“Poulos Verband”: Georgios Poulos and the notorious German collaborators in Greece, through rare photographsPhoto gallery, WW2, WW2 in Greece
By Pierre Kosmidis
You can see more previously unpublished or rare photos, in the magazine LIGNE DE FRONT N°101
Greece found itself in the midst of war, on October 28, 1940, when it was attacked by Italy.
Soon the Italian offensive turned into a fiasco and the Greek army found itself chasing the Italians deep into Albanian territory.
On April 6, 1941, the Germans, seeing the Italian failure, launched the “Marita” operation, which resulted in the capitulation of Greece and the Occupation period began, until the fall of 1944.
It should be noted that Greece found itself in three occupation zones, the German, the Italian and the Bulgarian, the list of extremes against the civilian population being unfortunately long and bloody.
Cooperation with the Germans was a phenomenon that appeared throughout Europe during the Second World War, in various forms, however in Greece, a controversial figure succeeded in uniting both the Greeks and the Germans against him and ended up being condemned to death and executed in 1949.
Les Editions CARAKTERE publish for the first time the rare photos of “Poulos Verband”, a troupe of Greek collaborators of the Germans.
Who was Georgios Poulos
One of the most notorious criminals of the German occupation of Greece was Greek army officer Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Georgios Poulos.
A Germanophile and avid nazi sympathiser, with a rich criminal activity in the entire region of Northern Greece. Assassin of civilians and known for his sadistic desire to torture horribly his victims.
Poulos appeared at the beginning of the period of the German occupation in 1941, publicly expressing hatred for the English and for the communists.
He began to earn the absolute trust of the Germans, whom he served with devotion, but who committed so many atrocities that even the Germans reacted.
In 1943, he founded his own army organization called “Poulos Verband”.
The “Poulos Volunteer Battalion” was equipped by the Germans, acquired German uniforms with the insignia EES (“Hellenic National Army”) and participated in various operations of the German occupation army in Northern Greece, mainly against the resistance and in the rural areas and the villages around the cities.
However, he was never able to muster more than 300 men into his ranks.
In the period 1943-1944, the “Poulos Volunteer Battalion” committed looting, arson and murder against Greeks acting alone or in collaboration with the German occupation forces.
Poulos has often made pro-German propaganda and acquired the nickname “Von Poulos”.
Above the right pocket of his tunic he wore was the German eagle with the swastika, but with a twist:
It had a custom made double-headed eagle, based on the emblem of the “Triple E” (Εθνική Ένωσις Ελλάς, or Greece National Union).
In September 1943, the SD (Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS) recognized the “Volunteer Battalion Poulos” in the cadre of its organization in Greece, giving him offices and a training ground.
The same month, the “Poulos Verband” is subordinated to the 2nd regiment of Brandenburg and is installed in and around the town of Ptolemaida.
Going to Ptolemaida, Poulos created outposts at the villages around the city.
The participants in the organization of Poulos have acquired a bad reputation and are known more in Greece for their horrific crimes against civilians than for their performances in combat.
Despite Poulos’ attempts to induce various citizens to enlist in his order by offering them substantial rewards (gratuity, salary, military uniform, medical care, food for their families), few decided to enlist.
In April 1944, the Poulos battalion suffered losses due to an attack by the resistance and 83 collaborators of Poulos were killed.
The crimes of the “Poulos Verband”
The name “Poulos Verband” has become synonymous with uncontrolled and arbitrary violence.
In addition to executing civilians themselves, the collaborators of Poulos often made sure to sack the houses of the villagers and steal their grain, their products, their cattle, silver, valuables, clothes and shoes from their victims and set fire to various houses.
In the town of Veria the collaborators raped women, while in the villages they executed anyone they found in front of them.
September 2, 1944 men of Poulos and Schubert surrounded Hortiatis and killed in the most gruesome manner, burning most of them alive, 149 inhabitants of the village, among whom were several women and children.
On September 14, 1944, Poulos’s men and German NCO Fritz Schubert surrounded the town of Giannitsa and massacred civilians, resulting in the tragic deaths of approximately 120 people. Many women were mistreated, many houses were burnt down while a tragic end awaited the men who were executed in the hole they opened, under the threat of the weapons of the collaborators, their own children.
In the fall of 1944, the Poulos battalion and its collaborators prepared to leave Greece, following the retreating German army.
In 1945, Poulos’ battalion took part alongside German soldiers in battles against Tito’s communist rebels in Slovenia.
Finally, he settled in Austria and participated with other Greek Nazis in the exile Nazi “government” of Tsironikos.
In Austria, he encouraged various people to join his order and wear the German uniform and the black armband with the eagle and the swastika.
Arrest and trial for espionage
Finally, Poulos failed to avoid arrest, captured in Kitzbühel, Austria, on 19-5-1945 by the Americans.
He was detained in a military prison and some time later, on March 24, 1947, he was transferred to Greece with 201 of his collaborators.
On April 9, 1947, he was taken to the military prison in Thessaloniki. On May 22, 1947, the trial of Poulos and his associates began before the military tribunal of Thessaloniki.
The accused of espionage were Poulos, his wife and others.
During his apology, he admitted that he was armed by the Germans.
Eventually, by a vote of 4 to 1, the defendants were acquitted of the espionage charge.
By October 1945, about 200 men from Poulos had been transferred from Germany and were in Patras.
Very quickly, however, most of them will escape the bar of Greek justice.
On December 13, 1945, 70 of Poulos’ men were released.
A little later, on December 15, another 15 men of his criminal organisation were released.
All this was done by decision of the Deputy Prosecutor of the Supreme Court, who kept in detention only those for whom arrest warrants had been issued by the special commissioner of collaborators in Thessaloniki and not charged with high treason.
Second trial in the Court of Collaborators and Traitors
On 2-12-1947, the trial of Poulos opened. Another 26 people sat with him in the dock, while 169 people were tried in absentia.
The trial ended on 11 December 1947 and the main defendant, Poulos, was sentenced to death with 20 other people and two to life imprisonment.
Most of his co-defendants managed to escape with much lighter sentences.
The court decided to acquit 6 people.
Then, Georgios Poulos was transferred to the prisons of Thessaloniki at Eptapyrgio (January 1948) then to the prisons of Athens at Kallithea (June 1948).
Poulos was executed on June 11, 1949 at the Goudi camp in Athens.
Bibliography and indicative links:
Nikos Marantzidis, “The other Captains. The anti-communist Greek army during the occupation and the civil war”, 2006 (in Greek)
Stratos Dordanas, “Greeks against Greeks: The world of security battalions in occupied Thessaloniki 1941-1944”, 2006 (in Greek)
Stratos Dordanas, “The German uniform in the mothball chest: Survivals of collaboration in Macedonia, 1945-1974”, 2011 (in Greek)
Iakovos Chondromatidis, “The Dark Shadow in Greece”, 2001 (in Greek)