Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The creation of UNSCOB and its investigation into the question of the "paidomazoma "(Greek Abducted Children)

The Greek question was brought before the Security Council of the United Nations three times during 1946. The first two debates, which were occasioned by complaints from the Soviet Union and the Ukraine respectively, ended inconclusively.[1] The third debate followed an appeal by the Greek Government, made on 3rd December 1946 after detailed consultations with the United States, that the Secretary-General "give early consideration to a situation which was leading to friction between Greece and her neighbours". [2]

On 19th December 1946 the Security Council established a commission of investigation, but the report which was presented by this body on 23rd May 1947 was not unanimous, the western members supporting the views of the Greek Government, while the representatives of the Soviet Union and Poland rejected the findings of the majority. During the following debates in the Security Council, resolutions from both sides were defeated by vetoes, and the matter again ended in stalemate.[3]

The question was then brought by the United States before the General Assembly where there ....
...could be no Soviet veto, and on 21st October 1947 the General Assembly (by forty votes to Six, with eleven abstentions) voted to establish The United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans (UNSCOB). UNSCOB was to consist of representatives from Australia, Brazil, China, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Seats were "being held open" for the Soviet Union and Poland who refused to participate.

UNSCOB's principal task was to investigate the charges, made by the Greek Government, that the guerrillas in Greece were receiving support from Albania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. These countries, however, refused to cooperate or even to allow the UNSCOB observers to enter their territories. On 1st December 1947 UNSCOB established its headquarters in Thessalonica. It had already been decided to set up six observation groups each composed of four observers and auxiliary personnel. Six zones were deliminated in northern Greece (sec map reproduced on page 156-157) and by the end of February 1948 groups 1, 2, 3,4 and 6 were in their respective zones.[5] The UNSCOB teams relied heavily on American logistical support, and the Greek Government, in contrast to its northern neighbours, declared its complete readiness to cooperate; in fact a Greek liaison representative "was available continuously from the commencement of the Special Committee's work".[6]

Both from the history of UNSCOB's establishment by the United Nations and from the fact that of those countries directly concerned only Greece was willing to cooperate with the Committee it is evident that UNSCOB could hardly be expected to approach to Greek question in a completely impartial manner. Indeed a recent American study has asserted that "the State Department virtually wrote the UNSCOB report": The American Secretary of State George Marshall on 13th May 1948 sent the US representatives in UNSCOB a detailed list of conclusions for UNSCOB to reach. These (wrote Marshall) were "framed so that desirable recommendations would flow naturally" from them. [7]

As already mentioned, UNSCOB was officially asked by the Greek liaison representative on 27th February 1948 to investigate the claim that Greek children were being abducted to the North, and on 4th March the Committee "formally took up the problem", instructing its observation groups to "give top priority to an examination of the Greek Liaison Service charges".[8] In their report dated 30th June 1948 (with a supplement dated 10th September) UNSCOB was able to present a great deal of information about evacuation of children carried out by the communist guerrillas. This information was based on three main sources: a) information supplied by the Greek Government, b) monitoring of radio stations in the other Balkan countries, and c) reports from the observation groups based primarily on interrogation of a large number of witnesses.

The witnesses, especially, supplied much important information which clearly had considerable influence on the conclusions reached by UNSCOB and set out in these reports. It is therefore important to know how the witnesses were selected and how the actual questioning took place. This was not explained in the reports from 1948, but a later report from 2nd August 1949 described the procedure which was eventually worked out. (It is not clear to what extent this procedure was also used in 1948).

The observers were instructed to "interrogate witnesses selected at their own discretion or brought to their attention by liaison officers of any of the four governments concerned".In practice this meant by the Greek Government, as none of the others cooperated. Witnesses were to be told, prior to interrogation, that they were not before a court of law, but before representatives of the United Nations Special Committee; that they were not obliged to answer any questions or to divulge any information which they did not desire to divulge, and they were to be assured that their names would be kept secret. It was recognized, however, in another section of this report that “witnesses have usually been presented by the Greek Liaison Service and many have been previously interrogated by Greek authorities”.

Section 4 of the report of June 1948 was entitled "Removal and Retention of Greek children”. It stated that the Special Committee "after a careful study of the problem based on all its information" had been able to "establish the following facts":
(1) A census of children has been taken by the guerrillas in certain areas of Greece under guerrilla control. The evidence is that this census is in connexion with the removal of children.
(2) A large number of children has been removed from certain areas of northern Greece under guerrilla control to Albania. Bulgaria and Yugoslavia and, according to radio reports from Belgrade and Sophia, to certain other countries to the north. However, the Special Committee has not been able to verify, by means available to it, the precise number of children involved.
(3) While a number of parents have agreed under duress to the removal of their children, and some children have in fact been forcibly removed, other parents have consented- or at least failed to object, to such removal. It has not been possible for the Special Committee to determine the exact number of children removed under these categories.
(4) The number of cases reported point to the existence of a programme to remove children from areas of Greece under guerrilla control to certain countries to the north.
(5) Although the responsibility for the initiation of the plan is not known to the Special Commitee, it follows from the appearance of Greek children on a large scale in the countries to the north and the numerous announce ments of the radios controlled by these Governments that the programme is being carried out with the approval and assistance of these Governments" .[10]
The wording seems strikingly moderate. In view of the broadcasts made by the communists themselves, there could hardly be any doubt that an evacuation was taking place. The Special Committee was particularly careful in its discussion of three crucial questions: the number of children involved, the extent to which the evacuation was voluntary, and the question of who was responsible for initiating the plan. However, an annex to the report presented some details which permit at least tentative answers.

