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League for Democracy in Greece (Modern Greek Archive)

Identity Statement

Held at: King's College London College Archives
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Full title: League for Democracy in Greece (Modern Greek Archive)
Date(s): 1935-1992
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 73 boxes, 128 files, 6 card indexes and 2 volumes
Name of creator(s): Greek United Committee | Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Greek News Agency | Great Britain and Northern Ireland
League for Democracy in Greece | Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Friends of Democracy in Greece | Great Britain and Northern Ireland


Administrative/Biographical history:

In response to a call from the leftist resistance movement EAM (Ethnikon Apeleftherotikon Metopon) for a government of national unity, Greeks in England formed a Greek United Committee in 1943 under the sponsorship of Sir Compton Mackenzie, the author and philhellene. Much of the support came from the Federation of Greek Maritime Unions (FGMU), which had its wartime base in Cardiff. Other supporters included a Smyrniot carpet merchant, E Athanassoglou. But under wartime conditions of censorship the Committee could reach only a restricted section of opinion, and in 1944 Winston Churchill prohibited favourable mention of the Greek resistance movement EAM-ELAS (Ethnikon Apeleftherotikon Metopon-Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos) by the BBC. The FGMU therefore sponsored a news agency, of which Diana Pym became secretary. The agency's first campaign concerned conditions in concentration camps in Erithrea (Ertra) and the Sudan. The news agency issued press releases and, from 1946, a Weekly Survey of Greek News. It closed at the end of 1962, but was re-opened in 1969 by Andonis Ambatielos (former FGMU secretary) and his English wife, Betty, and resumed the issue of press releases and monthly surveys until Ambatielos returned to junta Greece in 1974 and was arrested. In 1945, the election of a Labour government raised hopes of a change in British policy towards Greece, but the appointment of Ernest Bevin as Foreign Secretary ensured continuity with existing policy. A British pressure group was founded to campaign for a change in policy and for the Greek left-wing resistance. The League for Democracy in Greece (LDG) was launched at a public meeting at the Garrick Theatre in London in October 1945 under the presidency of Sir Compton Mackenzie and with D M Pritt QC, MP in the chair. Diana Pym became secretary. The League aimed to rebuild and strengthen the traditional friendship between the peoples of Greece and Britain on the basis of the establishment and development of democracy in Greece; to enlighten the British public about the situation in Greece and to promote cultural relations between the two countries; to provide relief to Greeks who suffered for their democractic beliefs and activities, their dependants, and the dependants of Greeks who died fighting for democracy; and to work for a general amnesty for Greek democrats imprisoned for political reasons, the restoration of trade unions and civil liberties, and the suppression of armed terrorism and the trial and punishment of collaborators during the occupation (the latter deleted as obsolete in the late 1960s). The relief functions, initially exercised by a sub-committee (the League for Democracy in Greece Relief Committee), were later taken over by a Greek Relief Fund. The LDG adopted a constitution in 1946. Marion Pasco (after 1952 Marion Sarafis, wife of Stefanos Sarafis, former commander of the wartime ELAS resistance movement) acted as joint secretary, 1946-1952, with Diana Pym. At its inauguration, the League had support from Labour Members of Parliament (MPs), including some who had served in Greece. Influencing parliamentary action was a major part of its work, and involved supplying information to MPs for questions in the House and briefing them to take up cases with the Foreign Office. The League's sphere of action extended to the trade union field and speakers from the League used available opportunities to address trade union branches, Trades Councils and local Labour parties, with a peak year in 1949 when League speakers addressed 255 meetings. The fall of the colonels' junta in 1974, followed by elections and the referendum on the monarchy, was thought to make the League's services unnecessary, and it renamed itself Friends of Democracy in Greece and continued on a stand-by basis, with a small list of supporters and a bi-annual bulletin.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records, 1935-1992, of the League for Democracy in Greece and associated bodies. Pre-1945 material includes a set of the Balkan Herald, 1935-1940, and surviving papers, 1943-1945, of the League's predecessor, the Greek United Committee, and one of its supporters, E Athanassoglou. Notably there are proofs of Sir Compton Mackenzie's The Wind of Freedom (published in London, 1944) and a photocopy of a telegram from Winston Churchill prohibiting favourable mention of EAM-ELAS by the BBC, 1944. The papers of the League itself date from 1945 to 1975 and include a large collection of press cuttings covering all British and some foreign press references to Greece during the period of the League's activity, with some later cuttings concerning Greece to 1992; material produced by the Greek News Agency including the Weekly Survey of Greek News and later monthly surveys, covering Greek and foreign press output and the Free Greek Radio Broadcasts, complete from November 1946 to September 1953 and January 1969 to January 1974 but otherwise incomplete, the contents of particular value for the period of the Civil War, 1947-1949, as they form a rare source for the broadcasts of Radio Free Greece; and eight volumes of the League's own duplicated information and organizational circulars. There are copies of all official British reports on Greece: TUC (Citrine), Legal Mission, March 1946 Election Observers, All-Party Parliamentary Delegation (1946); a fairly complete collection of Hansard for parliamentary references to Greece; reports of the UN Commission for observing the Balkans (1947-1950); daily broadcasts of the Greek refugee radio at Bucharest, 1970-1974; a large collection of pamphlets, leaflets and news bulletins, British and foreign; a large collection of material from similar organisations in other countries and from Greek refugee committees; and specialist journals. Over 280 files of the League's correspondence and information material cover its various campaigns. Over 23 files represent other organisations which donated material to the League's archives: British Branch of the Patriotic Anti-Dictatorial Front (PAM), Campaign for the Release of All Political Prisoners in Greece, European-Atlantic Action Committee on Greece, Greek Committee against Dictatorship. The papers include an important collection of archive material, arising from the League's work to stimulate British parliamentary action, particularly regarding persecution, on Greek government repression, Law 375/1936, the Emergency Measures Act of June 1946, Law 509/1947 on 'subversion', the operation of the special courts-material and the security committee, and the conditions in prisons and concentration camps, including dossiers on the cases of individual prisoners, supplemented by thesis material on Greek political legislation since 1921. There is a card index of junta detainees; material from the prisons and concentration camps, including two volumes of smuggled appeals (some in microscopic writing); and personal files on individual political prisoners and concentration camps detainees, 1945-1964, 1967-1974. A small library contains unusual publications of the Greek left. Other material comprises a photographic collection, in 18 albums, on occupation, resistance, liberation, civil war, prisons, prisoners, concentration camps, Greek refugee children, and activities abroad; loose photographic items; four reels of film including a Czech film of evacuated Greek children, c1949; and a collection of organisational stamps. Post-1975 material relates to the League's successor, the Friends of Democracy in Greece. Subjects covered by the Archive include the day-to-day evolution of the Civil War, 1947-1949; Greek political legislative and administrative measures; conditions in the prisons and concentration camps; the Greek trade unions; the 'kidnapped' or 'evacuated' children; the Greek political refugees in Eastern Europe; the operations of Greek anti-junta groups in Western Europe and the United States, 1967-1974; attitudes and action of the British Labour movement (Labour Party and trade unions) in regard to Greece, 1945-1974; individual political prisoners and concentration camp detainees; action regarding Greece in Western European countries, Australia, Canada, and the United States; and the operation of pressure groups (from the League's organisational material and correspondence with Members of Parliament and trade unionists).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, Greek, French

