Haidari concentration camp
The Haidari concentration camp was a concentration camp
Nazi concentration camps
Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout the territories it controlled. The first Nazi concentration camps set up in Germany were greatly expanded after the Reichstag fire of 1933, and were intended to hold political prisoners and opponents of the regime...

 operated by the German Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

at the Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 suburb of Haidari during the Axis Occupation of Greece in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Operating from September 1943 until it was shut down in September 1944, it was the largest and most notorious concentration camp in wartime Greece, becoming known as the "Bastille
The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoine. It played an important role in the internal conflicts of France and for most of its history was used as a state prison by the kings of France. The Bastille was built in response to the English threat to the city of...

 of Greece".

It was a transit camp established on the grounds of a Greek Army barracks, and it is estimated that in the one year of its operation, some 21,000 people passed through it, including Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

, Italian POWs and Greek political prisoners. The majority of these was transported north, to Auschwitz in the case of the Jews, or to forced labour in Germany, while others were detained for questioning by the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

. It is estimated that ca. 2,000 inmates were executed there during the camp's operation.


Following the German invasion
Battle of Greece
The Battle of Greece is the common name for the invasion and conquest of Greece by Nazi Germany in April 1941. Greece was supported by British Commonwealth forces, while the Germans' Axis allies Italy and Bulgaria played secondary roles...

 in April 1941 and until September 1943, most of Greece was under Italian occupation. The Italians had inherited the Greek pre-war prisons, which housed a great number of political prisoners, and established a number of concentration camps of their own in southern Greece. As the tide of the war turned against the Axis in the spring of 1943, the Italians decided to move the inmates to more secure locations: the inmates of the Acronauplia and Trikala
Trikala is a city in northwestern Thessaly, Greece. It is the capital of the Trikala peripheral unit, and is located NW of Athens, NW, of Karditsa, E of Ioannina and Metsovo, S of Grevena, SW of Thessaloniki, and W of Larissa...

 prisons were transferred to Larissa
Larissa is the capital and biggest city of the Thessaly region of Greece and capital of the Larissa regional unit. It is a principal agricultural centre and a national transportation hub, linked by road and rail with the port of Volos, the city of Thessaloniki and Athens...

. However, the mounting Greek Resistance
Greek Resistance
The Greek Resistance is the blanket term for a number of armed and unarmed groups from across the political spectrum that resisted the Axis Occupation of Greece in the period 1941–1944, during World War II.-Origins:...

 movement in the countryside forced them to transport a large number to Attica
Attica is a historical region of Greece, containing Athens, the current capital of Greece. The historical region is centered on the Attic peninsula, which projects into the Aegean Sea...

. On 29 August 1943, 600 prisoners, including 243 Communists who had been imprisoned since before the war by the Metaxas Regime, were sent from Larissa to Athens. they arrived on 3 September, and were housed in the Haidari barracks. The regime in the camp was rather easy-going at first: visits and post were allowed, the inmates were not confined to their rooms, and did not have to perform manual labour. Italian control over Haidari was short-lived, however: on 8 September, Italy surrendered to the Allies, and on September 10, the Germans took over the camp.

Description of the camp

The camp was never finished, and its structures were looted in 1941. As a result, it was in poor shape when the first prisoners arrived, and the situation would deteriorate further in the months to come, when the camp came under German control. The camp had a roughly rectangular shape, surrounded by a triple barbed wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...

 fence, with guard towers at every 200 m. The camp's gate was on the western side of the fence. Most buildings were clustered on the northern half of the camp. Blocks 1 to 4 were located there, built in a staggered line towards the East. These were two-storey barracks buildings, divided in two equal but separate sections, western and eastern, with separate entrances to each. In addition, the north-eastern corner housed storage houses, the mess hall, the baths (Block 16), where the women's solitary confinement
Solitary confinement
Solitary confinement is a special form of imprisonment in which a prisoner is isolated from any human contact, though often with the exception of members of prison staff. It is sometimes employed as a form of punishment beyond incarceration for a prisoner, and has been cited as an additional...

 cells were also located, the workshops (Block 21) and the camp headquarters (Block 20). The infamous Block 15, located to the east of the headquarters, was the solitary confinement facility, with the camp guard's quarters and mess room. In the south-eastern corner there was the isolated women's wing (Block 6). Under the Germans, the first floor housed Jewish women, while the second floor was reserved for Christians. In total, over 300 Christian and 2,500 Jewish women passed through Haidari, including heroines of the Resistance such as Iro Konstantopoulou or Lela Karagianni (executed on 5 and 8 September 1944 respectively).

