For the third time already, present:history and transform! europe organize a history study trip to Greece. This time, we focused on Athens and the history of the Greek left since the 1940s for our main questions: Which role does history play for current political struggles? How can we talk about the past to grasp and represent the diversity and complexity of Greek society?
We began our five-day journey with a small introductory round and afterwards headed for the city center. There we met with historian Kostis Karpozilos for a historical walk on the Greek 1940s and 1970s. By examples from those important transitionary periods we got first insights into the recent history of Greece.
The next morning we took time to read and discuss different articles on Greek history and memory culture. It became clear that the interpretation of the past is closely connected to the power relations in post-war Greece. In the afternoon we met with the political scientists Angelina Giannopoulou and Antonis Galanopoulos for a talk on current leftist politics. We discussed possibilities and limits of left governments and the role of social movements within the European framework.
The following two days we dealt more closely with the 1940s and contested memory discourses until today. During a daytrip to the mountain village Kalávrita we visited the museum and the memorial site for the Wehrmacht-massacre in December 1943. After a hostage taking of Wehrmacht-soldiery by Greek partisans, the occupation forces executed nearly the whole male population of the village – not an isolated event in occupied Greece.
On the fourth day we visited Kaisarianí, a district in Eastern Athens. Kaisarianí was founded by Greek refugees from Turkey in the 1920s and later became an important site of resistance against the Nationalsocialists. A shooting range, where the Nazis executed political prisoners was made into a memorial site in the 1980s. Although fights took place in Kaisarianí also during the subsequent civil war, this history is not visibly remembered. The different representations of historical events in Kálavrita and Kaisarianí were discussed controversially in our group in the following days. While Kalávrita tells an unpolitical story of the Nazi-victims, Kaisarianí focuses on the heroic leftist resistance fighters.
We concluded the fourth day with a presentation by film researcher Anna Poupou on Representation of the Past in New Greek Cinema 1962-1975. A process of democratization from the 1960s brought up new critical movies on the period of Nazi occupation, but was interrupted by the military dictatorship. Only in the 1980s movies started to deal with the civil war, a topic which is still controversial today. Films play an important role in constructing history, but also reflect the social conflicts of their time.
On the last day of our trip we visited ASKI (Contemporary Social History Archives), which makes sources on the history of the left and social movements available to the public. During a discussion with Kostis Karpozilos and Ionna Vogli it became clear that even the history of the archive is closely connected to the political debates of/since the 1940s. We also had the opportunity to discuss some open questions we had collected during the week.
Trip organisation and supervision: Milena Jana Gegios, Elisabeth Luif, Barbara Steiner
originally published at the website of present:history