Peace Negotiating in Greece (Fredsmaklare I Grekland, Bonniers 1945)

The publication in Sweden was more successful than Hans had hoped for. He received a record number of positive reviews. A French publisher bought the rights to a translation and negotiations for an English edition were also under way.

In the meantime a translation began as a series in the Athens newspaper “Ta Nea” with some undesirable consequences. The author had in slightly comic style reported an anecdote about his friend the ex-Bishop of Pyrgos, Antonius, who in the meantime as President of E Am, the Communist liberation front during the civil war had been sacked as Bishop. He now threatened to drag the author begore the courts and Hans decided to stop any further publication of this firstlings opus.
1946 and with the Second World War now over it is a time for gigantic relief and reconstruction efforts in war-damaged Europe. Sweden, which has managed to avoid direct involvement in the war has made important contributions and especially so in the Humanitarian fields.

In 1945 instead of returning to complete his university studies, Hans takes several short term missions in France, Jugoslavia, Greece and Germany to plan for subsequent relief operations.

One of the largest actions is planned for the British occupied zone of Germany which has been earmarked for the Swedish Red Cross. Hans is appointed as liaison officer to Fieldmarshall Montgommery’s HQ in Bad Oyenhausen in December 1945. he is based in Vlotho, a small town nearby. Since only military personnel is admitted to the occupied area the former university student and delegate to Greece is now reconstituted as a Swedish Red Cross major in full uniform. He reports to Count Folke Bernadotte, President of the Swedish Red Cross in Stockholm.

Another Swedish aid organisation Save the Children Fund is opening up its activities in Poland and recruits as on of their field staff Lillan Broman who arrives in Warszawa in January 1946. As often is the case with such voluntary organizations in the chaos after war she has to find her way on her own. As curator/welfare worker she is to assist some one hundred orphanages. She is also overall useful as part time secretary to the administrative office of the large (about 450) contingency working in Poland at the time. This is how Hans meets her and they eventually marry.

Background to the Freedom of Patras - Excerpt from "Peace Negotiatior in Greece"

What would happen when the occupying German forces were ready to leave Peloponesos? Perhaps clearer than the Greeks themselves a Red Cross delegate was aware of the bitter controversies in the society which could bring chaos and catastrophe. Ironically enough, the liberation from the Germans – so hated by many – could mean civil war unless, of course, the government in exile of Papandrou in Cairo acted timely and firmly and there was, unfortunately, not much hope for that to happen.

How should an international civil servant of the Red Cross act in such a situation? Were the humanitarian objectives of his mission applicable on the situation as a whole so that he could use his influence to help save the whole collectively was his competence exclusively concerned with individuals? The position of the neutral commission was not in any way lessened by the latest developments, probably on the contrary. If I nevertheless hesitated to make use of my neutral status and the authority which it implied this was not so much for fear of becoming involved in dangerous spots as of fear of the consequences for the organisation. To step in and try to work for peace meant undoubtedly to take side somewhere and this I had so far avoided. The opposing elements now were many; Germans, the Allies (although not to my knowledge present with forces in Greece) ELAS and EDES and, not least, the EUZONES. In such an abundance of mutually excluding elements, how easy to overstep ones mark and loose the equilibrium of a neutral line of conduct.

Due to happy circumstances I was to attend certain negotiations in the field-headquarters of General Wittmann in Corinth on 31
st of August. My chief, the Swedish supreme judge Sandstrom and Mr Tyberg, Swedens minister in Athens, took part in these discussions were I was present in a junior capacity but the one directly concerned since the matter affected Northern Peloponesos. The problems were distributions of aid and especially transport facilities for relief goods. In a pause in the discussion I managed without offence to speak in Swedish to my two superiors and give them an orientation about the conditions in Patras, the military – political confusion in particular. I frankly told them what I feared would happen when the Germans evacuated and handed over to the EUZONES. Sandstrom could not give any instructions for a hypothetical case, he said, but he encouraged me to use my judgement and act as I saw necessary.

That same evening just before sunset and curfew when I was back in Patras, there was a knock on the door of my house. It turned out to be Colonel Muller, German Field Commander in Misolongio on the other side of the bay.

