The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Greek POWs in Ethiopia

Author - George Roussos

I would like to let you know of an historical event relating to the Greeks that took place at the beginning of World War II in Ethiopia.

When the Italian forces attacked Greece on 28th October 1940 the Greek army was alerted and started fighting bravely pushing back the Fascists into the Albanian borders. The Italians in Ethiopia decided to capture all the Greek men from the age of 18 to 50 years old and imprison them in two concentration camps. I never found out whether this was an act of revenge for the Albanian adventure or fear for an uprising in Ethiopia: whatever the case, on the 23rd of December 1940 they collected all men and treated them as prisoners of war. They supplied them with a special card with their photographs (one full face and one sideways), fingerprints and dates of birth. One group, which included my father, was then transported by train to Urso near Dire Dawa and the other group was taken by lorries to Quoram near Dessie. The concentration camps (campo di concetramento as the Italians called it at the time) were both fenced with barbed wires and a tower with armed guards watching their movements. There were camp tents erected in rows in which they slept.

As my father was telling me long after, they were treated well by the guards and were offered two cigarettes a day: one in the morning and one in the afternoon - a habit which my father stuck to for the rest of his life.

Not knowing how long this imprisonment was going to last, my mother entrusted me to one of my aunts who was living in a house at Sidist Kilo in Addis Ababa and she remained in our home looking after my two younger sisters. I was a young boy of 5-years-old and I can only remember certain things of my life there. Fortunately this imprisonment lasted only a few months in 1941 because the British Forces under General Wingate, along with the Emperor Haile Selassie I, were coming in fast as liberators so the Italians freed the Greek prisoners.

First Published in News File Winter 2005

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