Yesterday the Greek military dictatorship cancelled without explanation the traditional Greek Orthodox memorial services, scheduled for today, to mourn the death of the "13" who were killed by the police and army a month ago. However, many more than 13--probably more than 100--families are mourning for relatives killed November 17 when the dictator confronted the rebelling Greeks with tanks. The revolt is now history, but the outburst was only a warning for the future.
Athens, Greece, November 17, 1973. 1 a.m. The director of the prosecutor's office joins General Thomopoulos, chief of national security, in the police headquarters building. A Greek green beret colonel in civilian attire has been awaiting their arrival since the afternoon.
The problem: The students and workers occupying the Polytechnic Institute in Athens, the nerve center of the two-day old revolt in Athens and the two other major cities of Greece.
A decision on what to do about them had been reached earlier in the afternoon. Dimitrios Ioanides, brigadier general of the military police, was reported to have been in disagreement with the course of action George Papadopoulos and prime minister Spyros Markezinis had chosen. He had wanted drastic action from the outset of the crisis. The military hierarchy of the junta in Athens had sided with Papadopoulos. The students had been in revolt for three days, the population was increasingly restless and the stability of the regime was shaken.
The decision: Respect for academic asylum was to end. The group in the police headquarters would carry out the technical aspects of the capture of the institute.
The solution: At 1:45 a.m., 20 M-48 tanks move through the rioting city and encircle the Institute. At 2 a.m. the tanks point their guns at the students who are perched on the walls and on the iron gate singing Greece's National Anthem, "Hymn of Freedom," and yelling "The army is with us," "You are our brothers," "No blood."
At 2:30 a.m. the tanks flood the building with their headlights, turning night into day. Army trucks arrive at the scene and unload policemen armed with submachineguns and special commando troops.
The students line up behind the main gate. Later, a Dutch television crew that was on the scene reported that there were six rows of students sitting behind the iron gate.
At 3 a.m. one of the tanks rotates its turret, its gun turned away from the Institute to protect it from the impact. The tank charges from the full width of the empty street into the iron gate. The 40-ton steel machine destroys the gate, and the commandos and the policemen charge into the Institute.
The havoc created in the Institute, the destruction of facilities, and most tragic, the loss of life in the struggle are not yet known in their full extent. The Papadopoulos regime reported 13 deaths from the incident, mostly victims hit by "stray" shots--blocks away from the Institute area. Conservative estimates place the actual death toll at 74 while other sources from Greece place it as high as 200.
According to a spokesman for Papadopoulos's regime, the capture of the Institute was completed by 3:30 a.m. But the sirens of the ambulances and the shots of machine-guns combined in a cacophony of violence and destruction long through the morning hours.
Saturday and Sunday saw citizens participating in massive riots and gatherings attacked by police forces reinforced with army units. Groups of 50 to 100 people tried to seize telecommunication facilities and attacked ministries and police stations. But the police apparatus, combined with the military strength of marines, paratroopers and 50 tanks coordinated by helicopters, slowly and bloodily imposed the chains of martial law on the population of Greece. The airports were closed, curfews were imposed, 866 Greeks were rounded up in a soccer stadium by the police, almost 2,000 people were arrested and the political leaders of the past, amnestied weeks ago, were once again confined to their homes for "anarchistic" behavior.
By Monday the shopkeepers opened their stores, the workers started returning to their jobs, the airlines resumed their scheduled flights, and "law and order" was imposed on the Greek people once again.
Yet the Papadopoulos regime started an extensive campaign in the press against the people of Athens, Thessaloniki and Patra who had participated in the revolt. They had to scare the population once more with threats of an impending communist revolt, they had to consolidate their hold on the armed forces and they had to polish the tarnished "stability."
Demetrius Zagorianakos, chief of the armed forces, said on November 21 in justifying the intervention of the armed forces: