The war crimes of the Nazis in Greece are hardly present for most Germans. A memorial in Münster is now providing information about Greece’s victims’ villages and cities of martyrs during World War II.
The occupation of Greece by the German Wehrmacht (1941-45) and the question of reparation for the crimes committed at the time still weigh on German-Greek relations 75 years after the Second World War. The debate about coming to terms with this dark chapter of the German-Greek past is still ongoing in both countries.
The fact that Greece was also an important location for the Holocaust is hardly discussed in the German culture of remembrance. Therefore, from now until February 2021, a “Gallery Walk” on the fence of the memorial for crimes committed by the police and administration during the Nazi era “Villa ten Hompel” in Münster will provide information about the crimes of the Nazis in Greece.
“Contrary to what the majority of Greeks believe, very few people in Germany and Europe know anything about the victims’ villages and cities of martyrs in Greece,” emphasizes Babis C. Karpouchtsis, political scientist and doctoral candidate at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena. “The massacres of villagers, the mass shootings of innocents, the deportation and murder of the Greek Jews are still unknown.”
The idea of an exhibition came about in September 2019 as part of a delegation and exchange trip of the working group of Nazi memorials and places of remembrance in NRW e.V. The visit was planned and carried out by Prof. Dr. Alfons Kenkmann and Peter Römer, then managing directors and assistant to the board of the working group. Dr. Christoph Spieker, the manager of Villa ten Hompel, took part. Then he, Kenkmann and Römer designed the “Gallery Walk” with dense and very emotional impressions of the Greek places of remembrance.
New topic thanks to migration
“The working group has always sought contact with international partners,” explains Römer. “For example, there have been trips to Poland and Israel in recent years. From a German perspective, these are the ‘classic’ countries in which people are orientated towards the Holocaust and the Nazi coming to terms. But we also perceive that we are in one There are a lot of people of Greek origin, especially in North Rhine-Westphalia. And so Greece became an issue because there were many German crimes there. “
Within a week, the German delegation traveled across Greece – and discovered the whole cruel spectrum of recent history: From the village of Kandano on Crete, which was burned down during the battle for the island in 1941, to the mass shootings in the villages of Kaisariani and Kalavryta up to the destruction of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki.
Shameful hubris of the Germans
“I found it really embarrassing how few reparations were paid in the 1950s”, reports Alfons Kenkmann. “When you have been to the places of the Holocaust and in the villages where the civilian population was murdered or mass shootings took place, then I am very ashamed of the hubris of the Germans in the 1950s.”
The Greek return visit planned for this year had to be postponed to 2021 due to the corona pandemic. The important thing for Kenkmann, however, is that initial contact was initiated – and “that the Greeks notice that there could be representatives of their interests in civil society in North Rhine-Westphalia”.
A new communication channel
With the initiative, Kenkmann wants to create a new communication channel between Germany and Greece. As part of the Leipzig-Thessaloniki city partnership, he primarily wants to promote exchange projects that deal with the infamous Pavlos Melas concentration camp in the northern Greek metropolis.
The Jena political scientist Babis C. Karpouchtsis also emphasizes how important such exchange projects are for the joint scientific discussion of the German occupation past in Greece: “Both the open dialogue of civil society and visits by research groups and scientists promote our historical understanding and knowledge – and strengthen democracy at the local, national and European level. “
The Place: Villa ten Hompel, Münster.
The Villa ten Hompel is a memorial site for offenses committed by the police and government administration during the National Socialist period in the city of Münster, located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Read more in wikipedia.