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At the height of the demonstration on Syntagma Square, police opened fire


Greek Civil War
December 1944

On 3 December 1944, during a banned EAM demonstration of approximately 250.000 people in central Athens, an outbreak of shooting of so-commanded X and LOK (Lochos Oreinon Katadromon, the Greek stay-behind) members and "British troops and police with machine guns posited on the rooftops" in Syntagma The banned EAM demonstration in central Athens on 3 December 1944 - Dimitri Kessel, Ellada 1944, AMMOS EditionsSquare against the unarmed demonstrators, which resulted in 28 deaths (including a six-year-old boy) and 148 wounded people. This led to full-scale fighting between ELAS and the Government the following days. The role of the LOK in the Syntagma massacre was never investigated.

Western Allies tried to stay neutral but when the battle escalated, they intervened with artillery and aircraft being freely used. At the beginning the government had only a few policemen and a brigade without heavy weapons. On 4 December, Papandreou attempted to resign but Armoured vehicles intervene in the demonstration in Athens in December 1944 - Dmitri Kessel, Ellada 1944, AMMOS Editionsthe British Ambassador convinced him to stay. By 12 December ELAS was in control of most of Athens and Piraeus.

The outnumbered Western Allies flew in the 4th Infantry Division from Italy as reinforcements. During the battle with ELAS, local militias fought alongside the Western Allies, triggering a massacre with the ELAS fighters. Although the British were fighting openly against ELAS in Athens there were no fights in the rest of Greece. In certain places, like Volos, some RAF units even gave equipment to ELAS fighters.

British troops in the streets of Athens – Guerre civile en Grece – Athenes – Keystone 1945Conflicts continued through December, (hence the name Decemvriana) with the Western Allies slowly gaining the upper hand. Curiously, ELAS forces in the rest of Greece did not attack the Western Allies. It seems that ELAS primarily preferred a legitimate rise to power but, drawn into the fighting by the indignation and the awe of its fighters due to the slaughter on 3 December and after, it chose Stalinist methods and violence.

Only this version of the events can explain the, simultaneous to the fight against Western allies, large-scale ELAS operations against trotskyists and other political dissenters in Athens and many contradictory decisions of EAM leaders. Videlicet, KKE's leadership, was supporting a doctrine of 'national unity' while eminent members like Stringos or Makridis and even Siantos where elaborating revolutionary plans. Top

British soldiers arresting ELAS members in Athens in December 1944 - Photographic Archives of the War Museum, AthensThe outbreak of fighting between Western Allied forces and an anti-German resistance movement, while the war was still being fought, was a serious political problem for Churchill's coalition government and caused much protest in the British and American press and in the House of Commons. To prove his peace-making intention, Churchill himself arrived in Athens on 25 December where he presided over a conference, in which Soviet representatives participated, to bring about a settlement. It failed because the EAM/ELAS demands were considered excessive and thus, they were rejected.

The aftermath of the street fighting in Athens, December 1944The Soviet delegation in Greece wasn’t encouraging or discouraging EAM’s ambitions, as, according to the Moscow agreement, Greece belonged to the British sphere of influence. Any notification about this fact of the Soviet sided towards KKE’s leadership, could have staved off the December’s clash. It seems that Stalin didn’t have the intention to avert the Dekemvriana as he would profit no matter the outcome. If EAM rose in power, he would add a country of major strategic value in his realm. If not, he could justify any intervention in his sphere of influence, like the British had done in Greece.

By early January ELAS had been driven from Athens. As a result of Churchill's intervention, Papandreou resigned and was replaced by a firm anti-Communist, General Nikolaos Plastiras. On 15 January 1945, Scobie agreed to a ceasefire, in exchange for ELAS’ withdrawal from its positions at Patras and Thessaloniki and its demobilization in the Peloponnese. This was a severe defeat but ELAS remained in existence and the KKE had an opportunity to reconsider its strategy.

Churchill in Athens, 25 December 1944KKE's defeat in 1945 was mainly political. The exaltation of terrorism on the communist side made a political settlement even more difficult. The hunting of "collaborators" was extended to people who had not been involved in collaboration. The KKE made many enemies by summarily executing up to 8.000 people for various political "crimes", during their period of control of Athens and they took another 20.000 hostages with them when they departed.

Several Trotskyites had to leave the country to save their lives (i.e. Cornelius Castoraidis fled to France). After the Athens fighting, KKE support declined sharply and, as a result, most of the prominent non-Communists in EAM left the organization. However, terrorism among the right-wing extremist gangs was strengthened. Top



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