The dark anniversary of September 6 commemorated the anti-Greek and anti-Christian pogroms that were directed against the Greek Orthodox community of Constantinople in 1955. On that night, the Turkish government organized riots against Christian Greeks in order to further its claims to the island of Cyprus. The previous April, the Greeks of Cyprus who made up eighty percent of the population in Cyprus rose up against
British rule and began the fight for ‘Enosis’ (Union) with Greece. The British responded not only by imposing policies of repression against the Greeks, but actively encouraged Turkey to put forward claims to Cyprus despite Ankara's having renounced claims to Cyprus in 1923 at the Lausanne Peace Conference.
The British actively encouraged Turkey to organize demonstrations opposing the Greek liberation of Cyprus. This resulted in the Turkish government bringing in criminal elements from Anatolia to carry out a campaign of violence against the Greek community. The Governmentof Prime Minister Adnan Menderes had already been inciting the Turkish population by commemorating and celebrating the Turkish ‘victory’over the Greeks in September 1922 when the armies of Mustafa Kemal conquered the Christian city of Smyrna and commenced a massacre without mercy of the Greek and Armenian Christian inhabitants of the city.
In Thessaloniki, Turkish agents provocateur bombed the museum which had been established on the site where the murderous Mustafa Kemal was born in 1881. The house where the Turkish dictator was born was ceded to the Turkish consulate by the Mayor of Thessaloniki in 1937 in a gesture of ‘friendship’. During the period of Turkish history when the ideas of Mustafa Kemal had supplanted Islam as the official ideology, Kemal resembled a sort of pagan god rather than a mere national hero.
The Turks bombed Kemal's house in Thessaloniki in order to incite the Turkish population of Constantinople.
Turkish officials doctored photographs of the house before the bombing even took place in order to be ready to incite the pogroms. The pogroms began around six PM and Greek homes and businesses were marked with crosses to indicate these were sites to be attacked. Greek private property along with churches and monasteries and cemeteries were destroyed. Churches and monasteries were desecrated in unspeakable ways and the Balukli cemetery where the Ecumenical Patriarchs are buried was vandalized, as were the bones of the Patriarchs themselves.
Dozens of Greeks were murdered in cold blood. A ninety-year-old priest named Chrysanthos Mannas was doused with gasoline and burned alive. Women were raped and men were beaten unmercifully. Bishops and priests were targeted for humiliation and abuse. One bishop died from the injuries he sustained from a beating he endured.
Photographs of the horrors were taken by Demetrios Kaloumenos, the Patriarchal photographer who later published them in a book titled The Crucifixion of Christianity. The late scholar Spyros Vryonis dedicated his masterpiece The Mechanism of Catastrophe to Mr. Kaloumenos. This latter book was published in 2005 and stands as the supreme work on the pogroms in the English language and was the product of fourteen years of research and work.
The significance of the pogroms today can be seen within the overall history of Hellenism that preceded these events and by events as they are playing out today.
In September 1922, the genocides of the Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks which had begun in 1914 were completed. The western powers had their warships at the harbor of Smyrna but refused to intervene.
In 1955, the same policies of appeasement by the West were in place. The British, as has been mentioned, struck a double blow against the
Greeks of Constantinople and Cyprus. The British created conflict in Cyprus by encouraging Turkish expansionist and aggressive claims to the island, and encouraged Turkish policies that resulted in the destruction to the Greek Orthodox community of Constantinople.
Today, Greece and Cyprus find themselves isolated once again as NATO and Europe remain indifferent to the expansionist claims of Turkey against both these Hellenic Republics.
Whereas the policies of the British created the climate in which the pogroms could occur, the Americans protected the evil of the Turks in the aftermath. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sent identical letters to Greek Prime Minister Alexander Papagos and Turkish
Prime Minister Menderes (the organizer of the pogroms) asking them to solve their "differences". No condemnation of the Turks was forthcoming and pressure was exerted on Greece to drop the issue. NATO not only refused to condemn Turkey, but showed no support for Greek army officers that were serving with NATO in Smyrna and were assaulted by the Turks.
September 6 was a very black day in Hellenic and Orthodox Christian history. Unfortunately, important lessons have remained unlearned by all.
Greece is still heavily dependent on the unfriendly alliance of NATO. Turkey has undergone a transformation and has returned to its Ottoman roots by returning to Islam. The conversion of Aghia Sophia into a mosque symbolizes this return.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate, which lost much of its flock after the pogroms and which would lose even more after 1964 is today cooperating with the State Department against the Russian Orthodox Church. Cooperating with State Department officials whose predecessors refused to condemn or criticize the ethnic cleansing of Orthodox Greeks from Constantinople and the islands of Imbros and Tenedos after 1955.