Historical themes often inspire writers and poets to create important works. Some create works of nonfiction, others delve into historical fiction or poetry. These works can illuminate the past for a present day audience and offer hope for the future, especially if we learn the lessons of history. Elegy Poems for the Holocaust of Hellas 1941-1944 by Thanassis Frontistis is based on historical facts of that tragic period of the German Occupation in Greece. The book includes ten odes and is available in a bilingual edition with the English translation by Manolis Aligizakis side by side with the original Greek text by Frontistis who was a child in those traumatic years. An economist and author, Frontistis notes that this book “is a lament and a requiem for the victims of the German atrocities, an anathema for the brutal violence of the Germans and a condemnation of Nazism/fascism.”
The book includes three forewords by National Council for the Claim of Germany’s War Obligations to Hellas President Vassilis Brakatsoulas, Kalavryta Mayor and Witness Cities and Villages of Hellas Hellenic Holocausts 1941-1945 President George Lazouras, and Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece President David Saltiel. They offer their thoughts on the book and congratulate Frontistis for his efforts. Brakatsoulas, member of the Resistance, lawyer, author, and former member of Parliament writes of Frontistis: “With sensitivity and eloquence, the poet dramatizes the struggles, the heroism, and the triumphs of the Hellenes on the Albanian mountains during the war against the Italian fascists in 1940-1941.”
“The Elegy Poems attempt to spread a message of courage and adherence to the highest ideals and dignity of human life,” Brakatsoulas writes. Noting Frontistis’ highest respect for the history of the Hellenes, Brakatsoulas concludes by spotlighting the poet’s “deep belief in the unwritten morals of human life, his sensitive nature, and his love for humanity in general.”
Frontistis dedicated the book “to the sacred memory of all victims of the German savagery during the Occupation of Hellas 1941-1944,” and in his prologue, he writes: “The memory of the Occupation and of the German atrocities in our country cannot be forgotten and dismissed.”
He begins the poems in the ancient tradition of calling on the Muses, in this case Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy. While the book does focus on the tragedy, it also highlights the Resistance efforts and the heroism of the Greek people. The ninth ode is especially moving as it focuses on the women of the Resistance, and specifically the lament for three women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight for freedom, Electra Apostolou, Lela Karagianni, and Iro Konstantopoulou.
The book includes many photographs from the war, some quite graphic, that remind us all to never forget and Frontistis concludes the book with curses on fascism- “the evil ideology,” war and violence. Also included at the end of the book are two appendices featuring tables that show the losses that Greece suffered and also the terrible toll on the Greek Jewish population. The first table is from The Black Book of Occupation by Manolis Glezos, perhaps best known for tearing down the Nazi flag from the Acropolis, along with Lakis Santas, during the Occupation. The second table, from the Central Jewish Council of Hellas, shows the loss of Jewish population from each region of Greece and the percentage change from before and after the persecutions of 1943-1944. Zakynthos was the only area in Greece where the entire Greek Jewish population of 275 people survived the war due to Mayor Loukas Karrer and Bishop Chysostomos’ refusal to hand over a list of names for deportation to the death camps.