Unlocking Memories – Remembering the Past, Shaping the Future

Aufgrund der derzeitigen Corona-Situation verschieben wir die zweite Aktivität in Deutschland.

The Greek German Italian exchange seminar, hosted by Euphoria in Greece was a unique intercultural experience which gave all participants the possibility of a deeper and broader understanding of the different perspectives on the Second World War in Europe.

by Andrea Schöne

The arrival in Ypati was adventurous. It rained a lot when the different groups arrived. Because of a traffic jam most of the participants arrived very late in the evening. All the other participants had the possibility to get to know each other by a delicious dinner in a restaurant near Ypati. We were welcomed warmly in our hotel.

Unfortunately the weather became not better the next day, so we changed a bit the program. In national mixed teams we had to collect information to specific historical dates which are related to events which caused the Second World War or happened during the Second World War which opened a fully new perspective for all participants on specific important historical dates of related countries. Some dates and events like the November Pogrom in 1938 were known, but related to different names like “Crystal Night” which term is not used, furthermore disapproved, because the Nazis used this term themselves. Other dates of events which are important in Greece of Italy were not known by the German team.

In the end we realized in a discussion about an international perspective that the Second World War has many different national stories with different main points and when the Second World War started and finished.

During the youth exchange we stayed for five days in Ypati, a village where a massacre happened caused by the German and Italian troops and was burnt down two times by the German troops. Some participants from the Greek group are from Ypati and told us some terrible family stories about the German occupation of Ypati. We visited the place where the massacre took place and participants from Ypati showed us during a city rallye how Ypati remembers the massacre. We realized the cruel events of the occupation are still vivid in the memory of the village community.

Contemporary witnesses told us about the childhood during the German occupation. Especially moving for the German group is the fact that they don’t conceive hate against Germans and our generation at all, but wouldn’t know how they feel meeting our grandparents and would like to know how people can be so cruel. Therefore are youth exchanges also an act of reconciling that young people from three different countries came together in Ypati in a peaceful way.

We all thank the village community for their warmly welcome, hospitality and organisation of the exchange in Ypati. He had most of our lunches and dinners in Ypati, they showed us their beautiful planetarium and we watched a film about the occupation of Greece by the German troops together. At our last evening in Ypati they celebrated with us together with a huge dinner and showed us their traditional Greek dances.

In Distomo we visited the museum and memorial near the village. Here the German troops killed in an incredible cruel way the whole village. We watched a film about the massacre in the museum which showed very emotional film which showed us there is still a long way to go for reconciliation in Europe.

In the end of the exchange we discussed memorials from a personal and historical perspective and created altogether different memorials about the remembrance of the Second World War. One of the memorials was a bridge as a symbol for a more peaceful future. Every participant developed, we all recognized how different perspective on the Second World War exist and made ourselves aware about the importance of a vivid remembrance of the events of the Second World War and to be careful that such events never happen again.

Andrea Schöne is a German participant of the European project „Unlocking Memories – Remembering the Past, Shaping the Future“ at GESW, Euphoria and Esplora. She studies Political Science in Eichstätt.

The exchange is supported by the EU (Erasmus+ Programme) and the German Federal Youth Ministry (KJP).

The second part will take place in Vlotho in March.