By Ioannis Fidanakis

Throughout time man has associated certain images with events, images that shock the human mind so much they are permanently engrained in our memories. The Holocaust, the mere mention of the word fills people with images of horrible persecution. Mountains of shoes and gas chambers are all quickly associated with the horrible events which took place in the Second World War. In the United States, whippings and lynchings are seen as trade marks of African-American Slavery in the South. Today's society identifies these images with crimes against Humanity. We are taught to no longer tolerate such acts of hatred, and instead commemorate and study these important lessons of the past to honour the many innocent who lost their lives. Yet the most disturbing imagery, that of mountains upon mountains of human skulls and long marches of women, children and elderly in the desert, are lost on society. Our ‘civilized' society turns a blind eye to such images and the events in which they are identified with, the forgotten Hellenic, Armenian, and Assyrian Genocides initiated during the First World War. How can the international community allow the suffering and persecution endured by the Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire and Republic of Turkey to just be left to fade away into history? Why are these millions of innocent men, women and children that perished not given the same respect of commemoration, study, and remembrance?

The lack of recognition, dealing with the Hellenic Genocide, which is known by scholars as the Greek and Pontic Greek Genocide, is in and of itself a crime against Humanity. To simply surpass the importance of such a terrible part of History is a disservice to all those who lost their lives during those years of fear and terror. How can Western Civilization, who owe the Hellenic people so much for its very birth and continued survival. Not feel as if their own ancestors perished under years of oppression and atrocities.

There are many excuses behind the lack of international recognition, mainly based around the historical events that took place shortly after the Genocide. The Treaty of Lausanne, which was signed in 1923, and brought an end to the Hellenic population living in Anatolia, makes no mention of the persecutions and troubles suffered by the Christian subjects at the time, and hence sealing the issues fate. The Greco-Turkish Treaty of Friendship signed in 1930, is also used by many as a reason behind the Genocide's omission from history books, because of the concessions that were made for peace in the region. Lastly, and what appears to be the most logical, is that fact that Hellas suffered political and social turmoil, with the Nazi Occupation and Civil War, which took place shortly afterwards. The mere survival of the Hellenic people took precedence over the recognition for these events.

The tragedy that befell those Hellenes living in Anatoliki Thraki (Eastern Thrace) and all of Anatolia can be divided into two separate phases. The first falling between 1914 and the closing days of the First World War, at the hands of the Ottoman Government , and the second from 1919 till the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 by Mustapha Kemal and his Kemalist followers, who were the old guard of the Young Turk movement, that had previously ruled the Ottoman Empire. It is during these years that the rivers of Anatoliki Thraki and Anatolia ran red with Hellenic blood.

"The first step in the persecutions of the Greeks was the attack on the ecclesiastical, legal, and educational rights which had always been possessed within the Turkish Empire by the Greek ecclesiastical authorities and which had gone far toward mitigating the distress of the Turkish regime. The Turkish language was introduced into Greek schools; geography and history had to be taught in Turkish. Greek priests were arrested and imprisoned without warning or reason and without notification of the ecclesiastical authorities. Forcible conversions to Mohammedanism, long forbidden by law, began to appear again, particularly in the case of Greek girls carried off to Turkish harems without the usual right of intervention which the Greek Patriarch and Metropolitans had always possessed. "(1)

The persecutions of old rightfully echoed loudly in the hearts and minds of the population with the return of those once forgotten practices and a new form of the janissary system, disguised in the form of charitable Orphan Asylums. The ingenious method of masking these charitable institutions for devious purposes was second nature for the Turkish Government. The Orphan asylums sprung up under the disguise of relief, and yet were used as tools of the Government's planned extermination of the Hellenic population still living within the Empire.

"These orphan institutions have in appearance a charitable object, but if one considers that their inmates are Greek boys who became orphans because their parents were murdered, or who were snatched away from their mothers, or left in the streets for want of nourishment, (of which, they were deprived by the Turks.), and that these Greek children receive there a purely Turkish education, it will be at once seen that the cloak of charity there lurks the ‘child collecting' system instituted in the past by the Turkish conquerors and a new effort to revive the janissary system. The Greek boys were treated in this manner. What happens to the Greek girls? If we review the Consular reports about the persecutions from the year 1916 to 1917 we shall find hardly one of them which does not speak of forcible abductions and conversions to Mohammedanism. And it could not have been otherwise, since it is well known that this action, as has been stated above, was decided upon in June 1915, in order to effect the Turkification of the Hellenic element. This plan was carried out methodically and in a diabolical manner, through the ‘mixed settlements' of Greeks and Turks, always with a predominance of Mohammedan males and of Greek females in order to compel mixed marriages."(2)

