Stories of bravery and loss in Thessaloniki of the 20th century (Part 2)

And now the continuation….

The fourth and final story is one of lost faith to the ones who rule, but of a silver lining. Greece in the cold war (until 1974) as many countries that weren’t communist, was very hostile towards communism, with many laws banishing it, its official party and people with this ideology. You know when many times they tell us of conspiracy theories of how much corrupt the government is and that it uses the army and the police, the ones that are supposed to protect us against us if that will benefit them more? Well in cold war Greece that was true. In Thessaloniki (and not only) police would outright follow anyone that was suspected of having communist liaisons. A state within a state working for the state as we can call it was fully operative. In that state of fear and conspiracies there was a party that was gaining power called EDA, the only problem with it was that it belonged to the left. Grigorios Lamprakis, a previously independent politician, was a member of the party, a member of the parliament with it and liked by the public (part of that can be also attributed to the fact that previously he was an athlete). 

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A statue dedicated to the memory of Lambrakis in Thessaloniki (source: glypto.wordpress.com)

In the 22nd of May 1963, he was to give a speech in Thessaloniki. Present were many extremists that were acting hostile to all speakers. And despite efforts by the party and others to make the police throw them away, nothing was done. Lambrakis gave a speech about peace and then, after he was informed that his life was in danger, he reported it and asked anyone with power to do something about it. Before leaving the building he was informed that the area was cleared, so he headed for outside. Previously to his departure another member of the parliament and EDA was severely wounded, a fact that he was unaware of. When moving towards his hotel with company, a motorbike stopped in front of him and one of those on it hit him hard on the head with a crowbar. Immediately he fell to the floor, bleeding intensively. He was soon moved to the hospital when the doctors found him mortally wounded. The government sent their own doctor that claimed that there was also nothing to be done,as well. Lambrakis died soon that night. A supporter of Lambrakis went to the hospital to see him and said that he was basically left to die, as he found it on what he assumed to be a mortuary and without any tubes despite the fact that they had performed a tracheotomy.

 

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Grigorios Lambrakis holding a banner with the word Hellas and peace signs during a strike.

The investigation and trial that followed were very challenging, since the prosecutors and the judges were being pushed not to look deep into it, even to let it be though as a car accident, as it was initially reported. One of the pushers was Konstantinos Kollias, a prosecutor of the court of Cassation, the highest court in Greece, who later became president during the military coup in Greece . It took two fair men Christos Sartzetakis, the then prosecutor of the investigation and Paul Delaportas prosecutor of the trial to stand against them and eventually send the criminals to jail. The assassination also led to the resign of the prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis.

E.V.

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