May 31, 1941

31 May 1941 saw the first act of resistance to the Nazi occupation of Greece. Barely a month after the flag with the swastica was hoisted atop the Acropolis (photo) by the German forces following their invasion and occupation of the country, two Athens University freshmen, Manolis Glezos (inset) and Apostolos Santas, climbed up the unguarded eastern side of the Holy Rock and puned the flag down, taking it with them as they fled undetected into a quiet Saturday night. Next morning, the German Gestapo launched a manhunt for the unidentified assailants of the symbol of the Third Reich, offering reward for information about their identity.

The heroic act would have remained unknown to the wider Greek populace had the tightly censored Athenian press not given the event extensive front-page publicity by heaping strongly worded editorial 'condemnations' on the perpetrators. The "Vradyni' daily devoted a third of its June 2, 1941 front to such a negative advertisement ploy in an editorial titled 'The Flag'. After describing in detail the 'despicable seizure of the German Flag in the middle of the night the paper said: 'The Greek nation has welcomed the flag of the New Reich, created by the mind of the genius, Adolf Hitler, as the flag of a great nation, as a symbol of the restoration of an era of peace, as a symbol of justice, the rule of law and civilisation. Undoubtedly, if the culprits of the Acropolis crime ever fell in the hands of the Greek people, they would be lynched as enemies of our motherland. ' Glezos and Santas were never caught during the following three years of Nazi occupation.

Dimitris Yannopoulos

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(Posting date 7 June 2006 )

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