Other methods used by the Turkish government during both phases were Work battalions, Concentration camps, death marches, and straight-out massacres to put an end to the Hellenic Question. The famous work battalions, known as ‘Ameles tabour', were created "on the plea that the Christians could not be trusted to bear arms against their coreligionists they were drafted into labor battalions and set into the interior of Asia Minor to do work for the Turks."(3)

The conditions, in which, they were forced to live in were terrible. "A piece of unsuitable bread made from tare (animal food) and a watery soup daily, under the rain and snow, with insults, humiliations, and beatings, sicknesses of dysentery, diarrhea, typhus, did not leave much margin for survival. The number of those who survived these notorious ameles tabour, ‘the death battalions' as called by Christians, was minimal." (4)

Anatoliki Thraki and the Genocide

One of the most overlooked regions, in which the Genocide accrued, is Anatoliki Thraki. A place, which suffered systematic plans of genocide, under both the Bulgarians and Turks, seeing double the carnage of other Hellenic lands during those years. During the years of persecution in Vorio Thraki (Northern Thrace) by the Bulgarians, the Turkish policy towards the Hellenes was one of friendship, because of the Slavic threat against the Ottoman Empire. Thus, generally speaking, the position of the Greeks of Thrace was a good one in this period. With the revolution of the Young Turks, the Greeks of Thrace, as all the Greeks of the Empire, hoped for the amelioration of their position believing in the declarations of equality and brotherhood. They were soon disillusioned, however, since the measures of the Young Turks against the Greek communities affected many of their privileges. (5)

An eerie sense of doom must have been felt creeping in, with the Turkish reoccupation of Thraki, which would bring an era of brutality not soon forgotten with the return of atrocities, looting and massacres against the Hellenes. Whole villages being destroyed by the Turkish military in the most sadistic ways, at the time, a wireless dispatch to the Daily Chronicle from Constanza says: ‘Turkey has been running an ‘atrocious campaign' most unscrupulously to cover her own misdeeds and distract attention from the appalling facts of the Thracian massacres by the Turkish army of reoccupation. (6) The death and destruction seen in Thraki during the Balkan Wars would be surpassed only with the coming First World War.

"When the European war broke out, the Turks, with German connivance, began a policy of extermination of the Greek population which parallels in almost every detail the terrible outrages against the Armenians." The Turkish Government used the outbreak of the War to its full advantage to begin the removal of the Hellenic Population from their ancestral homeland, under the pretext of the 'military security' of the Turkish cities, a large part of the population of eastern Thrace was deported towards the hinterland of Asia Minor hinterland (as was the case with the population of western Asia Minor and Pontos). Many were forced to convert to Islam, and they were distanced from the Patriarchate and had no access to Greek schools. A large part of the male population was exterminated in amele taburu or labour battalions. (7)

The Terror and destruction decimated the countryside, turning the once beautiful crossroads between Europe and Asia, into Hell on earth, with Turkish hordes descending upon the local peasantry leaving nothing in their wake. Life in the countryside changed from one of children playing and parents working, to silence, as Hellenes dared not to tend to their fields, while Turkish bands roamed freely in the open countryside.

Reports from the Ecumenical Patriarchate tell us of the anarchy and terror, which reigned over Anatoliki Thraki, where these Turkish bands were free to, committed the oldest crimes in the newest ways. Turkish civilians aided the Ottoman Government in their plans of extermination, in whatever manner they could. Turkish peasants would execute orders given to them by local officials mainly during the cover of darkness, to hide their identity from their neighbors. Individual incidents like that from the Diocese of Heracles, show the pure horror that Hellenes living in Thraki had to deal with on a daily bases, "At the end of May, 1919, three Albanian-Turks, guarding the Tsikili Farm, on the Tsads-Tyroloe road, killed two young Christian men from Tsads, whose clothes and ears they sent to this town, to frighten the peasantry and whose corpses they gave to the dogs of the farm for food". (8)

In the Diocese of Ganos and Chora, "The Turkish peasants' fanaticism, provocations and threatening attitude toward the Greeks had grown so violent, that they openly declared, even in presence of Government officials, that they would quite soon annihilate them. This state of things paralyzed the will of the Greeks and prevented them from attending to their business" (9). A perfect example of their fanaticism comes from one report in December of 1919. "Periclis Prodromou from Avdini, was slaughtered like a lamb, near Atelthini"(10), as if the Hellenic people were livestock, this just goes to show the mentality held by the Turkish people at the time.

In the Diocese of Didymotechon, which lies on the border of Anatoliki Thraki and Western Thraki, we see, "On May 21st, a double murder of two Greeks took place in the village Tchanakli. These two farmers coming to Ouzoum Kioprou, were on the way attacked by four soldiers. The head of one victim, Athanassius, was cut off, while the other victim, though seriously wounded, was able to creep as far as Eski-keuyto. The wounded reported the crime to the authorities and after a few hours succumbed to his wounds."(11)

In the end Hellenism in Anatoliki Thraki would face the same fate as that of Anatolian and Pontian Hellenism. With the evacuation of the Hellenic Army in 1922, the surviving 300,000 Hellenes living in Anatoliki Thraki, excluding those living in Constantinople were forced to leave the homeland of their ancestors, which had been theirs for thousands of years.

