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ICRC in WW II: relief work in Greece

04-02-2005

How the ICRC helped civilians in Greece during the occupation and afterwards, when thousands of tonnes of food were needed each month to keep people alive.

   

©ICRC/Ref. hist-2515/38 
 
Greece: starving children taken in by the Rizarion Seminary in Athens. 
     From the time of their arrival in Greece in 1941, the Italian and German occupying forces took possession of all the available food resources, thereby creating great difficulties. The ICRC entered into negotiations with the occupying powers, and with the United Kingdom and Turkey, in order to organize relief work in Greece.
 
From October 1941 to August 1942, the ICRC managed to bring 45,000 tonnes of food into the country. But during the terrible winter of 1941-1942, only 7,500 tonnes arrived safely. The famine then grew to terrible proportions -- in Athens and several other cities, the rate of mortality was four or five times higher than it had been the previous winter.
 
The ICRC subsequently obtained authorization from London to deliver 15,000 tonnes of Canadian wheat to Greece every month.
   
©ICRC/Ref. hist-2514/2 
 
Greece, 1941-1942: famine.
Distributing food supplied by the ICRC. 
     
With the help of the Swedish government (which supplied the means of transportation) and the Canadian authorities (who provided the goods), ships made 94 trips from Canada to Greece, bringing 17,000 tonnes of food there each month between September 1942 and March 1944. From April to November 1944, the monthly deliveries rose to 29,000 tonnes.
 
 Supplying the Dodecanese

Although Greece was liberated in October 1944, the Dodecanese islands remained under German occupation until 8 May 1945. During this period, the population received no further supplies from outside, and its situation became catastrophic.
 
With the agreement of the belligerents and Turkey, the ICRC undertook to bring relief to the archipelago in small boats which it hired in Izmir. Four operations took place between February and May 1945, and a total of 2,700 tonnes of food, clothing and medicines, supplied by the British government and Greek settlers abroad, were delivered to these islands and distributed among the population.