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General News

This Week in History: June 10th to the 16th

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 two 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 the skulls of some of the victims.

Also on this day in 2004, Xenophon Zolotas, the Greek politician and economist, passed away at the age of 100. Born in Athens in 1904, Zolotas studied economics at the University of Athens and later studied in Leipzig and Paris. He came from a wealthy family of goldsmiths with roots in pre-revolutionary Russia. In 1928, he became a professor of economics at Athens University and at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, a post he held until 1968 when he resigned in protest of the military regime which had come to power in 1967. Zolotas also served as the director of the Bank of Greece and published many works on Greek and international economic topics. When the elections of November 1989 failed to give a majority to either the PASOK party or the New Democracy party, Zolotas, then aged 85, agreed to become the Prime Minister of a non-party administration until fresh elections could be held. He stepped down after the election of April 1990, which gave Constantinos Mitsotakis a narrow majority. Zolotas was a workaholic and an avid winter swimmer, making a point to swim every morning throughout the year even into his nineties

 

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 five 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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