Gabi Zimmer remembers Manolis Glezos who passed away on 30 March 2020 at the age of 98 in Athens.
Manolis Glezos at Gabi Zimmer’s office in Brussels in February 2015,
following her invitation to a press conference on the claims for
compensation for the victims of German occupation crimes in Greece.
Manolis Glezos has left us. It is difficult for me to absorb this cold statement, hard for me to grasp its full meaning. I still cannot accept it. Manolis Glezos is the memory of the atrocities committed by the fascists. However, he is most of all he the symbol of anti-fascist resistance but also of a deep love for people. Every night, he said, he spoke with his brother who was murdered by the fascists, asking him, 'What would you do today if you had survived and not me?'
During the war, after the war, and before and during the time of the fascist coup in Greece, Manolis Glezos was arrested and tortured several times as well as convicted 28 times and sentenced to death three times for his struggle against fascism. Together with Apostolos Mantas he climbed the Acropolis in 1941 and tore down the hated swastika flag.
I met him in Athens, before he became an elected representative of Syriza in the European Parliament in 2014. For many years he had been committed to demanding the German Federal Republic pay reparations to Greece for the crimes committed against the Greek population and for the loans it inflicted and forced on the country. I met him surrounded by the people who had come from his native island of Naxos to Athens to celebrate with him.
I was proud when as a member of my faction, the GUE/NGL, he impressively stated his aspiration to give a voice to the victims of fascism in the European Parliament and to bring the struggle for reparations to the European level. He was self-confident, allowing neither the President of the EP nor the rules to prevent him from speaking his mind clearly and with determination whenever he considered it necessary. He knew the great respect he had earned and he used it for his objectives, which were those of a humanist and a resistance fighter who does not give up after or get discouraged by defeats.
Five years ago, he explained to me that he had to come to Germany now. Seventy years after the victory over fascism he wanted to speak with many people about what had happened then. All efforts had to be made to prevent old and new Nazis, neo-fascists, and racists from gaining influence again. He wanted to appeal to the conscience of Germans, convincing them to put pressure on their government to finally be fair to Greeks. This was not about revenge, he explained; he had many German friends. The GUE/NGL and, especially the delegation of Die LINKE, together with the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation and antifascist organisations from Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt, organised a great number of events, talks, and meetings. Many people came to listen to him and to meet him. He pushed the limits of his physical capacities. Those meetings wore him out. But he never allowed us to shorten them or reduce their frequency. He was an advocate for the people in Greece; he invoked history. He demanded that the German federal government stop blackmailing and bullying the people of his country in terms of the debt crisis. But he never directed his anger against the people of Germany.
In 2015 we of the GUE/NGL said goodbye to him. I can still see the image before me of Manolis dancing, radiating with an untamed zest for life.
He has died now, 75 years after the victory over National Socialism. If we really want to pay tribute to his legacy, it is clear that this means fighting all new forms fascism, practicing solidarity by standing up for human rights, and, last but not least, launching new initiatives for people in Greece to be given fair reparations.
I mourn him. I will not forget him. I am proud of having known him and struggled alongside him. I regret that I was not able to accept his invitation to visit him in Naxos. His scarf, handmade by women in Naxos, will always have a special place in my home.