First contact

What does one as a German write to a Greek whose ancestors and hometown had been maltreated in such a brutal way by the Wehrmacht, specifically by the own grandfather? How well-disposed can this Greek be to thewards this German, particularly when the current German government acts up arrogant and smart-alec in the Greek debt crisis?

For a long time I didn’t do anything to establish a contact. Too little prospect, too risqué, wrong time – there were always excuses. In the beginnging of march 2017 I screwed up my courage and wrote Giannis Skourtis in English. Assuring him that I was very sorry for the atrocities committed by the Germans in former times, I told him that I was the grandson of one of the involved Wehrmacht soldiers. I asked carefully if he had any information about his fate or if he could tell me a contact person to ask.
I didn’t expect some kind of reaction.

Two days later I was taught of a better one. The answer to my mail was full of understanding, amicability and warmth. Giannis wrote that ‘he wished he could turn back time in order to make those horrible incidents unhappen’. He deeply regretted the fate of my grandfathers and the other soldiers fate. Then, like an advance notice and a promise to future encounters:

‘I hope that through our communication we will have the chance to know each other better and one day that you will have the chance to come to Greece and visit Psari.’

From this day on our contact got more intensive. Giannis did all to dig up details about the incidents in Psari at that time. He talked to contemporary witnesses, investigated sources in Greek literature, sent photos and reports. Thanks to him there arose an almost complete journal about the first days in July ’44. It was more than fortune that with him I just had contacted the villages passionate Historian.

I had been looking for a chance to reciprocate. One source of Giannis’ sympathy may have been the fact that also his uncle is an MIA of the Second World War. His mortal remains are supposed in the mountains of Albania. I tried to help Giannis with his search but unfortunately could not accomplish much.

During our correspondence we incidentally began to talk about private things. Family photos were sent from the Northern Sea to the Aegean and back, we wrote about our children’s aims in life and their dreams. In course of time a friendship was built between us. Its basis included more than the common interest in the past.

When we were planning our summer holidays for 2018 with my mother-in-law and our children (14 and 15) in late 2017 an agreement about the destination was quickly found: Greece. As a compromise for all we selected a hotel near Ermioni at the southern coast of the Peloponnese. From this location we wanted to visit Psari for a weekend to meet our Greek friends.

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