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D-Day in the memories of the only Greek survivor

06 June 2014 / 17:06:39  GRReporter
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In the early morning of 6 June 1944, when the first amphibious ships of the Allied Powers reached the coast of Normandy, Adolf Hitler was still in the arms of Morpheus. His aide, knowing he did not like getting up early, did not dare to wake him up. The German troops remained without central commands for many hours. This allowed the ships of the Allies to approach Normandy unopposed by the German armada.

Among these ships, there were two Greek ones, namely the "Tombazis" and "Kriezis" corvettes. A beardless 16-year-old teenager, Dimitris Andriotis, served on the first one. He was perhaps the youngest soldier at the time and he is one of the few people alive today. He was awakened at midnight by order of the master, and although he was sleepy, he realized that it would be worth staying awake for such an important historical event.

He himself describes the unprecedented things he saw on this notorious "D-Day", as the Americans running the operation called it, in his book "With his death, he overcame death": "Chaos reigned everywhere. The ships were approaching the coast, in large waves every half an hour. The Germans who had entrenched themselves behind the Atlantic bank, met the Allied Powers with cannons, mortars, grenades. Ships that were set on fire by enemy fire, and ships that were already sinking. Swimming soldiers, drowning soldiers, who were not getting help from the passing ships because they had strict orders to go ashore without paying attention to what was happening around them."

Of course, there were things that Andriotis was unable to see from his ship that had taken up a position about 4-5 miles away from the coast.

He was aware of other things decades after the events, when the military archives were opened. One of them was the vast superiority of the Allies against the Nazis in terms of weapons, namely, that the ratio in fighter planes was 25:1 and in tanks 20:1. This related to the application of the new U.S. military doctrine at the time, under which the winner was the one who had a larger number of, and more powerful, weapons, as well as the best supplies - something that was then confirmed in practice for the first time.

"Easy, do not break the eggs"

Andriotis himself did not think he was actually in danger. "Our ship had no orders to intervene in military operations. Furthermore, the Germans ignored it because it was small," he says. The fact is that the Greek "Tombazis" corvette did not receive, "even for the weapons’ sake", any direct shot from the cannon of the enemy, nor any torpedo from its submarines.

That was why the crew could not believe their eyes when they saw at noon the identical "Kriezis" corvette passing by. "It was slowly sailing from the west and it had raised a big red flag - the sign of battle."Easy, do not break the eggs" (a Greek proverb that is used for someone who is moving very slowly and carefully), we ridiculed them," Andriotis wrote in his book. "What battle, "Kriezis"? Why don’t you hide among the large vessels to avoid a slap in the face?"

The rivalry with "Kriezis" continued after the war because the officers of the corvette claimed that their ship was attacked by German vessels and that it miraculously escaped when it entered a minefield by mistake.

"Stories of savages", Andriotis objects. "Whoever entered a minefield did not come out alive. Similar facts were not heard then neither were they recorded in the logbook of the ship." He adds that their tall story was intended to adorn the officers with medals in commemoration. "They never invited us, the people from "Tombazis" and me, to these anniversaries. If I had been invited, I would have gone, of course, not for a medal but to remind them that we were there too," he says.

Dimitris Andriotis spent many years on board ships, partly as a chef. This is seen by his strange pose in the kitchen of different Greek restaurants in Berlin, where gastronomy became his profession in 1975: his legs slightly apart and his body in a constant search for balance. "This is a habit lingering from ships as while cooking one had to keep one's balance without using one's hands, especially when there was a storm," he says.

Rich "harvest"

He does not consider himself as Sindbad the Sailor. However, his biography is full of amazing adventures. It all started at the end of 1943, when he left his father's house on Inouses island as he could no longer tolerate the German occupiers and enrolled in the Greek Navy in Alexandria. Now retired in Berlin he continues to write books under the pseudonym Fanis Fandemis. His "harvest" to this day consists of a book of poetry and eight novels. "I have three finished ones on my computer as well", he says.

Meanwhile, he passed through the English camps for communists in Libya, and breaking the law in Athens during the civil war. Later, in 1956, he found himself on board merchant ships and in 1961 in the factories of Hamburg and Bremen where he became an instructor of the Communist Party in the union of Greek sailors (OENE). The secret documents of the Greek consulate in Hamburg for his activity are collected in volumes. One of the first documents describes him as "a faithful member of OENE" along with Petros Louros and "famous member of the leadership" of the organization George Iraklidis.

Tags: DDayNormandyLandingAllied PowersAdolf Hitler
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