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30 July 2014
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WW2 - People's War

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About the contributor

beniphilipott
User ID: U735505

My name is Philip. My father was a fireman in the north-west, and was at Coventry. Later, in 1944 he was sent to Greece with the British army and the COI to help with the information/propaganda effort, and that's where he met my mother, who is Greek.

My mother's family in Greece lived through the political upheavals of the interwar in the Balkans, and the coming of dictatorship to Greece in the 1930s. Then came the Italian invasion, through Albania, which was repulsed successfully, the subsequent German invasion and occupation, and the subsequent civil war, which the Western backed side won. My mother's father was an officer in the Greek Army, and after the occupation began he worked secretly with the British in Egypt, gathering information as he worked the fishing boats, which was his secondary occupation when not in the army, the politics of the army in Greece deciding whether he was employed by them or not at any one time.

The British experience of the war and the Greek experience are very different. The Greek experience was more similar to that of Eastern Europe in general and the Russian campaign in terms of (political) attitudes and war 'barbarism'. I have always been interested in researching the Eastern conflicts within the European war, and contrasting them with the British experience as an island under threat, and with the commando raids and the British effort in North Africa.

The British attitude to the Germans tends to be one of 'we won the war but they won the cup' kind of grudging admiration tinged with a little anxiety/nervousness. The Greek attitude is more straightforward: the Greeks were invaded and occupied, and many were forced to go to work in Germany as forced labour. Many of those who went enjoyed the German way of working, even under the Nazis, so much that they continued going to work in Germany after the war as immigrant labour, and made a good living for themselves.

Most Greeks of that generations actually came to love the Germans as bringers of order and wealth/prosperity. Also, the politics of the resistance came into it. Those Greeks who hated the Communists were more amenable to the Germans, and those who were abused by the Communist resistance(which at one time, in 1944, controlled most of the country outside of Athens) also looked upon the Germans more favourably. When you look at what Stalin did in Russia, you can understand this attitude, although strangely, we in the West tend to be more obsessed with the German treatment of minorities than with the Stalinist treatment of opponents and minorities.

All of this is why I get so annoyed at programmes on the BBC that apparently attempt to imitate or simulate wartime conditions in any way. It is a futile exercise and a waste of time. If kids today really want to know about war, apart from watching videos, like newsreels of the time from ALL the participating countries, they should travel to places like Eastern Europe were memories and experiences are much more immediate than here, and learn how such conflict effects everyday life and the generations after it.

That's all, thank you.

Philip

Stories contributed by beniphilipott

Firemen to Normandy

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