Aris Velouchiotis

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Aris Velouchiotis ( Greek Άρης Βελουχιώτης , born August 27, 1905 in Lamia ; † June 16, 1945 ; actually Athanasios Klaras , Greek Αθανάσιος Κλάρας ) was a well-known leader of the communist wing of the Greek partisan movement in World War II.


Klaras was born in Lamia in 1905. In 1929 he became a member of the youth organization of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). During the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas (1936–1941) he was arrested and sent to prison in Aegina . However, he fled during his trial and became involved in the now banned Communist Party. In 1939 he was arrested again and imprisoned in Corfu until he signed a statement in which he distanced himself from the Communist Party. According to presumptions, this was done on behalf of the KKE leader Nikolaos Zachariadis .

Second World War

During the Second World War , Klaras fought as an artillery sergeant in the Greek army on the Albanian front (1940-1941) against Mussolini's army until Greece was forced to surrender in April 1941 by the attack of the Wehrmacht .

After the German attack on the Soviet Union , Klaras, who had long been in favor of starting partisan warfare against the occupiers, was sent to central Greece by the Communist Party. There he checked the requirements for a guerrilla war against the Nazis and was then commanded by the party leadership in January 1942 to the mountains, where he began to build up the partisan forces. When, on June 7, 1942, partisans under his leadership took action for the first time in the village of Domnista ( Evritania ) in central Greece, he had already adopted the pseudonym Aris Velouchiotis. From this point on he became better known in the ELAS (ΕΛΑΣ, Ελληνικός Λαϊκός Απελευθερωτικός Στρατός, "National People's Liberation Army" ), which he later led with the left-wing liberal Stefanos Sarafis . In the mountains, Aris Velouchiotis was largely independent of the decisions of the party leadership. Since he also freed them from the burden of constant raids by recruiting the first partisans from marauding bandit groups, he became the "uncrowned king of the mountains".

One of the most important operations of the resistance movement, to which Velouchiotis and his like-minded members belonged, was the blowing up of the Gorgopotamos Bridge south of Lamia in November 1942 in cooperation with the then still socialist EDES under Napoleon Zervas , Nikolaos Plastiras and Komninos Pyromaglou and British special forces The success of the action hindered the supply of German troops in North Africa for several days, among other things, but was more important as a symbol of the possibility of resistance against the supposedly overpowering occupation.

This event also marked the end of the cooperation between the socialist and communist ELAS and the EDES, which slowly went from a left-wing to a conservative, royal-loyal organization due to the increase in power of Zervas and the loss of power of Plastiras and Pyromaglou.

The end

In October 1944, the Nazis withdrew from Greece, leaving the country largely under the influence of the Greek left resistance. The agreement between ELAS and its supervisory organization EAM with the returned government in exile under Georgios Papandreou in Varkiza was sharply criticized by Velouchiotis as treason. The Communist Party then expelled him from the party as an alleged Trotskyist and traitor.

Velouchiotis returned to the central Greek mountains to organize the resistance against the installed government and the British quasi-occupation forces. Although most of his allies had abandoned him, he continued the partisan struggle until, in June 1945, he fell in a skirmish with pro-government paramilitaries along with his aide Iavellas. Whether he was killed in battle or committed suicide is still a contentious issue. His head was cut off and displayed to the public in Trikala City Square .


The contemplation of the person of Klaras or Velouchiotis is still dominated by the political landscape of Greece. The left-wing extremists elevated him to a symbolic figure in Western European countries for his resistance against the Nazis and the subsequent installation of a pro- western satellite government similar to Che Guevara or Ho Chi Minh . As political commissioner and founder of ELAS, he was probably the most important figure of the entire Greek resistance and is today praised by the left-wing extremist scene for deviating from the strictly Moscow-loyal course of the KKE leadership and for being a grassroots democratic and socialist in the Greek mountains during the occupation Community building. In contrast, there are judgments that accuse Aris Velouchiotis of crimes that he allegedly committed against civilians.

The Athenian writer Dionysis Charitopoulos published a biography of Aris Velouchiotis in 1996, for which he researched for 20 years and which became a bestseller in Greece.

See also


  • Hagen Fleischer : In the cross shadow of the powers. Greece 1941-1944. Occupation - Resistance - Collaboration . Frankfurt am Main / Bern / New York 1986, ISBN 3-8204-8581-3 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Heinz Richter: Greece between revolution and counterrevolution 1936-1946 .
  2. Christiane Schlötzer: Finally real leftists. The rise of the Syriza party is a historical experiment, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung No. 40, February 18, 2015, p. 9.