System of arrangement:

The material is arranged as follows: correspondence and information files (arranged in three series by subject, correspondent, and chronologically); press cuttings (largely arranged by date); printed material; circulars; photographs; reels of film; publication/organisation stamps; index cards of junta detainees (arranged alphabetically).

Conditions governing access:

Open, subject to providing a letter of introduction for access, and signature of reader's undertaking form.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies, subject to the condition of the original, may be provided for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Trustees, attention of the Director of Archive Services.

Finding aids:

List available in reading room at King's College London Archives.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The papers are the organisational archives of the League for Democracy in Greece, its predecessor and successor, and the associated news agency. A small amount of material was given by Margaret Sloan, widow of Pat Sloan (director of the news agency, 1946-1962). Thesis material on Greek political legislation since 1921 was given by Rousos Koundouros. The Balkan Herald series was given by a member of the executive committee member of the LDG, Christopher Lake. In 1977 the executive committee of the LDG gave the archives to the Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at King's College London, where it was administered on a part-time basis by Marion Sarafis.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were transferred to King's College London Archives in 1988. Further material was added by Diana Pym in 1991.

Allied Materials

Related material:

King's College London Archives holds administrative records of the Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, King's College London, 1922-1993, and records of the League for Democracy in Greece Relief Committee and Greek Relief Fund, 1947-1984.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: Diana Pym and Marion Sarafis, 'The League for Democracy in Greece and its Archives' (typescript available in reading room at King's College London Archives); AIM25 description of the records of the Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, King's College London.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Feb 2001

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