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General News

Greek Veteran Left-Wing Politician, WWII Resistance Hero Manolis Glezos Dies

March 31, 2020

ATHENS – Veteran leftist and resistance fighter Manolis Glezos has died at the age of 98, it was announced on Monday.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas expressed the government’s condolences minutes after Glezos’ death was announced Monday. Authorities at a public hospital where Glezos had been treated said he died of heart failure.

He is to be given a state funeral, though details were not immediately known.

An active member of Greece’s resistance to the Nazis, Glezos is best known for joining forces with fellow teenager Apostolos Santas in 1941 and tearing down the Nazi flag from the Acropolis, at a time when occupying German forces held Athens.

“It was a large flag and when it fell it covered us. We got it off us, hugged and danced a little, right on the spot,” Glezos told a program for state television decades later.

The two students had studied access to the heavily guarded Acropolis from books at a public library.

Glezos was repeatedly imprisoned during the war by the occupation authorities as well as after the war when Greece endured a three-year civil war and decades of political upheaval.

He worked as a journalist for the official Greek Communist Party newspaper and the left-wing daily Avgi, and remained active in politics throughout his life, returning to his birthplace, the island of Naxos, at age 88, to serve on the municipal council.

He re-entered national politics in 2012 as a member of Parliament with the left-wing Syriza party led by former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, before being elected to the European Parliament in 2014. He retired the following year, but continued to lend his public support to protest initiatives, mostly against harsh economic austerity linked to the financial crisis and international bailout.

Conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, led tributes to Glezos, describing him as a “lion-hearted man with a kind look.”

‘Greeks are poorer today following the death of Manolis Glezos, but he leaves the country richer for the life that he led and the example he gave: a genuine patriot and true fighter. “

His involvement with the Left in the years after Nazi Occupation, with parties such as EDA and the Communist Party of Greece, meant that he spent much of his life in prison or island ‘exile’, while he was a prominent figure in Greek politics and at one point even sentenced to death. After the fall of the Greek junta in 1974, he was elected an MP with the PASOK party in 1980, without joining the party, but later withdrew from central politics in 1986 to stand for local government in his native village Apeiranthos.

In June 2012, he was once again elected a deputy with leftist SYRIZA and gained a seat in the European Parliament two years later.

Among the many people expressing their condolences was President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, who hailed him as “a brave man, a symbol of the resistance against nazism and an uncompromising defender of social justice..a pure patriot in every sense of the word.”

“He will remain in our memory as an iconic figure of our modern history,” she added.

Main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras emphasised that Glezos had “fought to the last” and that “Greece, democracy, social justice have lost a great fighter of the front line,” who will “go down for eternity as a symbol of a fighter who knew how to sacrifice himself for the people.”

Condolences were also expressed by the Greek government, via government spokesperson Stelios Petsas, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who hailed him as an inspiration to all, and the German ambassador in Athens, Ernst Reichel, who posted on Twitter that his death was “A loss not only for Greeks. His resistance against Nazi occupation will remain unforgotten.”

Early Years

Born in the village of Apiranthos (Aperathu), Naxos, Glezos moved to Athens in 1935 together with his family, where he finished high school. During his high school years in Athens he also worked as a pharmacy employee. He was admitted to the Higher School of Economic and Commercial Studies (known today as the Athens University of Economics and Business) in 1940. In 1939, still a high school student, Glezos participated in the creation of an anti-fascist youth group against the Italian occupation of the Dodecanese and the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas. At the onset of World War II he asked to join the Greek army in the Albanian front against Italy, but was rejected because he was underage. Instead, he worked as a volunteer for the Hellenic Ministry of Economics. During the Axis occupation of Greece, he worked for the Hellenic Red Cross and the municipality of Athens, while actively involved in the resistance.

The swastika on the Akropolis

According to popular tradition, on 27 April 1941 Konstantinos Koukidis was ordered to lower the Greek flag, and raise the Nazi swastika flag. Koukidis allegedly lowered the flag, and jumped from the Acropolis holding it, rather than raise the Nazi flag.

On 30 May 1941 Glezos and Apostolos Santas climbed on the Acropolis and tore down the swastika, which had been there since 27 April 1941, when the Nazi forces had entered Athens. It inspired not only the Greeks, but all subjected people, to resist the occupation, and established them both as two international anti-Nazi heroes. The Nazi regime responded by sentencing the perpetrators to death in absentia, but they did not learn who they were until much later. Glezos was arrested by the German occupation forces on 24 March 1942 and was subjected to imprisonment and torture. As a result of his treatment, he was affected by tuberculosis. He was arrested on 21 April 1943 by the Italian occupation forces and spent three months in jail.

