Glezos, a prominent Greek whose act of defiance against Nazi occupation during World War Two was a rallying cry for the country’s resistance movement, died on Monday, authorities said.
Greek wartime icon Glezos died from heart failure on Monday after being hospitalized earlier this month for other ailments, Greece’s state television ERT announced.
Glezos had been placed in emergency care in November with respiratory problems, according to news reports.
An icon of the Resistance
On May 30, 1941, during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Greece, the 18-year-old Glezos and his 19-year-old friend Apostolos Santas, a law student, climbed onto the Acropolis in the middle of the night and tore down the Nazi flag, replacing it with a Greek flag. The pair’s act of defiance in removing the swastika from the Athenian Acropolis, considered by many to be a symbolic birthplace of Western democracy, made him one of the country’s most revered figures.
The Nazis, who did not discover the identity of the young activists until 1942, condemned in absentia the perpetrators to death. Glezos was ultimately imprisoned and tortured, but escaped execution. Santas died in 2011.
“Hitler had said in a speech that ‘Europe is free.’ We wanted to show him that the fight was just beginning,” Glezos told AFP news agency in a 2011 interview, recalling how he and Santas managed to steal the flag. After the war, “Greece conquered its freedom, but not its independence,” he said.
Following World War Two, he was repeatedly elected to Greece’s parliament, representing communist, socialist and leftist parties over a 60-year period.
His activism and staunch defense of democracy landed him in jail numerous times during the Greek Civil War and later the Cold War.
During Greece’s economic crisis that began in the late 2000s, Glezos opposed his government’s austerity measures and campaigned to force Germany to repay money it was forcibly “loaned” by Greece during the war.