Concerning the area, the report stated that the census of children had been taken in the following two main areas of northern Greece controlled by the guerrillas:
(a) The Slav-speaking area of Western Macedonia: The region around Lake Prespa, Florina and Kastoria, which is inhabited mostly by Greek citizens who speak a Slav language.
(b) The eastern part of Greek Thrace: There have also been a few reports of census-taking in areas of Epirus and in central and eastern Macedonia under guerrilla control.[11]
Concerning the time: "the departures were reported to have begun as early as January, but, for the most part, to have occurred in March". [12]

Finally, on the question whether the children were removed by force, UNSCOB emphasised that the "sources have disagreed", and a large number of individual witness depositions were cited in summary form. Some spoke of children taken by force, or parents "firmly opposed to letting their children go". Three witnesses in the Lake Doiran area said that "they had fled with their children to avoid having them taken by the guerrillas." A witness from the Kastoria area said that "a large number of children from "his village took refuge in Kastoria to avoid being taken by the guerrillas, and that, in his opinion, only 10 % of the parents consented to the removal of their children". But it was also emphasised that the observation groups "found considerable evidence that many of the children, particularly in the Slav-speaking area of Western Macedonia, were taken with the consent of their parents". A witness from the lake Prespa region said that "many parents were happy to see their children go", and in the village of Kato Lefki (near Kastoria) Observation Group 2 “found no proof that any child was taken against the wishes of its parents”. [13]

The witness statements are cited in summary form and by their very nature do not allow any kind of statistical treatment, A resume of the reports from Observation Group 2 (based on Fiorina) stated that "a fairly large number of parents, and especially guerrilla sympathizers, favoured the departure of their children, but there was lively opposition from the majority of parents". It also postulated a marked difference between Slav-speaking and Greek-speaking villages:
"When a village sympathized with the guerrillas, the guerrillas left the parents free to refuse to hand over their children and in Slav-speaking villages the majority of parents willingly accepted the offer In Greek-speaking villages the process resembled conscription; attempts were made to convince the parents and, after a minority of them volunteered, a list of all the children in the village was drawn up notwithstanding the parents1 desires. The summary report of Group 2 did not, however, establish the actual removal of children from its area to foreign countries."[14]
Observation Group 6 (Thrace) "reported that, up to 31 March, the children sent to the countries north of Greece were the children of guerrillas or guerrilla sympathisers*' and found that "the plan to take Greek children into foreign countries has been carried out, to some extent at least, but there is no evidence to indicate whether these children were abducted by Force. [15]

[1] - Sec Van Coufoudakis, The United Stales, the United Nations, and ihc Greek Ouesiion 1946-1952". in: John υ Iatrides (ed.), Greece in the 1940s. Λ Nation in Crisis (Hanover and London. 1981) 275-297, especially 278*281.
[2]- UNSCOB Report A/574 (1948) p. 1
[3]- Van Coufoudakis, op.cit. p. 281-285.
[4]- UNSCOB Report A/574 (1948) p. 1-3
[5]- UNSCOB Report A/574 (1948) p. 3.
[6]- UNSCOB Report A/574 (1948) p. 4. section 26.
[7]- Lawrence S. Winner. American Intervention in Greece, 19431949. (New York, 1982) 256.
[8]- UNSCOB Report A/574 (1948) p. 18. section 117-118.
[9]- UNSCOB Report A/935 (1949) p. 23.
[10]- UNSCOB Report A/574 (1948) p. 19. section 120.
[11]- UNSCOB Report A/574 (1948) p. 29 (Annex II).
[12]- UNSCOB Report A/574 (1948) p. 30 (Annex II.
[13]- UNSCOB Report A/574 (1948) p. 30 (Annex II).
[14]- UNSCOB Report A/574 (1948) p, 31. The distinction between “a fairly large number of parents” and "the majority of parents" is no! a very clear one. nor is it easy to see bow ihc authors of the UNSCOB report arrived at this estimate. In fact this is a point where the language of the report was, perhaps deliberately, vague. Summarizing the evidence gathered from the observation groups (on p. 30) the report slated that "observatitMi groups tound some evidence that children were taken from some villages without the consent of their parents", |...| "but the observation groups also found considerable evidence t that many of the children (...| were taken with the consent of their parents". (Sec also section 3 of the "established fads" cited above). From the information available toil, UNSCOB was unable to decide which group of children was the larger, and this would seem equally impossible today.
[15]- UNSCOB Report A/574 (1948) p. 31.

by Lars Baerentzen
Abstract from the article : The "Paidomazoma" and the Queen's Camps, pages 132-138
Book: Studies in the history of the Greek Civil War, 1945-1949

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