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Foto Eva Karagkiozidou

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Death of a Peaceable Man The novel by Vassilis Vassilikos and the political thriller by Costa-Gavras have made him famous worldwide. Z tells the story of the Greek politician and peace activist Grigoris Lambrakis, who was murdered by para-governmental forces in 1963. Text by Alkyone Karamanolis (…) These are the years of white terror in Greece. The Second World War has turned, almost seamlessly, into a civil war that lasted until less than 15 years ago. Although the royalists emerged victorious with the energetic support of Great Britain and the USA, many Greeks regard the visions of the Left, on whose list the Independent Lambrakis was elected to parliament, as the better solution. The Left not only promises a better lot for the many people who live at subsistence level, but its critical role in the resistance against the National Socialists has given it a unique moral radiance. “That is precisely what many at home and abroad are worried about,” explains Evi Gkotzaridis in an interview, “especially since the left-wing EDA party emerged from the elections a few years earlier as the strongest opposition party.” The Sorbonne graduate and historian has written a detailed monograph on Lambrakis and the politically turbulent 1950s and 1960s in Greece. “Although Lambrakis was an independent parliamentarian, his demands coincided with those of the left,” says Gkotzaridis. What’s more, as a Greek athletics champion many times over, a charismatic doctor and professor, as well as a representative of the middle class, Lambrakis raised doubts about the stigmatization of the Left. On 22 May, a few weeks after his peace marathon, Lambrakis’ life was again threatened. On this day, he is to speak in Thessaloniki at an event for the “Friends of Peace.” Even the preparations are tumultuous. The owner of the hall where the meeting is to take place withdraws his consent at the last second under a flimsy pretext; the “Friends of Peace” are forced to change the venue to a trade union office that is far too small. They mount loudspeakers on the building to broadcast Lambrakis’ speech to the square in front of it, where counter-demonstrators have long since gathered. They have sacks of stones with them, which they later throw in the direction of the assembly room right before the eyes of the watching police. Already on the way to the

English Excerpts

event, Grigoris Lambrakis is attacked with a blow to the head. Later, he will interrupt his speech several times: “Attention, attention, here is councilman Lambrakis. As an elected representative of the people, I am announcing that there is a murder plot against me and calling on the state prosecutor, the prefect and the director of police to protect the lives of the Friends of Peace gathered here and mine.” A photo shows Grigoris Lambrakis being applauded by an enthusiastic crowd after his speech. It seems to be a moment of joy and hope; Lambrakis appears relaxed and full of energy. Then, shortly after 10 p.m., he leaves the union building accompanied by some of his companions. The hotel where he was staying is right across the street. There’s another attack. “Tonight you will die,” it sounds from the crowd of counter-demonstrators who persist still. Suddenly, although the police have closed off a wide area, a small van with a concealed license plate approaches at rapid speed. A man in the back of the van hits Lambrakis on the head with a heavy object. Then the vehicle disappears right in front of the eyes of the police, who do nothing. His companions take the unconscious politician to the hospital in a car. On 27 May 1963, after five days in a coma, Grigoris Lambrakis dies. (…)

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