rather than live on our knees.” I am honored to be part of this extraordinary heritage of freedom that repeated itself two thousand years later in WWII.
https://www.qgazette.com/news/2012-10-17/Front_Page/Profile_Demetrios_Psaltakis_Escape_From_WWII_Greec.html- life during occupation.
https://www.greeknewsonline.com/profile-of-a-greek-war-hero-george-panagiotis-siolas/- profile of an average Greek during WWII.
https://www.greeknewsonline.com/ted-spyropoulos-honored-for-contribution-to-hellenism/- life during occupation.
https://stathis.research.yale.edu/documents/kalyvasCORR.spr99.pdf- revisionist view of the Greek Civil war.
https://www.helleniccomserve.com/forgottengreeksofuzbekistan.html- Greeks in Uzbekistan
Photo1- Dr. Andre Gerolymatos
Photo2– Dr. Peter Michalos (left to right), Protopresbyter Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, Dr. Andre Gerolymatos, Sponsor Nicholas S. Zoullas, Presbyter Rev. Constantine Lazarakis and his family.