A Call for Justice and Recognition

In the same spirit that brought recognition and restitution for the victims of the Holocaust, so should Turkey be held accountable for the crimes of its past. How else can it truly be seen as a partner for peace, ready for entrance inside the European community? Those seeking justice are not looking for War or dismantlement of the Turkish state, but rather for the wrongs of the past to be recognized and set straight. The Turkish people should not fear international recognition, but should welcome it, as a means to finally write an end to this ugly chapter of history so all people involved can look to the future instead of the past.

Far too much time has past since those terrible events during the early 20th century, without an international declaration memorializing these atrocities as Genocide. Hellas is politically and socially stable enough to final push for international recognition of the Genocide suffered by its people during those long years of oppression and persecution. It is time that the movement for justice and recognition finally take center stage inside the many important National Issues facing Hellas today. In 2007, an important step was realized, when the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) recognized the crimes suffered by the Assyrian, Hellenic, and Armenian populations between 1914 and 1923 as Genocide. "The resolution declares that ‘it is the conviction of the International Association of Genocide Scholars that the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks.' It ‘calls upon the government of Turkey to acknowledge the genocides against these populations, to issue a formal apology, and to take prompt and meaningful steps toward restitution.'(12)

It is my firm belief that the only honorable and logical way to handle recognition and restitution of the Genocide committed against the Hellenes of Anatoliki Thraki is with a solution deemed acceptable for both parties involved. This mutual understanding must benefit both Christian and Muslim Thracians still living inside Turkey, as well as those descendants living outside the region. The first step towards justice would be the Genocide's recognition inside Turkey, as well as internationally. Something that has already slowly come about with the recent declarations from International Associations, as well as limited recognition by some in the International Community and locally in the United States.

The second step would be the creation of a Genocide Memorial in Constantinople to commemorate all those lost during those bloodily years of turmoil. This memorial could also run as a research center and academic hub for Hellenic and Turkish scholars studying these and other similar events.

Third and perhaps most radical part of the process of restitution is the question of monetary compensation and land claims. As stated before, those of us seeking justice do not wish to be seen as war enthusiasts bent on the destruction of the Turkish state.

Instead such radical parts of this process can be answered, while still protecting Turkish sovereignty. At this point and time it would be impossible to have monetary compensation given to the families of the survivors, just as it would be wrong to reward the Hellenic state with such compensation. Unlike the state of Israel, which was founded after the Holocaust, by survivors of the tragedy, the Hellenic state was already in existence and the victims were not Hellenic citizens, but rather Turkish. With this in mind it seems to me that a third option must be presented. This being the creation of an autonomist Anatoliki Thraki, which would receive monetary compensation directly from the Turkish state, keeping the funds within the borders of Turkey, to aid one region economically. This process could be seen as a reconstruction or renovation of the region for the betterment of its local population. This autonomist region would be governed by local Christians and Muslims, as well as returning individuals whose family roots are from Anatoliki Thraki. The returning descendants of refugees expelled from the area would be reintroduced via settlements, much like those created by the state of Israel. Finally its capital should be seated in Constantinople, and a special relationship with the European Union must be established. This seems to be the most reasonable and appropriate solution for justice for Thraki and the Thrakiotes.


1. "Turkish Cruelty Bared by Greeks." New York Times, June 16, 1918
2. "Turkish Cruelty Bared by Greeks." New York Times, June 16, 1918
3. "Turkish Cruelty Bared by Greeks." New York Times, June 16, 1918
4. Tsirkinidis, Harry. At Last we uprooted them… Pg 83
5. "The Expansion of the Hellenic State"
6. "Turks massacre Greeks in Thrace", New York Times, July 28, 1913
7. "The Expansion of the Hellenic State"
8. The Black Book, Press of the Patriarchate. 1920
9. The Black Book, Press of the Patriarchate. 1920
10. The Black Book, Press of the Patriarchate. 1920
11. The Black Book, Press of the Patriarchate. 1920


1. Tsirkinidis, Harry. At last we uprooted them…The genocide of Greeks of Pontos, Thrace and Asia Minor, through the French Archives. Translated by Stratos Mavrantonis. Kyriakidis Brothers. S.A. Publishing House.1999

2. James, Edwin I. "Turks Proclaim Banishment edict to 1,000,000 Greeks." New York Times. December 2, 1922

3. "The Statesman of extermination." New York Times. December 4, 1922. Pg 16, Col 3

Ioannis Fidanakis is the President of Panthracian Union of America "Orpheus".