Map of Greece marking the main internment camps (Ikaria, Ai-Stratis and Antikythira for men, Chios and Trikeri for women) that were in use before all the inmates were transferred en masse to Makronisos and Yiaros, and also the main prisons: Athens (five prisons), Thessaloniki (Yedi Koule), Corfu, Argostoli (until the earthquake), Iraklio (Alikarnassos), Hania (Idjedin), Larissa, Patras, Tripoli, etc.
1944: Liberation and renewed political conflictIn October 1944 Greece was liberated. The whole country, bloodied by the occupation forces, was in need of political, administrative and economic reconstruction. But the right way to go about rebuilding the machinery of state and the economy was not something that could be taken for granted: choices had to be made, on any number of divisive issues. These divisive choices and polarized attitudes, led to fierce street fighting in Athens from 3rd December 1944 to early January 1945. The Varkiza Agreement (12th February 1945), with its provisions concerning amnesty, disarmament, the manning of the army and security forces, failed to achieve the desired objective of peace.
Sentences of pre-emptive administrative exile were reintroduced in the summer of 1945. The number of deportations started to increase in early 1946.
Leonidas Kyrkos, December 1944, recorded in 'Mitso, i Englezi tha ktypisoun' ('Mitsos, the British are about to strike') in Stelios Kouloglou, Martyries yia ton Emfylio kai tin elliniki Aristera (Testimonies on the Civil War and the Greek Left), Hestia Books, 2007, p. 135.
In the course of the Civil War (1947-1949) the number of political internees rose by geometric progression, until by the time it ended (in August 1949) there were about 15,000 men and women interned in places of exile.
The number of internees and prisoners cannot be determined precisely, for several reasons. In the first place, some of those who served a prison sentence followed by a term of internal deportation came under the jurisdiction of the judiciary and others under the jurisdiction of the army, while most of the internees had been deported pre-emptively by order of the Public Security Boards. Secondly, the archives containing the deportation orders are not fully accessible yet or have been lost. Thirdly, the internees and prisoners were never officially classified as political prisoners.
PrisonsThe prisons were grossly overcrowded with civilians arrested under the 3rd Decree of 18th June 1946 and committed for trial by Court-Martial Extraordinary. Altogether 25 Courts-Martial Extraordinary were set up in various parts of the country.
According to estimations by researchers, 37.000 civilians were tried by the Courts-Martial Extraordinary. It is estimated that 7.500 were sentenced to death and about half of those were executed.
Camps subject to military disciplineAt first the exiles were dispersed in a number of islands: those that had been in use between the wars plus Limnos, Thasos, Samothraki and some others. Gradually, however, from 1947 onwards, they were concentrated on Ai-Stratis and Ikaria; and from March 1948 the women, who until then had spent their exile on the same islands as the men, were transferred to Chios and from there, a year later, to Trikeri Island in the Gulf of Volos.
The relative freedom that the exiles had previously enjoyed became more and more limited as the Civil War entered its fiercest phase. Under Emergency Law 511/1947, the places of exile were reclassified as camps "subject to military discipline". The Gendarmerie's powers were extended to cover every aspect of life in the camps. More and more, the exiles were threatened with and subjected to arbitrary treatment. Shortly before that, E.L. 509/1947 had outlawed the Communist Party "and its offshoots", with the result that many organizations (including the Political Exiles' Coexistence Groups) were deemed to be illegal.
YiarosOne of the worst places of exile, the island of Yiaros, was sent a total of 14,500 internees sentenced by Courts-Martial Extraordinary between 1947 and 1952. On arrival, the internees were put to work as forced labour, constructing the prison buildings.
MakronisosGradually, and selectively at first, the exiles were transferred to the camps on Makronisos, where conditions were completely different. From the spring of 1947 three battalions of soldiers had been stationed on Makronisos as a punishment for nothing worse than being considered "suspect" because of their socio-political views. By the summer of that year the number of officers and other ranks doing their military service in "reformatory" conditions had risen to nearly 10,000.
The number of soldiers on Makronisos fluctuated, but little by little they were joined by civilian exiles, starting with about 2,000 who had been arrested 'for precautionary reasons' in the course of military exercises in the Peloponnese. In November 1948 the 4th Battalion was formed specially for them. The transfer of exiles to Makronisos from the various places of exile continued throughout 1949. By the summer of 1949 the 4th Battalion numbered about 10,000 civilians.
The end of Makronisos "re-formation" campThe government always tried to glorify Makronisos as a great success story, thanks to the 're-formation' of its political opponents, but in fact the measure proved ineffectual. The conditions on Makronisos were widely denounced in the Greek press, and the outcry was picked up by the foreign media. Furthermore, even the success claimed for the 're-formation' programme was disproved by the facts. In the 1950 elections the Democratic Party (which was supported by the Left) and EPEK (the National Progressive Centre Union) led by Nikolaos Plastiras, won a much greater majority among interned soldiers and political exiles than among the electorate as a whole.
In May 1950 the new, moderate government of Nikolaos Plastiras, representing the forces that sought a controlled return to political normality following the final defeat of the Democratic Army, decided that the camps for civilians on Makronisos were to be closed down.
In the summer of 1950, 2,815 male exiles were transferred to Ai-Stratis and 532 female exiles to Trikeri. The period of mass deportations and the atrocities of Makronisos was a thing of the past.
TrikeriThe 500 or more women who left Makronisos in 1950 were sent to Trikeri, where they tried to organize some sort of mode of existence on a barren, remote little island in the Gulf of Volos, starting from scratch. Living conditions on Trikeri Island were very unhealthy, as there were no facilities for personal hygiene and especially because of the shortage of water. The result was that the inmates were stricken with epidemics of dysentery and typhus, very serious skin conditions and tuberculosis.
The difficulties were well-nigh insurmountable for mothers who had infants and children with them. The children were not counted among the camp's population, and so they did not qualify even for the meagre subsistence allowance from the State.
Until the exiled women took the management of their food money into their own hands, there were not even any extra portions provided for the children, who had to be fed out of the reduced portions of their mothers and the other exiles. This problem became particularly acute in 1949, when the wave of sentences of pre-emptive exile due to the Civil War was at its height and there were over 230 children at Trikeri. But it remained a running sore there in the years 1950-1953, as it was also in the women's prisons.
Altogether about 5,000 women "did time" at Trikeri.