Under the Germans

The new German commandant, sergeant Rudi Trepte, quickly imposed a more rigid regime, with prisoners confined to their rooms in their free time, and visits were restricted to once a month. Meanwhile, the camp's population began to grow: 300 prisoners from Kalamata
Kalamata is the second-largest city of the Peloponnese in southern Greece. The capital and chief port of the Messenia prefecture, it lies along the Nedon River at the head of the Messenian Gulf...

 arrived in October, and 400 were transferred from the Averof prisons in early November. On 23 November however, Trepte and his two Greek translators were arrested by the Gestapo, for reasons as yet unknown. After a few days, on November 28, the camp passed under the authority of the SS, and the Sturmbannführer
Sturmbannführer was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party equivalent to major, used both in the Sturmabteilung and the Schutzstaffel...

Paul Radomski
Paul Radomski
Paul Otto Radomski was a Nazi SS officer and concentration camp commander.-Early Nazi career:Radomski was an "Old Fighter" of the Nazi Party, and one of the early companions of the feared security chief Reinhard Heydrich in Hamburg. However, he was considered as brutal even by his fellow SS officers...


Radomski was an "Old Fighter
Alter Kämpfer
Alter Kämpfer is a term referring to the earliest members of the Nazi Party, i.e. those who joined it before the Reichstag elections of September 1930, with many belonging to the Party as early as its first foundation in 1919–1923...

" of the Nazi Party, and one of the early companions of the feared security
The RSHA, or Reichssicherheitshauptamt was an organization subordinate to Heinrich Himmler in his dual capacities as Chef der Deutschen Polizei and Reichsführer-SS...

 chief Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

 in Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

. However, he was considered as brutal even by his fellow SS officers. His personal file called him "primitive", and as commander of the Syrets concentration camp
Syrets concentration camp
Syrets was the name of a Nazi concentration camp that was erected in 1942 near Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, which was then a part of the Soviet Union.- Establishment and location :...

 near Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

 he led a terror regime, ordering severe punishments for the smallest infractions, and often personally shooting or whipping the inmates, a habit he carried over at Haidari.

Under Radomski, the camp inmates were put to labour in two four-hour shifts each day except Sundays. The inmates were divided into groups of 100 men, with a hecatontarch in charge of each. However, the labour was not intended for any productive purposes, but merely to break the prisoners' morale: they were made to dig holes and then refill them, build walls and then break them down.

The first execution in the camp was carried out on 7 December, when Radomski personally executed a Greek Jewish
The Romaniotes or Romaniots are a Jewish population who have lived in the territory of today's Greece and neighboring areas with large Greek populations for more than 2,000 years. Their languages were Yevanic, a Greek dialect, and Greek. They derived their name from the old name for the people...

 man named Levi in front of the prisoners because he "attempted to escape during his arrest". This execution was to serve not only as a warning to the others, but, according to post-war psychological research, to "put the inmates in constant fear of their lives". In total, in the camp's one year of operations, about 1,800 people were executed, while another 300 died as a result of torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 either at Haidari or in the Gestapo headquarters at Merlin street in central Athens. These numbers included 30 women, 104 invalid
Invalid may refer to:* Patient, a sick person* A person with a disability* .invalid, a top-level Internet domain not intended for real useAs the opposite of valid:* Validity, in logic, true premises cannot lead to a false conclusion...

s, and 230 students.

Radomski was relieved of his post in February 1944, after he threatened to shoot his own adjutant
Adjutant is a military rank or appointment. In some armies, including most English-speaking ones, it is an officer who assists a more senior officer, while in other armies, especially Francophone ones, it is an NCO , normally corresponding roughly to a Staff Sergeant or Warrant Officer.An Adjutant...

 while drunk, and was replaced by Lieutenant Karl Fischer. Fischer reversed his predecessor's policies: instead of Radomski's brutal treatment, he relied on informants and spies among the prisoners. Despite the somewhat relaxed atmosphere, Fischer also oversaw the period of most activity on the camp: during spring and summer 1944, the Germans engaged in constant razzias, blockades and mass arrests in Athens, and the camp's inmate population peaking at several thousands in August, barely two months before Liberation. Several hundred of the people captured in these round-ups were then transported to Germany for forced labour.

German reprisal policies also saw a sharp rise in executions, most famously the case of the 200 Communists who were executed on 1 May 1944 at Kaisariani
Kaisariani , also Kessariani, is a suburb in the eastern part of Athens, Greece. Kaisariani is located about 7 km from downtown Athens, about 4 km SW of Katechaki Avenue 4 km from the Hymettus Ring , which forms part of the Attiki Odos private superhighway network, and 6 km S...

 as a retaliation for the ambush and murder, by ELAS partisans, of German General Franz Krech at Molaoi
Molaoi is a town and a former municipality in Laconia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Monemvasia, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. The population in 2001 was 5,597, of which 3,021 lived in the town itself.-External links:* *...

 in Laconia
Laconia , also known as Lacedaemonia, is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the southeastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. Its administrative capital is Sparti...


