Greek minister turns down invitation to conference on crimes of communism

Greek Minister of Justice Stavros Kontonis has turned down an invitation to participate in an international conference on crimes committed by Communist regimes to be held in Tallinn on Aug. 23.

“At a time when the fundamental values of the European Union are openly questioned by the rise of far-right movements and neo-Nazi parties across Europe, the above-mentioned initiative is very unfortunate,” Kontonis said in his letter to the organizers of the conference, which was also quoted in the Greek media.

“The initiative to organize a conference with this specific content and title sends a wrong and dangerous political message that is the result of the agreements that followed the Second World War, revives the Cold War climate that brought so much suffering to Europe, runs contrary to the values of the EU, and certainly does not reflect the view of the Greek government and the Greek people, which is that Nazism and Communism could never exist as the two parts of the same equation,” the minister said.

“The horror we lived through Nazism had a single version,” Kontonis continued. “Communism, on the contrary, gave birth to dozens of ideological trends, one of which was Euro-communism, born in a communist regime during the Prague Spring period, in order to combine socialism with democracy and freedom.”

The European Parliament in 2009 declared Aug. 23 as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Communist and Nazi Regimes, 70 years after the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact on that day in 1939, that allowed the Soviet Union to occupy the Baltic countries in 1940.

The European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), a group of a group of 52 MEPs from 19 different political delegations and 14 Member States issued a press release on Tuesday strongly condemning the  Tallinn event as an “insult to European historical memory”.

During World War II, communists in many European countries were at the forefront of the fight against Nazism and fascism.

Under Stalin, who committed countless crimes while in power, the USSR also  made the biggest war effort to defeat Nazi Germany.

GUE/NGL echoing the words of the Greek minister urged the justice ministers of EU member states, especially those of progressive orientation, to boycott the event as the Greek government did.

Greece had a different experience to that of Estonia during WWII.

Estonia welcomed the Nazi army in 1941 as liberators, and 70 000 Estonians volunteered to fight on the side of the Germans. The population of Estonia in 1941 was just over a million.

Germans  and their collaborators murdered tens of thousands of people in Estonia, including ethnic Estonians, Estonian Jews, Estonian Gypsies, Estonian Russians and ethnic Russians  who were accused of being communist sympathizers or the relatives of communist sympathizers. In addition around 25,000 Soviet prisoners-of-war and Jews from other parts of Europe were killed in Estonia during the German occupation.  Estonia was incorporated into the German province of Ostland

Alfred Rosenberg, Reich minister for Ostland, a Baltic German, born and raised in Tallinn, laid out his plans for the East. According to Rosenberg a future policy was created:

  1. Germanization  of the “racially suitable” elements.
  2. Colonization by Germanic peoples.
  3. Exile, deportations of undesirable elements.

Rosenberg felt that the “Estonians were the most Germanic out of the people living in the Baltic area, having already reached 50 percent of Germanization through Danish, Swedish and German influence”. Non-suitable Estonians were to be moved to a region that Rosenberg called “Peipusland” to make room for German colonists. The removal of 50% of Estonians was in accordance with the Generalplan Ost, however the plan did not envisage just their relocation, the majority would be worked and starved to death.

In Greece, the communists formed the major part of the resistance against the Nazis. With the Greek political elite in exile, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) played  a key role in the resistance movement. Communist activists were well-used to clandestine activity, having spent half a decade being persecuted by the pre-war Metaxas dictatorship, and started building networks soon after the surrender.

The communist resistance  continued to grow in strength through the years of occupation, often  with the support of the British, while German reprisals against villages exacerbating the food supply problems and forcing the survivors into the arms of the guerrillas.

In April 1943 the Greek the puppet government set about the creation of an auxiliary army battalions to aid the Germans in attacking the resistance army. Those conservative resistance groups were ambivalent as to which were the greater threat – the Communists or the Nazis.

The British for their part had ceased to broadcast negative opinions about these collaborators. Meanwhile the battalions engaged in some of the worst brutality of the war, their ill-disciplined troops engaging in widespread rape, theft and murder. More brutality followed by both sides after the war had ended, during the Greek Civil War

Edited for Apokoronas News