In February 2018 the Austrian Association for the Critical Teaching of History ‘present:history’, along with transform!europe, organised a history tour to Greece to study modern history and the current political situation.
21 people from Austria and Germany of different ages visited several places in Greece (Athens, Kalávrita, and Thessaloniki).
The first stage of the journey was Athens where the history of the Greek left was the topic of the first two days. This examination was organised in close cooperation with the Contemporary Social History Archive of Greece ASKI whose director and historian Kostis Karpozilos guided an introductory history walk and gave a lecture in the offices of ASKI’s open archive. The reading of texts and common discussion served to expand knowledge of the subject. On the evening of the second day the historian and director of the Hietzing Adult Education Centre in Vienna, Robert Streibel, himself a participant in the tour, presented his book April in Stein, focussed on a massacre of political prisoners in Krems, Austria at the end of the Second World War, which has just been translated and published in Greek. Among those murdered there were also Greek prisoners, an example that shows how intertwined national histories are, which are often viewed as unconnected.
In December 1943 in the mountain village of Kalávrita the largest massacre perpetrated by the Wehrmacht occurred. We visited the Museum and memorial commemorating the massacre. Kalávrita is also a popular tourist goal, and after lunch together our group embarked on a train journey through this magnificent landscape. The contradiction between past and present was emphasised in the ensuing reflection round.
Back in Athens we turned to particular aspects of the past and present, first with the Nazi occupation of Athens. In another walk through the city centre, the historian and translator Nicos Skoplakis pointed to a contradictory picture: While political opponents were arrested and tortured, Wehrmacht soldiers and collaborators lived in luxury. In the Nicos Poulantzas Institute (NPI) Tassos Sakellaropoulos, the historian and director of the archive of the Benaki Museum, spoke about the social basis of the resistance movement and the differences between town and country.
At the NPI Anna Mihopoulou, the founder and director of the Feminist Archive in Athens, gave an overview of Greece’s historic women figures, the history of the feminist movements and journals, and also recounted her own political engagement. In a dialogue between the Austrian political scientist and literary historian Judith Goetz, also a participant, and Electra Alexandropoulou of Golden Dawn Watch and Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Athens, about the state and right-wing extremism in Greece and Austria, it became clear that right-wing terror is a Europe-wide phenomenon and that anti-fascist solidarity across national borders is a necessity.
The last stage of the journey was Thessaloniki, where the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki was visited. The historian Giorgos Antoniou guided a walk on Thessaloniki’s history and current debates. At the collectively run locale Oraion Itepo, historian Konstantinos Tsitselikis gave a lecture on the history and present-day consequences of the Macedonia conflict.
Trip organisation and accompaniment: Milena Jana Gegios, Elisabeth Luif, and Barbara Steiner
On 18 – 23 February 2019 another trip to Greece is being planned. The topic is the history of the Greek left from the 1940s to today, embedded in the political confrontations in Greece but also beyond its borders.