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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Macronissos Digital Museum: The old to remember and the young to learn


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"Will I live to shout all this? Will I live to say… and if I live will I be able to tell the untold? " Menelaos Lountemis wonders during his exile in Makronisos.

Digital Museum of Makronissos

An online tour of the cursed Aegean island, Makronisos is offered to those interested in Archives of Contemporary Social History and the School of Modern Hellenism. This is the site http://www.makronissos.org/ which hosts the Digital Museum of Makronissos.

A charged place, a symbol of the darkest side of Greek post-war history. Macronissos, synonymous with mental and physical torture, was a hell for thousands of people (at least 50.000 in the years 1947-50), communists, leftists (or considered as such) and their relatives.

"The Digital Museum of Makronissos "It tries to capture a unique historical experience but also to pay tribute to the thousands of people who passed through there and were led either to death or to madness and suffered very severe tortures." in Athens 9.84 Vangelis Karamanolakis, historian, assistant professor at the University of Athens and one of the authors of texts of the Museum.


National reform

"The visitor of the digital museum can search for photographic material, archival items, maps, testimonies, texts, all the elements that reconstruct this unique phenomenon in Greek history," he tells us. Mr. Karamanolakis and explains that "The uniqueness of Makronissos as a place of exile is that it was an idiosyncratic experiment both in Greek and internationally because it did not function simply as a concentration-detention camp for civilians and soldiers but as a "national reform" camp as it was named.

"People there were called to repent of their ideas and this should be reflected in writing in the statement of repentance. This process of reform was carried out through propaganda and the use of very severe torture, which led to the death of many of them and most of them to sign the statement. "Some of those who signed were driven insane."

 Tassos Livaditis, exiled to Makronisos in 1950, writes:

"Twenty people huddled in a tent, you can not even shake your tongue but there are many hands to share your bitterness, many breaths to forget the rain. "There is enough room for you to die."


Short history of the island as a place of exile

From 1912 to 1913 Thousands of Turkish prisoners of war were sent to Makronisos during the First Balkan War.

On June 10, 1922 it is decided the transfer and temporary settlement of the refugees from Pontus in Makronisos.

The 1931 Macronissos is proposed as a gathering place for communists.

The 1935 The press reports that it was decided to relocate the displaced communists there, in order to avoid the risk of spreading their ideas to the Aegean islands.

The countdown for the camps of Makronissos has begun the 1950. Until October 1960 only military prisons operated. In February t1961 the last soldiers guarding the facility left Macronissos.

To 1989 by decision of the Ministry of Culture was declared The whole island of Makronissos is a historical place and all the buildings of the camps of the island are historical monuments.


Excerpt from Makronissiotika, 1957 by Giannis Ritsos

"And the sea is still blue as always
and the American fleet travels to the Aegean
quiet, quiet, nice,
and the stars light small fires every night
for the Angels to bake the fish soup of the Virgin.
And from below they pass through the stars
ships-ships the displaced
and sacks with cut legs
and sacks with cut hands
and sacks with the dead
the storms on the shores of Lavrio are washing away ".

The texts of the Museum

The texts of the Digital Museum of Makronissos are signed by: Polymeris Voglis, historian, associate professor at the University of Thessaly, Thanassis Gallos, historian, Katerina Gika, archaeologist, School of Modern Hellenism, Anta Kapola, historian, Vangelis Karamanolakis, historian, assistant professor at EKAPA, Archives of the Benaki Museum.

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