In March, the Germans also imprisoned several prominent politicians, whom they suspected of contacts with the British. These included the former Prime Ministers
Prime Minister of Greece
The Prime Minister of Greece , officially the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic , is the head of government of the Hellenic Republic and the leader of the Greek cabinet. The current interim Prime Minister is Lucas Papademos, a former Vice President of the European Central Bank, following...

 Georgios Kaphantaris, Themistoklis Sophoulis
Themistoklis Sophoulis
Themistoklis Sofoulis or Sophoulis was a prominent centrist Greek politician from Samos Island, belonging to the centre-left wing of the Liberal Party, which he led for many years.-Early life:...

 and Stylianos Gonatas
Stylianos Gonatas
Stylianos Gonatas was a Greek military officer and Venizelist politician and Prime Minister of Greece between 1922 and 1924.- Early life and military career :...

, all leaders of the pre-war Liberal Party
Liberal Party (Greece)
The Liberal Party was one of the major Greek political parties of the early 20th century.- History :Founded as the Xipoliton party in Crete , its early leaders were Kostis Mitsotakis and Eleftherios Venizelos...

. The Athens SiPo
The Sicherheitspolizei , often abbreviated as SiPo, was a term used in Nazi Germany to describe the state political and criminal investigation security agencies. It was made up by the combined forces of the Gestapo and the Kripo between 1936 and 1939...

Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

 chief, Walter Blume, intended to execute them, along with other public figures, as the German army would withdraw, leaving the country in turmoil. In the end, Blume's "Chaos Thesis" was dismissed by his superiors, and the politicians were released in early September.

Jews at Haidari

See also: The Holocaust in Greece

Even though the Germans had already deported the Jews of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki , historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace...

, which lay under their jurisdiction since 1941, they did not immediately move against the Jews of the formerly Italian zone. The first Jews arrived at Haidari on 4 December 1943, and were isolated in the basement of Block 3, but their number increased only slowly. The first mass arrivals came about in late March 1944, as the Germans moved simultaneously against Jewish communities throughout Greece. In these operations, Haidari served as the central transit camp to the extermination camps in Central Europe: on 23 March, about 700 to 1,000 members of the Athens community were rounded up and taken to Haidari, followed days later by 614 Jews from Epirus and Western Greece, including Jews with foreign passports. In early June, 1,850 Jews from the Ionian Islands
Ionian Islands
The Ionian Islands are a group of islands in Greece. They are traditionally called the Heptanese, i.e...

 arrived, and as late as 1 August, 1,700 Jews from Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...

 and the Dodecanese
The Dodecanese are a group of 12 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the Southern Sporades island group...

. All these were transported to Auschwitz.

Post-war history and commemoration

Since the late 1940s, the camp has been used by the Greek Army, which established an infantry heavy weapons (ΚΕΒΟΠ) and a communications school (ΚΕΔ) on the grounds. Notably, in the 1950s, Block 15 was again used as a detention facility. However, following the Left
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

's defeat in the Greek Civil War
Greek Civil War
The Greek Civil War was fought from 1946 to 1949 between the Greek governmental army, backed by the United Kingdom and United States, and the Democratic Army of Greece , the military branch of the Greek Communist Party , backed by Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Albania...

, public commemoration of locations associated with its role in the Greek Resistance
Greek Resistance
The Greek Resistance is the blanket term for a number of armed and unarmed groups from across the political spectrum that resisted the Axis Occupation of Greece in the period 1941–1944, during World War II.-Origins:...

 was banned. Haidari, which was strongly associated with the 200 Communists executed on 1 May 1944, and a functioning Army base, was therefore off limits for several decades. Only in the 1980s, with the election of the socialist PASOK
Panhellenic Socialist Movement
The Panhellenic Socialist Movement , known mostly by its acronym PASOK , is one of the two major political parties in Greece. Founded on 3 September 1974 by Andreas Papandreou, in 1981 PASOK became Greece's first social democratic party to win a majority in parliament.The party is a socialist party...

party to power and the passing of laws on the recognition of the Resistance and on national reconciliation, was the camp opened to annual commemoration events. Block 15 has since been declared a national monument site, and features in the logo of the Haidari municipality.


Haidari Municipality: Historical Review

External links

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