Football; Germany v Greece – A game of life and death

Posted by admin | June 22, 2012 0



Today Germany is scheduled to kick Greece out of the Euro. Euro 2012 that is, in a clear case of football imitating life?


The Great Synagogue Danzig – demolished by the Germans in 1939



And this match too takes place in the historic Hanseatic Free City of Danzig (Gdansk) where World War II began when the German forces attacked the Polish Post Office on September 1, 1939.


Danzig (Gdansk) Post Office



The Free City was created on 15 November 1920 and included the city of Danzig and over two hundred nearby towns, villages, and settlements. In 1933, the City’s government was taken over by the local Nazi Party and the democratic opposition was suppressed. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Free City was abolished and incorporated into the newly formed Reichsgau of Danzig-West Prussia. Widespread anti-Semitic and anti-Polish discrimination and organised murder followed.


The defenders of the Polish Post Office in Danzig being led away
– they were later executed by the Germans



38 of the defenders of the Post Office, mainly Polish postal workers who had military training, who survived the battle were executed by firing squad as “illegal combatants” (sounds familiar?). The two German commanders responsible for this, the first War Crime of WW11 were never punished, were conveniently  “de-Nazified” by the American occupying forces after WW11 and went on to have careers as lawyers in West Germany before dying of natural causes in the 70’s.


The Axis occupation of Greece during World War II began in April 1941 after the Nazi German and Fascist Italian invasion of Greece. Germany withdrew from mainland Greece in October 1944. German garrisons remained in control of Crete and other islands until May and June 1945. Increasing attacks by partisans in the latter years of the occupation resulted in a number of executions and wholesale slaughter of civilians in reprisal. In total, the Germans executed some 21,000 Greeks, the Bulgarians 40,000 and the Italians 9,000. After the war Greece and its economy were left destroyed and the country never recovered because of the bitter civil war which followed. Germany has never paid reparations to the Greek people for the suffering and damage it inflicted and for its many war crimes including the genocide of the Greek Jewish population and the massacres of the Italian garrisons on Cephalonia and Kos.


The Greek Civil War was fought from 1946 to 1949 between the Greek government army – backed by Britain and the United States – and the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), the military branch of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), backed by Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Albania. It was the result of a highly polarised struggle between leftists and rightists that started in 1943 and targeted the power vacuum that the German-Italian occupation during World War II had created. One of the first conflicts of the Cold War, according to some analysts it represents the first example of post-war British and American interference in the internal politics of a foreign country.


The photo depicts a defining moment in modern Greek history, the beginning of the “Dekemvriana”, at the moment Greek and British troops starting shooting unarmed Athenian demonstrators (c. 300.000); just 3 months after the Germans had retreated from the country, on 3 December 1944. This episode was the major cause of the 3-year Greek Civil War that followed some 1 and half years later.



The civil war left Greece with a vehemently anti-Communist security establishment, which would lead to the establishment of the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 and a legacy of political polarisation that lasted until the 1980s. Greece is probably the only country where those who fought so bravely against the Nazis were executed, exiled and criminalised after the war whilst those who collaborated went on to rule the country.


A German Army photo of one of the many Greek resistance fighters
executed by the  collaborationist Security Brigades



Even to this day a Greek village, no matter how small will have two Kafeoin (bars) as those who fought on different sides in the civil war and their descendants will not drink together. With the restoration of Greek democracy in 1974 many Greeks  felt they were “owed” to redress the injustice of what went before, hence the woes of modern Greece shoehorned into a Eurozone of Germany’s making.


“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”

Bill Shankly, Manager of Liverpool FC



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