In late May 1941, just a month had passed after the surrender of Athens to the Germans, who were in the process of seizing Crete.
Two young Greeks, Manolis Glezos and Lakis Santas, like thousands of Athenians, couldn’t stand seeing the German swastika flying above the Acropolis. Hitler’s symbol insulted Greek pride and it needed to be taken down.
Their audacious plan was formed, during an evening when the two young men were sitting in Zappeio, Athens, looking up at Acropolis. They decided to go to the Greek National Library and read everything concerning the Sacred Rock.
In the Great Encyclopedia, they learned there were caves and tunnels under the Acropolis. They realized that the only way to reach the flag without being perceived by the German guards were through Pandroseion sanctuary.
On the morning of May 30, 1941, Glezos and Santas heard on the radio that Crete had fallen. The two young men decided it was time to act, even though they had no weapons, just a lantern and a knife.
On that same day, at 9:30 pm, Acropolis’ small guard was gathered in Propylaia, drinking beers and getting drunk. Ignoring all danger, the two Greeks jumped the wires and crawled through Pandroseion sanctuary’s cave. They climbed up the archeologists’ scaffolding and arrived within a few meters of the mast, without any guard noticing them. Moving quickly, they took down the hated Nazi flag.
It was a huge flag measuring 4×2 meters. Around midnight, the two young men took the flag with them and followed the same path to escape without being notice by the Germans.
Early next morning, the German guards realized that the flag was missing. German authorities ordered several interrogations and by 11am a new Nazi flag was flying above Acropolis.
Glezos and Santas were sentenced to death in absentia, the men of the garrison were executed, and Greek police chiefs in the area were relieved from their duties, while no incriminating evidence was revealed about the guards of Acropolis.
The lowering of the swastika flag from Acropolis was essentially the first act of resistance in occupied Athens, a symbolic move that had a huge impact on Greek morale. In September that year, two major resistance organizations were founded – the National Liberation Front (EAM) and the National Republican Greek League (EDES).
During the German occupation, Manolis Glezos was arrested three times. He was put in prison but managed to escape, while Lakis Santas escaped his pursuers and joined the Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS).
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