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Opinions

This Past Week in History: June 9th to June 15th

June 17, 2019

June 10th:

On this day in 1944, 218 men, women and children were massacred in Distomo, a small village near Delphi, by German troops during World War II. For over 2 hours, the Germans went door to door and killed Greek civilians using the pretext that they had come under attack by Greek guerillas. According to survivors, the German forces “bayoneted babies in their cribs, stabbed and disemboweled pregnant women, and beheaded the village priest.” As a result of this attack, a quarter of Distomo’s population died. Fritz Lautenbach, the commander of the German soldiers, was never arrested and Hans Zampel, another German commander, was acquitted after being extradited by Greece to Germany. Like other Nazi atrocities in Greece, the massacre of Distomo is considered a “legal dead end.” Today, a massive memorial located on a hilltop overlooking the village commemorates those who lost their lives on June 10, 1944. The memorial contains all of the names and some of the skulls of some of the victims.

Also on this day in 1921, Philip Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh and consort of Great Britain’s Elizabeth II, was born in Corfu, Greece. Also known as Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, Philip is the only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Philip and his family were banished from his native country when he was young. Thus, he spent much of his life living in France, Germany and Britain. In the summer of 1946, Philip asked King George of England for his daughter’s hand in marriage (after allegedly proposing to Elizabeth first). The King agreed, provided that any formal engagement was delayed until Elizabeth’s 21st birthday. To prepare for the engagement, Philip had to abandon his Greek and Danish royal titles, take on the last name “Mountbatten” from his mother’s family, adopt Anglicanism as a religion, and finally, became a British subject. Prince Philip is the longest serving royal consort in the United Kingdom. As of 2015, he had traveled with Queen Elizabeth on all 251 of her royal trips. Additionally, by the time of his last royal duty in August of 2017, Prince Philip had carried out more than 22,000 solo engagements and more than 630 solo overseas visits.

June 13th:

On this day in 1904, Nikiphoros Lytras, the Greek painter, died at the age of 72 after a short illness that is believed to have been caused by inhalation of chemical substances in the paints he used. Born on the island of Tinos, Lytras was the son of popular marble sculptor. He was trained in Athens at the School of Arts and then at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Munich. After completing his studies, he became a professor at the Academy of Arts – a position he held for almost 40 years. In 1879, Lytras married Irene Kyriakidi, a daughter of a tradesman from Smyrna and they had six children – one of which followed in his father’s artistic footsteps. Lytras’ subjects ranged from figures of Greek mythology and Greek history, to more Asiatic themes after his travels to Asia Minor and Egypt, and finally to scenes about aging, loneliness, and the fear of death in his later years. His most well-known landscape was a depiction of the region of Lavrio.

June 15th:

On this day in 1946, Demis Roussos, the Greek singer and performer, was born in Alexandria, Egypt to a Greek father and an Egyptian mother of Italian origin. Demis was raised in Egypt until his parents moved to Greece in the early 1960s after losing their possessions following the Suez Crisis. Best known for his solo hits in the 1970s and 80s, Demis sold more than 60 million albums worldwide before dying at the age of 68. After ‘retiring’ from making music, Demis was famously caught up in a plane hijacking when flight TWA from Athens to Rome was hijacked by members of Hezbollah in 1985. It was reported that he and his third wife at the time were held at gunpoint for 5 days before they were released. Some of his fellow passengers endured more than two weeks in captivity. Demis said that the experience changed his life and afterwards he decided the best way he could help others and promote understanding in the world was by returning to music.

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