WWII Monuments in Epirus, Greece

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WWII Monuments in Epirus, Greece

This digital memory project is a work in progress. It documents and interprets the numerous World War II monuments distributed across the rugged landscape of Epirus, in northwestern Greece, and the rituals of commemoration that still take place at them. The abundance of memorials in the region can be surprising for those unfamiliar with the wartime history of Epirus. Some are in villages or towns, others stand on stark ridges or along remote forest roads. They range in scale from simple stone stele to large military cemeteries or dramatic monumental sculptures, and they represent different phases of the conflict that unfolded across the region.

Several commemorate the beginning of the war for Greece, in 1940, when the Hellenic Army repulsed an Italian invasion from occupied Albania—the first Allied victory over Axis forces.
Others address events later in the war, after the 1941 German invasion and partition of Greece. In Ioannina, a Holocaust memorial is dedicated to the distinctive community of Romaniote Jews who were decimated when the Nazis deported them to Auschwitz. There are monuments to the resistance organizations that developed during the occupation, including the Communist dominated National Liberation Front (Εθνικό Απελευθερωτικό Μέτωπο, or ΕΑΜ), and its military wing, the Greek People's Liberation Army (Ελληνικός Λαϊκός Απελευθερωτικός Στρατός or ELAS). There are also monuments commemorating specific guerillas, or andartes involved in the struggle, and some to victims of Nazi reprisal massacres.

The politics of commemoration in the region also reflect the post-war history.   Even before the Nazis withdrew in 1944, tensions between EAM and rightwing Greek Nationalists led to conflict. By 1946 Greece was embroiled in a full blown civil war, which became one of the first arenas of the Cold War, as the Nationalists received military aid from the U.S. under the Truman Doctrine. After the 1949 defeat of the Communists, the role of ELAS in combating the Axis occupiers was expunged from the official record, not to be recognized nor commemorated until the 1980s.

The interactive map and timeline presented here allow visitors to learn about the monuments and to explore, both geographically and temporally, the rich history they represent.