Gerolymatos adds: “The British – and that means Wickham – knew who these people were. And that’s what makes it so frightening. They were the people who had been in the torture chambers during occupation, pulling out the fingernails and applying thumbscrews.” By September 1947, the year the Communist Party was outlawed, 19,620 leftists were held in Greek camps and prisons, 12,000 of them in Makronissos, with a further 39,948 exiled internally or in British camps across the Middle East. There exist many terrifying accounts of torture, murder and sadism in the Greek concentration camps – one of the outrageous atrocities in postwar Europe. Polymeris Volgis of New York University describes how a system of repentance was introduced as though by a “latter-day secular Inquisition”, with confessions extracted through “endless and violent degradation”.
Women detainees would have their children taken away until they confessed to being “Bulgarians” and “whores”. The repentance system led Makronissos to be seen as a “school” and “National University” for those now convinced that “Our life belongs to Mother Greece,’ in which converts were visited by the king and queen, ministers and foreign officials. “The idea”, says Patríkios, who never repented, “was to reform and create patriots who would serve the homeland.”
Minors in the Kifissa prison were beaten with wires and socks filled with concrete. “On the boys’ chests, they sewed name tags”, writes Voglis, “with Slavic endings added to the names; many boys were raped”. A female prisoner was forced, after a severe beating, to stand in the square of Kastoria holding the severed heads of her uncle and brother-in-law. One detainee at Patras prison in May 1945 writes simply this: “They beat me furiously on the soles of my feet until I lost my sight. I lost the world.”