Corfu Museum

Petsalis: Collection Of Corfu Island,Greece documents

“In this small square on the first Sunday of November 1941, on the 3rd of the month, the young students of Corfu staged the first spontaneous anti-fascist mass protest in occupied Europe”

The above pictured commemorative plaque contains an inaccuracy, as the date of the first Sunday of November 1941 was on the 2nd and not on the 3rd of November.

The heroic action of the Corfiot students in 1941, that took place right after the procession of the relics of St. Spyridon on the first Sunday of November, as usual on that date, is a real fact. As stated on the plaque, it is also considered to be the first spontaneous anti-fascist protest in Greece and all the countries under Nazi occupation. The words “spontaneous” and “first”, however, might not be completely accurate either.

Previously, on 28th October 1941, protests had taken place in Athens, under the guidance of the National Republican Greek League (Greek: “ΕΔΕΣ”) and the National Liberation Front (Greek: “ΕΑΜ”), that were founded in September 1941. The incidents are described below:

1941

With the shout “Aera” (“Attack”) thousands of Greeks rush to Syntagma Square

The government of the Quislings is taking precautionary repressive and anti-terrorist measures to prevent the first celebration of the 28th October. All protests are banned under the penalty of on-spot execution! From the previous day of the celebration squads of Italian Carabinieri are positioned in central spots of the capital.

Special measures against students and pupils are announced. Their presence in the class rooms on Tuesday 28th October is obligatory. It is, however, a measure that will facilitate any plans of resistance, as in many cases in the past class rooms have become national gathering places.  For example the university (the building and the forecourt), where the man that later became President of Democracy held the patriotic speech, that lead to his removal from power.

Later, many would remember that day, as the day they took their “baptism by fire”. There, on the blackboards, they wrote their first slogans: “28th October 1940 ALBANIA – 28th October 1941 – ABSTENTION”…

During the night between 27th October and 28th October fires were lit on Mount Hymettus in an action organized by “ΕΑΜ” in order to remind everyone of the historic date of 28th October 1940. According to Th. Chatzis, who later became Secretary of “ΕΑΜ”, the National Liberation Front has called for all Athenians to stay at home in the morning of 28th October. At noon of the same day they should stream into the gathering places, that were appointed in advance, dressed in their national colors.

 

The pre-gatherings

The most detailed report of the protests comes from G. Trikalinos, a then student and member of the Young Communist League of Greece (Greek:” ΟΚΝΕ”), a youth organization that was at the forefront of the preparations for the celebration (hand-written fly-bills, slogans on walls, speeches, and also bull-horns, that were first heard in Greece back then):

“Several pre-gathering points were appointed in the area around Syntagma square, where the main gathering was to take place at 11 o’clock. The first groups of students started arriving really early in the morning, together with workers and pupils. They would communicate with each other with signs and then disperse, so that they wouldn’t be understood by the Greek-speaking officers of the Nazis or by the Italian squads. At the set time, a whistle and the shout “patriotes” (“compatriots”) would make all the groups gather around a speaker, who would be lifted by the crowd on their shoulders, say a few words about the 28th October and call for all of gathered people to march together to the Monument of the unknown Soldier.

Precisely at 11 o’clock groups of people arrived from the different pre-gathering points holding Greek flags. Thousands of people have swarmed the Syntagma square.”

 

Citizens from different resistance groups laid wreaths and flowers, slogans for freedom and the independence of Greece were heard and short speeches were held.

According to many witnesses the crowd that gathered that day possibly exceeded 5000 people. The occupying forces that were present during the gathering didn’t attempt to interfere, as they waited for reinforcements. When the Italian policemen on horseback arrived at the square, the crowd welcomed them chanting “Aera” (“Attack”), referencing the victories of the Greek army the previous year.

In the street fights that followed, many were injured and trampled, before the crowd dispersed into the nearby roads. This way the Athenian people won a big battle and started writing the Epic of the National Resistance.

Source: Newspaper “Ethnos” 2/11/2013

 

From the moment the Italians occupied Corfu they tried to gain full control of the education. One of the first actions of the Italian military command was to shut down all secondary education schools, under the pretense of “safety reasons”. On 19th June 1941 they operated again. General Parini, commander of Corfu, changed the situation in education after the arrival of the Italian educator and Helenist, Carlo Brighenti at Corfu.

Brighenti, who undertook the task of gradually assimilating the Greek education of the island to the Italian “culture”, was not just any scholar. Son of Eliseo Brighenti, a philologist, neo-Hellenist and passionate Philhellenes, that has published many works on Greek literature and language, Carlo was also said to admire Greece as the birthplace of civilization. Furthermore, Birghenti based his whole effort on his fame for his love of Greece.

