On October 28, 1940, the Italian army invaded Greece through Albania. The invasion was a failure for the Italians, and Benito Mussolini’s forces did not conquer the country. The German army rushed to support the effort. Within a month, the Germans had defeated Greece and divided the country into zones of occupation with the Italians. Thessaloniki was occupied by German forces.
A Greek teenager named George Ftikas hand-illustrated this zine2 between 1943 and 1944 in the city of Thessaloniki during the Nazi occupation. Many of the pages feature cartoons that depict daily life, politics, and the war’s impact on his neighborhood. Written in the style of a newspaper, the zine mixes written text with cartoons, cut-out images, and drawings of events. The zine pages pictured here are from a special edition on October 29, 1943, three years after the Italians’ invasion of Greece.
The first page of the zine mimics the front page of a newspaper, complete with date, headline, and cover image—a caricature of Mussolini with the caption “Sucker Mussolini!” In an accompanying cartoon, titled “The Story of Little Benito,” Ftikas created a story to explain Mussolini’s failures and Greece’s subsequent occupation.
Not all of Ftikas’ works centered on politics. Many of his zines depicted daily social and cultural life during the war in Thessaloniki. On Christmas Eve 1943, he created a special Christmas volume. Still, the issue included a recognition of the war’s deep impact on Greek society: Ftikas drew a Christmas tree decorated with tanks for ornaments.
These panels highlight a teenager’s perspective on the war, occupation, and deportation—an attempt to make sense of his daily life and the situation in Thessaloniki. Many other zine issues were produced during the deportations of Thessaloniki’s Jewish population, which began in October 1943. Ninety-four percent of Thessaloniki’s Jewish population perished in the Holocaust. Ftikas does not represent the deportations of Jews from his neighborhood in the zine.
Although we do not know who read the zine or how widely Ftikas circulated it, the work represents a medium of communication for his neighborhood. The zine may have served the need for freely circulating information, generating a dialog within the community, and speaking critically about the war and occupation.