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Historical Observations: The Greek Press and POWs in 1924

During 1924, the Greek press reported on prisoners of war and civilian hostages repatriated to Greece from Turkey. It listed the names of those repatriated, those who had been executed, and individuals killed in war or missing in action.

Four examples will be cited from the press accounts.

Firstly, on February 3, 1924 the Greek Foreign Minister, Loukas Roufos, cooperated with the Near East Relief (NER) representative, E. Anagnostopoulos to arrange for the transportation of civilian prisoners from Turkey. The latter showed the former a NER telegram from James H. Crutcher highlighting the understanding reached with Turkish authorities regarding the repatriation of  prisoners still detained in Turkey. The news report mentioned that five hundred political hostages were being held in Aydin including one hundred prisoners of war. Furthermore, there were eight hundred prisoners awaiting embarkation at Smyrna with another two hundred and fifty gathered at Mudania. The Turkish government gave permission for a Greek steamship to go Mudania from Constantinople to transport these prisoners to Greece. Roussos expressed his gratitude towards the NER for its work. It was also stated that NER representatives departed for Smyrna to travel into the Anatolian interior to search of other prisoners;

Secondly, the steamship Alkimini arrived with thirty prisoners of war from Beirut, whereas Euxenios transported one thousand prisoners of war and civilian hostages from Smyrna. According to Embros the Greek prisoners of war managed to escape from military camps in Asia Minor and went to French authorities in Syria. During this time, Syria was a French mandated territory under the League of Nations.

Estia noted the names of the prisoners held in a Aintab camp in Syria who originally came from Smyrna, Nazli, Menemen, Kirkitzi, Constantinople, and Caesarea. The location of the camp in Syria is incorrectly reported in Estia. Aintab came under British control at the end of the First World War who then handed it over to the French in 1919. The Treaty of Sevres allotted Aintab to Syria but the French relinquished it to the Turks under the Angora Agreement signed on October 20, 1921. In 1925, a U.S. State Department document shows Aintab to be part of Turkey. A Greek-American searched for his brother, Athanasios B. Skinas, who was a POW in Aintab. I wonder whether Aintab was a typographical error when it should have been Aleppo.

Thirdly, on March 12, 1924 Ethnos listed the names of individuals from Magnesia, Belitjik, Gallipoli, Ouzoun Kiopru, Kessani, Smyrna, Alashehr, Brusa, Eskishehr, Bournova, Fatsa (Pontus), and Koutahia who had been exiled in the Anatolian interior and were hanged in Angora. Three of these individuals – P. Nicolaides, Ch. Lazaridis and I. Hatzilar were sentenced to death for spying. This account doesn't state when these men were arrested and deported into the interior. It could be inferred that these Asia Minor Greeks may have served in the Greek army or co-operated with the Greek administration in Smyrna and whom the Turks regarded as traitors. Finally, Embros published the names of officers missing in action and also official information released by the Ministry of Army of officers about men who died during the Asia Minor campaign. It took some time for these names to be published in the press and one can only imagine the distress family members of the deceased would have experienced until they could finally achieve some closure for their ordeals.

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