Therefore, when he arrived at Corfu by the end of July 1941, he convened a meeting of the directors of secondary schools in the offices of the Prefecture, in which he spoke with solidarity and understanding to the directors, highlighting his family’s and his own offer to the Greek language and literature. In a further attempt to approach them, he offered a dinner to them at the hotel “Bella Venezia”.

When he began visiting the schools, addressing speeches to the students and cooperating with the teachers, he was surprised to see that he was received with coldness, although he initially thought he would find fertile ground for his corrosive propaganda. So he proposed the replacement of all school directors to Parini, which indeed took place at the start of the school year 1941-1942. Birghenti took over as director at the Boys’ High School and the Business School, Vissani took over at the Practical High School and Italian professor Zabaldi at the Girls’ High School. Furthermore Birghenti took over at the education department of the Civil Affairs Bureau of the Ionian Islands.

Meanwhile, Italian physical education teachers were hired, while the Italian language was given an equal status to Greek and Italian professors were hired for its teaching. The chapters about Modern Greek History were no longer taught in the history classes, and the pictures of the heroes of Greek Revolution were removed from all schools.

Naturally, these actions were faced with resistance from students and teachers alike. The protests organized by the students were met with arrests and beatings, while the resistance of the teachers led to their removal from Corfu. The individual removals during the period from October 1941 to September 1942 turned into a collective persecution in October 1942, when the Italians tried to impose the fascist salute, Salutate Romanamente, in Corfiot schools. Italians were then faced with the unanimous opposition of the teachers and were forced to take drastic measures. All teachers and their families were ordered to leave the island in 24 hours. This radical measure caused tremendous rage to the whole secondary education.

The lack in teaching staff in the secondary education, which was caused by the persecution of the Corfiot teachers, was dealt with the hiring of pensioner teachers and with the “promotion” of 9 primary school teachers to secondary education teachers. Nevertheless it was the students who were at the forefront of the Corfiot resistance and offered the most fighters for this cause.

Source: KERKYRAIKA CHRONIKA – Vol.12 – 1966, p.161

Archive: John Petsalis

 

 

 

First Sunday of November 1941

(Dedicated to the boys and girls of Corfiot High Schools)

Eirini Dentrinou

 

In the dark wilderness, that fills us with sadness,

in this cowardice, this falsehood, the shame that fills our hearts,

in this foul selfishness, that buries our feelings.

There will we all be living! Slaves in all glory!

Your bodies may be small but you stood up like giants,

against the violence of the enemy, against all pettiness.

Your fists may be small and your voices thin,

but your souls are mighty, not afraid of anything.

I salute you, children! May the sweet breeze of freedom

stroke your mighty hands….

 

Source: KERKYRAIKA CHRONIKA – Vol.1 – 1951, p.81

Archive: John Petsalis

 

 

The incidents

The following report by Captain Rafaele Lepori, Company Commander, presents the Italian point of view on the incidents at that day.

Source: “Proskopiki Zoi”, Year 4th! Issue n. 27

Corfu, November 2004

Archive: John Petsalis

 

 

Translation:

7th Autonomous Royal Carabinieri Batallion

1st Company

N. 143/1

 

Subject: Incident caused by students at the Greek High School

To the Command of the 7th Autonomous Royal Carabinieri Batallion.

Corfu

 

At around 12.30 o’clock today, the students of the Greek High School left after the procession of the relics of St. Spyridon, accompanied by High School professor, Kastanias Nikolaos.

The orders by the director of the 1st High School, professor Mamalos Grigorios, were to disperse when they reach Kapodistriou street, but this order was ignored and all students returned to their schools.

At Zampeli street they started singing Greek patriotic songs and went on for 15 minutes until they arrived at their schools and started singing the Greek royal anthem and the song of the Ionian Islands, to which they added the line “Ugly Italian Flag, we shall be free”

At 1 o’clock they left the school building, and while most of them left quietly, a group of approximately 20 students continued singing as they were heading to Zampeli street. The offensive words against our flag were understood by two women of Italian descent, Lul Furtunata and Trizini Elena, who informed some guards of the financial police, which were exiting a nearby restaurant.

The officers tried to send some of the students away, and they managed to do so after the help of a military patrol arrived.

Some boys and a girl were arrested. All of them were, however, released later, after the arrest of professor Kastanias Nikolaos. Professor Kastanias didn’t take any actions to stop the aforementioned incident and has in another instance spoken inappropriately before his students, as he encouraged them to be patient and ensured them that the victory would be on Greece’s side.

Proposals by the police for precautionary actions against him will be sent in a separate report.

