Monday, October 29, 2007

Remembering 28th October

Last Sunday was 28th of October, and it is a national holiday here in Greece. For those who don't know, on that day Greece commemorates the famous declaration by Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas who said Ochi (No) to Italian demands to let Italian forces pass through and occupy certain sites in Greece.

This event marked Greece's entry into WW2. From being a neutral observer, Greece joined the side of the Allies and provided them with the first victory against the Axis powers. This is remembered through military style parades. In fact it appears, through a rough search, that Greece is one of the few 'western' countries to have student military parades.
It appears that student parades were very popular in totalitarian countries before the war. Nowadays military-style parades are still held here in Greece, China, North Korea, Iran and Turkmenistan. Of course, upon noticing the company, debate has begun here in Greece over whether we should still have these parades. What gets me is that we are missing the point, and the debate should not be focusing on the parade as such. What should be debated is 'How well are we remembering the sacrifices made during WW2'.

TV made a point of questioning the children on the significance of the day. Some knew, some didn't. Of course you will always find children who don't know but there is a greater lack of understanding on the Italian role in WW2. Everyone knows about the atrocities of the Germans. Its undeniable. In fact the first who recognise it are the Germans themselves.
Japanese atrocities are known to a lesser extent. Some people may have heard about the massacre at Nanking. Or about Unit 731, a covert biological research unit which experimented on 10,000 people in the most brutal and grotesque ways imaginable. Japanese people are mostly unaware of these facts.

The Italians on the other hand seem to have gotten off scott free from their shady history. Before their invasion of Greece, they were guilty of equally disturbing atrocities in Abyssinia. In fact they were also guilty of deliberately targeting the Red Cross with mustard gas, such was their flagrant disregard for humanity.

Instead our image of Italian involvement in WW2 involved peaceful, mandolin strumming soldiers who want to make love not war. We do not hear about the internment camps in Yugoslavia where tens of thousands of Yugoslavs were starved to death. The torture and rape of Greek civilians. We are not informed about civilians who were killed with boiling oil, or that Italy refused to pay reparations after the war if charges were laid against the people responsible for such heinous acts.

So what, i hear you say. Well memorial days are there to remind us what our forefathers fought for. They fought for liberty, and for the freedoms we now take for granted. They fought against a fascist regime that wanted to put an end to such freedoms. And if we forget this, then it becomes all the more easier for modern parties to start taking away these freedoms.
Italy has never had to come to terms with its fascist past. Which is why we had Silvio Berloscuni insult a German MEP saying "Mr Schulz, I know a movie-producer in Italy who is making a movie about Nazi concentration camps. I will suggest you to play the role of a Kapo. You are perfect!" Despite the fact that he was leading a party which included the successor of the Italian Fascist party. Now in Italy, the Socialist government wants to pull the reins on the Internet and blogging. The law, as i am told will seriously restrict what and which people can talk about on the Internet.

These things of course are easier to do when a culture forgets its history. And that is what memorial days should really be about, remembering these warning from history.


Unknown said...

Nice one m8. I really enjoy it! Also I feel glad you linked your statements with the wikipedia and other resources.

What your opinion about the parades? Should they exist both, the military one or the student one?

Vassili - Mike said...

Sigh. Parades are irrelevant. its like looking at the paint of a house whose walls are falling down. What people should be focusing on is the education system here. Are children being taught history? And how are they being taught.

Anonymous said...

Today its national holiday, full of parades even with children. Lots of flag waving.
No I am still not used to it.
So you can add Turkey to your list..)((