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Resistance fighter and left-wing veteran Manolis Glezos dies at 98

Veteran left-wing politician, a symbol for resistance in Greece and abroad, Manolis Glezos has died at 98. He was admitted to hospital on March 18. According to media reports, he died of heart failure. It was the second time he was hospitalized since last November.

The legacy he leaves behind is full of respect and awe.

Manolis Glezos wrote history when he took down from the Acropolis the Nazi flag on 31. May 1941 together with Apostolos Santas.

Through out his political activism, he was sentenced 28 times for his ideas and three times to death.

He fought against injustice until the end and strongly campaigning against the austerity imposed on Greece during the economic crisis. “I fear the man of one book,” Glezos said sharply criticizing then EP President Martin Schulz during a plenary session in 2015 and taught him a lesson about how democracy works.

In June 2012, he was elected member of the Greek parliament on SYRIZA ticket.

In May 2014, he won a seat at the European Parliament with over 430,000 votes. At the age of 91, he was the oldest person elected to the European Parliament. He held the seat for one year and resigned as traveling to Brussels was difficult due to his heart problems.

Manolis Glezos was born in the village Apiranthos on the island of Naxos and moved to Athens in 1935 together with his family.

Political career

His  started and early age and lasted throughout his whole life.

During his high school years in Athens he also worked as a pharmacy employee. He was admitted to the Higher School of Economic and Commercial Studies (known today as the Athens University of Economics and Business) in 1940. In 1939, still a high school student, Glezos participated in the creation of an anti-fascist youth group against the Italian occupation of the Dodecanese and the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas.

At the onset of World War II he asked to join the Greek army in the Albanian front against Italy, but was rejected because he was underage. Instead, he worked as a volunteer for the Hellenic Ministry of Economics.

During the Axis occupation of Greece, he worked for the Hellenic Red Cross and the municipality of Athens, while actively involved in the resistance against the Nazis.

On 30 May 1941 Glezos and Apostolos Santas climbed on the Acropolis and tore down the swastika, which had been there since 27 April 1941, when the Nazi forces had entered Athens.

It inspired not only the Greeks, but all subjected people, to resist the occupation, and established them both as two international anti-Nazi heroes.

The Nazi regime responded by sentencing the perpetrators to death in absentia, but they did not learn who they were until much later. Glezos was arrested by the German occupation forces on 24 March 1942 and was subjected to imprisonment and torture. As a result of his treatment, he was affected by tuberculosis.

On 3 March 1948, in the midst of the Greek Civil War, he was put to trial for his political convictions and sentenced to death multiple times by the national government. His death penalties were reduced to a life sentence in 1950.

Even though he was still imprisoned, Manolis Glezos was elected member of the Hellenic Parliament in 1951, under the flag of the United Democratic Left, also known as EDA. Upon his election, he went on a hunger strike demanding the release of his fellow EDA MPs that were imprisoned or exiled in the Greek islands. He ended his hunger strike upon the release of 7 MPs from their exile. He was released from prison on 16 July 1954.

On 5 December 1958 he was arrested again and convicted for espionage, which was common pretext for the persecution of the supporters of the left during the Cold War.

The Soviet Union reacted circulating a postage stamp with Glezos, while the Greek government responded with a postage stamp depicting Imre Nagy.

Glezos release on 15 December 1962 was a result of the public outcry in Greece and abroad, including winning the Lenin Peace Prize.

During his second term of post-war political imprisonment, Glezos was reelected MP with EDA in 1961.

At the coup d’état of 21 April 1967, Glezos was arrested together with the rest of the political leaders. During the Regime of the Colonels, the military dictatorship led by Giorgos Papadopoulos, he was imprisoned and exiled until his release in 1971.

Manolis Glezos’ sentences, from the Second World War to the Greek Civil War and the Regime of the Colonels totals to 11 years and 4 months of imprisonment, and 4 years and 6 months of exile.

After the restoration of democracy in Greece in 1974, Glezos participated in the reviving of EDA. In the elections of October 1981 and June 1985, he was elected Member of the Greek Parliament, on a Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) ticket. In 1984 he was elected Member of the European Parliament, again on a PASOK ticket. He was the President of EDA from 1985 until 1989.

In 1986, he withdrew from the Parliament, in order to try to implement a grassroots democracy experiment.

In the 2000 Greek legislative election he led the list of Synaspismos (in English Coalition) party of the radical left. In 2002, he formed the political group Active Citizens

In March 2010, Glezos was participating in an anti-austerity protest in Athens, when he was hit in the face by a police tear gas canister. He was carried away injured.

In February 2012, Glezos was arrested by riot police while protesting in Athens together with composer Mikis Theodorakis. Both elderly men were sprayed with tear gas by police officers and treated in the medical office of the Parliament.

A fighter until the end. On a rainy day in November 2017, fragile 95-year-old Glezos paid a tribute to the fallen of the Polytechnic School Uprising.

Why do I go on? Why I am doing this when I am 92 years and two months old? I could, after all, be sitting on a sofa in slippers with my feet up. So why do I do this? You think the man sitting opposite you is Manolis but you are wrong. I am not him. And I am not him because I have not forgotten that every time someone was about to be executed [during WWII], they said: ‘Don’t forget me. When you say good morning, think of me. When you raise a glass, say my name.’ And that is what I am doing talking to you, or doing any of this. The man you see before you is all those people. And all this is about not forgetting them.

Manolis Glezos, 2014

Now he rests in peace having lived a full life.

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One comment

  1. Bernhard Thiesing

    Manolis Glezos died at 97, not 98

    (9 September 1922 – 30 March 2020)