Captain Company Commander

Signature

Rafaele Lepori

 

Source: “Proskopiki Zoi”, Year 4th! Issue n.27

Corfu, November 2004

Archive: John Petsalis

 

The Corfiot point of view is described by philologist Nikolaos Karydis as follows:

 

Under these circumstances for the education and the young people of Corfu, the following incidents took place on Sunday 2nd November 1941, according to people that were involved in them:

After the end of the procession of the relics of St. Spyridon on the first Sunday of November, all students marched in groups from the Ionian Bank square to Pentofanaro square and then headed back to 2nd High School singing patriotic songs and the national anthem.  One of the students also raised the Greek flag with his hands. During their march back to school nobody bothered the students, but during that time the Italian authorities were being informed.  When the march reached the Platy Kantouni street, it had already started raining, but the enthusiasm wouldn’t diminish. As the students arrived at the small square in front of the 2th High School, the Carabinieri arrived and moved quickly towards the young protesters, among whom was physical education teacher N. Kastanias (later member of EAM Corfu).

Amidst the tumult many students got on top of the school building, tore down the Italian flag and tossed it in the street. The Carabinieri made an attempt to use their weapons, but the reactions of the students stopped them. While the rain has gotten heavier, some students rushed to the nearby alleys of Porta Remunda neighborhood and tried to escape, but eventually some of them were arrested. Kastanias himself clashed with a Carabiniere and paid dearly for his audacity by getting beaten and imprisoned. Thanks to him, though, many students escaped the imprisonment from the raging Carabinieri.

http://proskynitis.blogspot.gr/2011/11/2-1941.html

 

 

The case of student Renos Paramythiotis

 ------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Renos Paramythiotis, Sea scout, 1945

(Photo by Giorgos Kagouridis)

According to the following document of the Carabinieri in Corfu, Paramythiotis caused problems to the occupants during the celebrations of the 28th October, when he booed while young Italian fascists were passing by.

Translation:

1st Unit of Royal Carabinieri (Corfu)

Civil Affairs Bureau

Corfu, 21/11/1941

 

Subject: Greek High School student PARAMYTHIOTIS RENOS

To the command of the 1st Unit of Royal Carabinieri.

Corfu

Renos Paramythiotis, son of Ioannis Paramythiotis and Elli Gkogkaki, born in Corfu on 24th September 1924, living on 7 Georgiou Kalosgourou street, student of the Greek High School of Corfu, has negative civil behavior.

 

Although he is young in age, he is socially active. He has taken part in all anti-Italian protests and lately took part with extreme enthusiasm in the anti-Italian protest that took place in Corfu on 28th October 1941, where he booed some young Italian fascists that were passing by.

An impulsive and impudent young man, with Anglophile views, he was active propagandist, spreading false news against us.

His family descends from Corfu and consists of the 47 year old father, pharmacist, known anglophile and anti-Italian propagandist, and the 33 year old mother, housewife, and the 10 year old brother. They were all born in Corfu and live here.

Renos Paramythiotis is of Greek descent and nationality.

Despite his young age, Paramythiotis is a dangerous troublemaker in the schools of Corfu.

Therefore we propose his expulsion from school and that an injunction must be ordered.

 

Warrant officer in charge,

Signature (illegible)

As we see his expulsion from school and a court injunction are being proposed. As the following document shows, both penalties are being accepted by Commander of Italian forces in Corfu, Piero Parini.

Translation:

Civil Affairs Bureau of Ionian Islands

To the Command of Royal Carabinieri

1st Unit

Corfu, 24/26 November 1941

 

Subject: Greek Student Paramythiotis Renos

The young man referred to in your report has been expelled from the school he studies.

 

You may act towards a court injunction after a proposal of your authorities.

Commander of Civil Affairs

 

Signature

Piero Parini

 

Source: “Proskopiki Zoi” Year 4th! Issue n. 27

Corfu November 2004

Archive: John Petsalis

 

Thus described the actions of the Corfiot students, a year after the occupation of Greece by the Axis forces in 1940. These incidents, as well as all other similar protests in the whole of Greece, helped to strengthen National Resistance against the enemy.

 

 

Αναζήτηση

Corfu Museum

Corfu Museum….τι μπορεί να είναι αυτό;

Θα το έλεγα με μια λέξη…. Αγάπη! Για ένα νησί που το γνωρίζουμε ελάχιστα. Η αλήθεια είναι ότι δεν μπορούμε ν’ αγαπήσουμε ότι δεν το γνωρίζουμε. Στόχος λοιπόν είναι να το γνωρίσουμε όσο πιο βαθιά μπορούμε, μέσα από το χθες και το σήμερα, γιατί αλλιώς πως θα το αγαπήσουμε; Αγαπάω ατομικά και ομαδικά έχει επακόλουθο…. φροντίζω….. μάχομαι… και σέβομαι. Αγάπη προς την Κέρκυρα είναι το Corfu Museum και τίποτε άλλο.

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