Post-war period

The end of World War II was not the end of Glezos’ plight. On 3 March 1948, in the midst of the Greek Civil War, he was put to trial for his political convictions and sentenced to death multiple times by the national government. His death penalties were reduced to a life sentence in 1950. Even though he was still imprisoned, Manolis Glezos was elected member of the Hellenic Parliament in 1951, under the flag of the United Democratic Left, also known as EDA (Ενιαία Δημοκρατική Αριστερά, ΕΔΑ). Upon his election, he went on a hunger strike demanding the release of his fellow EDA MPs that were imprisoned or exiled in the Greek islands. He ended his hunger strike upon the release of 7 MPs from their exile. He was released from prison on 16 July 1954.

On 5 December 1958 he was arrested again and convicted for espionage, which was common pretext for the persecution of the supporters of the left during the Cold War. The Soviet Union reacted circulating a postage stamp with Glezos, while the Greek government responded with a postage stamp depicting Imre Nagy. His release on 15 December 1962 was a result of the public outcry in Greece and abroad, including winning the Lenin Peace Prize. During his second term of post-war political imprisonment, Glezos was reelected MP with EDA in 1961. At the coup d’etat of 21 April 1967, Glezos was arrested at 2 am, together with the rest of the political leaders. During the Regime of the Colonels, the military dictatorship led by George Papadopoulos, he was imprisoned of imprisonment and exile until his release in 1971.

Manolis Glezos’ sentences, from the Second World War to the Greek Civil War and the Regime of the Colonels totals to 11 years and 4 months of imprisonment, and 4 years and 6 months of exile.

Since 1974

After the restoration of democracy in Greece in 1974, Glezos participated in the reviving of EDA. In the elections of October 1981 and June 1985, he was elected Member of the Greek Parliament, on a Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) ticket. In 1984 he was elected Member of the European Parliament, again on a PASOK ticket. He was the President of EDA from 1985 until 1989. In the meantime, in 1986, he withdrew from the Parliament, in order to try to implement a grassroots democracy experiment. He did so in the community of Aperathu, where he was elected as the President of the Community Council in 1986 elections.

He then essentially abolished the privileges of the council, introducing a “constitution” and establishing a local assembly that had total control over the community administration. This model worked for several years, but in the long term the interest of the rest of his community wore off and the assembly was abandoned. Glezos remained the President until 1989.[citation needed] In the 2000 Greek legislative election he led the list of Synaspismos (in English Coalition) party of the radical left. In 2002, he formed the political group Active Citizens (which is part of Coalition of the Radical Left, an alliance with Synaspismos and other minor parties of the Greek left) and he ran as a candidate prefect for Attica.

In March 2010, Glezos was participating in a protest demonstration in Athens, when he was hit in the face by a police tear gas canister. He was carried away injured.

In February 2012, Glezos was arrested by riot police while protesting in Athens. He was sprayed with teargas by one of the police officers in that area.

In the June 2012 parliamentary election, Glezos was elected as MP of the Coalition of Radical Left (SYRIZA) party.

Glezos was a SYRIZA candidate for the European Parliament in the elections of 25 May 2014. He was elected to the European Parliament with over 430,000 votes, more than any other candidate in Greece. At age 91, he was also the oldest person elected to the European Parliament in the 2014 election.[4][5] He resigned in July 2015, being succeeded by Nikolaos Chountis.

Non-political career

Apart from his political work, Glezos has invented a system to prevent floods, combat erosion and preserve underground water, that works by the constructions of a series of very small dams that redirect water to aquifers. For his contributions to democracy, to geological sciences, and to linguistics he was pronounced honorary Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Patras (Department of Geology) in 1996, of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Department of Civil Engineering) in 2001, of the National Technical University of Athens (School of Mining & Metallurgical Engineering) in 2003, and of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (School of Philosophy) in 2008.

Publications

Glezos has been writing articles in Greek newspapers since 1942 and was the editor of the newspapers Rizospastis and I Avgi in the 1950s. He was awarded the International Award of Journalism in 1958, the Golden Medal Joliot-Curie of the World Peace Council in 1959, and the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963. He has also published six books in Greek:

The History of the Book (Η ιστορία του βιβλίου, 1974)
From Dictatorship to Democracy (Από τη Δικτατορία στη ?ηµοκρατία, 1974)
The Phenomenon of Alienation in the Language (Το φαινόµενο της αλλοτρίωσης στη γλώσσα, 1977)
The Conscience of the Rocky Earth, (Η συνείδηση της πετραίας γης, 1997)
Hydor, Aura, Nero, (Ύδωρ, Αύρα, Νερό, 2001)
National Resistance 1940-1945, (Εθνική Αντίσταση 1940-1945, 2006)

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