“You asked me to drop in when here and this will be my last opportunity of doing so”, he explained. His regiment was to leave next morning for good.

The view from my terrace was splendid, especially towards dusk and we enjoyed a glass of Retsina while he told me something of what had take place that same day and the day before in Etolcakarnani across the bay. He had arranged for an agreement with ELAS:EAM who had entered with their troops in the same rate as the Germans evacuated. All was well for a couple of hours but suddenly looting and acts of revenge started, mostly of a private nature but there had also been a few cases of summaric trials and executions by the partisans. On the whole not entirely reassuring but not as bad as one could fear.

In the following ten days between the 1
st and 10th of September the tension within the population of Patras grew steadily, day by day. The nerves were at their end and everything seemed highly flammable. It was a time for rumour and speculation. The newspapers were for well-known reasons unable to say anything helpful and continued to publish the official notices and the German victories. BBC and Radio Cairo had not much to say about our situation in Greece. It seemed that the world had forgotten Patras. I wrote one of those days in my diary that “…it will be interesting one day to see what happened elsewhere and to judge the events in Patras in the light of the complete picture!”

In those days we had no full knowledge of the situation. We were confined to piecemeal information and distorted proportions everywhere. Personally, I was probably privileged in getting a more complete view than others. Not only because as an observer outside the battle but on the battlefield I could take a detached view. Particularly because I actually took active part very soon in the events and shaped them. My role in the drama which had started was not so much to do things as to see to it that nothing happened, ie, nothing of what we feared could be the fate of Patras. It was a preventive task in the extreme.

My contacts in those weeks were of a varying nature and I could not claim to boredom. I paid a visit to the Head of the SS in Greece, General Schimana, when he for a half a day came to nearby Corinth. The leading Quisling collaborator Colonerl Kourkoulakos came to see me. The most prominent resistance leaders of EAM and ELAS Kapetanios Hermes and Kommisario Vournas. As it turned out all parties were now anxious to have my full collaboration. They were also all willing to trust me to a point and to give me authority to move as freely as I judged necessary to do in my mission.

My plan was very simple: taking advantage of the fact that all parties were hopin for added strength and looking for associates they were also prepared for some compromises. I asked for their support in my efforts to negotiate an orderly take-over without specifying which party would be taking over. Perhaps my strongest card was and Ausweiss signed by General Schimann himself permitting me to bring under my protection officers of enemy forces for negotiation. The ELAS agreed that Euzones join them in the struggle for freedom.

Yes, there were the parties, so far. However, on the last day of this fateful week a further element was miraculously brought in to context. This was in the hour of desperation incredibly provocative in its apparent physical weakness – three lonely men in a hut in the mountains – but as the history eventually will show, this was the decisive factor in the end.

It was a Saturday afternoon, hot and damp in Patras. The population of some eighty thousand souls was in a state of frenzy and hysteria. Everyone know that two long trains packed with departing German soldiers had left the station that morning. Other German contingents were to follow. News had reached from Pyrgos only eighty kilometres away of alarming events. In the German wake the troops of ELAS had marched in and slaughtered the whole garrison of 200 EUZONES before they started and indiscriminate vendetta murdering, the report said, almost a thousand citizens . The hour of liberation had turned into something frightening and brutal.

On reflection it was evident that from within Greece there could in this moment be no guarantee for a peaceful solution. The Germans could not care less – the fate of the Greeks was indifferent to them. The EUZONES who were left in charge when the Germans evacuated had absolutely no confidence in the partisans, of whatever trend they be. And ELAS - or the Zervas – were obsessed with only one ambition: to acquire power, and gain dominance by any means; violence, terror, murder and slaughter. None of these groups seemed to care about the huge mass of Greeks, all the civilians who had kept out of armed struggle and perhaps helped keep up the necessities for survival. These were the people who could not afford to give up their responsibilities to family and home, they were also those less courageous who had stayed away from acting against the occupation army. With all due admiration for the few resistance fighters these were the ordinary people who had either opted for or simply ended up in a less heoic form of survival during the war, occupation, hunger and all kind of hardships, perhaps the most responsible way of acting after all. Was there no real hope for them? No authority over and above the striving groups?