Occupation April 26, 1941

Written By: Theodore  Riky

On April 24th, the sirens were blasting! The radio announced “close your windows and shutters! Do not go out onto the street! The Germans will be entering Athens!” For two days, I was anxious to see the Germans enter Athens. A few days went by, the radio announced, for everyone to go on with our lives as normal. People were back on the streets. The buses were working like nothing ever happened. I thought maybe what they said about the Germans was just a joke. I met my friend, Spiros and we both were trying to find out what the hell was going on in Athens. It looked like a marvelous situation that we were witnessing. We met up with a lot of our friends and started to go to different parties and having a good time. But this did not last for long. Things changed drastically. Food was disappearing from the stores, the bakers stopped making bread, and I said to Spiros, “what the hell is going on.” To our surprise, we noticed that a black market was taking over Athens. The center of the black market was at Athena Street in Omnia Square. People were going there to find whatever they needed. Many people were dying from lack on food. The dogs were disappearing from the streets. The situation was getting very bad, especially for the poor and the elderly. The veterans were in control of the black market. Spiros and I had no choice but the join the market to survive. We guess that the Germans were taking our food and supplies for their own army. Spiros and I had to make a very drastic decision. We thought that we could participate in the black market ourselves, but found it difficult because the police prohibited it. Therefore, we decided to go to work in Germany, like many others. It was going to be difficult to explain to our families our decision to go. We discovered there was a train leaving for Germany on Friday. We packed our bags and went to the station. There were hundreds of people saying goodbye to their families and friends. The train took off at 7pm. Because there were no chairs, everyone was sitting on the floor. We began talking about our young lives, about our friends, girls, and parties until we fell asleep. Early the next morning, we arrived in the town of Enz which is near Viena. We were told by the German soldiers to follow them to the cafeteria where we had something to eat. There they explained to us where we were going to stay. We walked to the site, which was full of barracks. We entered one of them and we took the bunk beds, Spiros took the top and I took the bottom. The Germans told us to be ready at 6am the next morning and to meet at the cafeteria for breakfast. After breakfast we walked to the factory. This is where we were assigned work. The routine in the factory was very simple. We moved cables from one side of the factory to the other side. There we met a few Greek men. We became friends and they explained to us the things we should know about the working conditions and things in general. Our new Greeks friends asked us, if we would like to join them on a trip to the town of Vienna. We took the train to the beautiful city of Vienna. As we were touring the city, I noticed a beautiful building. Our Greek friends told us it was the Opera House of Vienna. One of the Greeks mentioned that across the street was the center of the black market. I said, “Wow! There is a black market here as well.” This is the life in Vienna. You get up in the morning, go to work, come home and because you are so tired you just eat and go to sleep. One of the Greeks told me that when his cousin came to Germany, he landed in Studgart. The life was different there compared to life here in Vienna. The working conditions there are great, you live in a house, and in general it is a good life. But the workers in Vienna can only travel 30 miles with the papers they have. It is very difficult for someone to go there without getting caught and brought back or taken to jail. This great town of Studgart was on my mind daily. I kept wondering how we can go there. I spoke to Spiros about going to Studgart and he said to me “two young guys like us, 14 years old, what do we have to lose, if we make it there that is great, if not we go to jail. I also mentioned to Spiros that I think the only day we can pull this off, is if we go on Christmas Day, because it’s a holiday. People are happy and no one is really paying that much attention. Back in the barracks, I took my German book out to continue to learn German. Christmas Day at 7pm in the evening we were ready to take action. We told no one. We went to Vienna and bought two tickets to Studgart. We hopped onto the train and away we went. The train was packed with people, soldiers, carrying gifts and everyone was happy. We arrived to Studgart and thought everything would be alright. But then we noticed a gate that we had to go through with two soldiers spot checking. I told Spiros not to worry, that I had an idea that would work. This idea happens only in an American movie. I started to walk back and forth on the platform, and talking to myself in Greek. I was hoping that something could happen. I was walking back and forth for over an hour. When finally someone tapped me on my shoulder and said in Greek, “Patriot do you have a problem.” I was so glad to see someone who was Greek and explained what the problem was, and he shook his head and said,” you young guys must be crazy.” I told him that now we were here and we needed to get a job and we have no papers. He told me he would be back in less than ten minutes. Those ten minutes felt like ten years. Finally, I saw him walking back towards me. He told me “here are your two working papers.” He told me to go through the gate and if they ask you for your papers, you show them to the soldiers. He would meet us on the other side of the gate. I told Spiros that I would go first and for him to follow. We walked through the gate and no soldier asked us for our papers. Once on the other side, the Greek Patriot told us his name was Nick. We stopped at a little place that looked like a coffee shop. There were about ten Greek men inside joking and having coffee. We told the men our story of how we got here. They invited us to their home to rest and told us the next morning we would meet their friend George, who would help us get work. The next morning we met George who told us to take a train to Ludwigsburg, where he hoped we would be able to get some working papers. On the train, George told us the following, “Do not act smart; be truthful about how you got here and how you wanted to get a job.” When we got to the town, we went to the work permit department building. There we were questioned by two men. We told them everything that happened to us, how we got here. George told us after our interview, to go outside and wait. Once outside, I told Spiros, “we are not in jail yet.” George came out all smiles and said “guys here are your new working papers, we are going to walk a few blocks to the factory. The name of the factory was Gedrag. And they will give you your assignment. We met two men there, Mr. Prospec and Mr. Rittinger. They told us to report the next morning for work at the factory. After that, George told us we would meet a couple of Greek men, who also work in the factory. They will take you to their house for you to stay. This turned out to be a 4 ½ year stay.