Home Greece The Asia Minor Campaign and Its Disaster Exhibits at Tripoli War Museum

The Asia Minor Campaign and Its Disaster Exhibits at Tripoli War Museum

Greek soldiers celebrate Easter at the front.

NEW YORK – By Catherine Tsounis

 I have come across war museums in many cities throughout Greece. The War Museum of Tripoli shows the sacrifice and bravery of their Arcadian troops from every village. The displays show the role of Arcadians and Greeks. It is now the 101st Anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe.

The official information states “After the end of World War I, Greece, as a victorious country, sent an army to Asia Minor. The dream of liberation of unredeemed brothers of the area seemed to be taking place for the time being. But soon the hopes were dashed. At the end of August 1922, the Turkish troops definitively defeated the Greek army. The defeat of the Greek expeditionary force resulted in its destruction of Asia Minor Hellenism and its uprooting from its lands, known as the Asia Minor Catastrophe.

With the Treaty of Sèvres (August 1920), which ended World War I, Greece annexes Western and Eastern Thrace and receives the order from the Entente (United Kingdom, France, and Russia) to command for five years Smyrna. After the lapse of five years, its inhabitants would decide whether it would unite with Greece. The Greek army immediately came to Pergamum and Aydini in clash with Turkish soldiers and rebels…”

Greek Health officials of the VII Division vaccinating Turkish children

The War Museum handout explains “In November 1920 Venizelos lost the elections. Authority was taken over by his political opponents, who restored King Constantine to the throne, causing by their action the discontent of the English and the French.” The tour guide said the 1920 elections and ouster of Eleftherios Venizelos was the reason for the Greek defeat.

The terms of the Treaty of Sèvres caused the reaction of Turks. A civil war broke out inside the Ottoman Empire war between the followers of the Sultan and those of the officer.

Mustafa Kemal. Kemal, maintaining contacts with the Italians and French, from whose ports arms and ammunition were supplied, organized resistance against the Greek army. The situation in Asia Minor was gradually changing, as most Allies began to abandon the lands they occupied. But the Soviets also began to they support Kemal.” Basically, The Greek troops lost the support of the Major Powers. All these Powers, United Kingdon, France, Russia, and Italy and Germany caused the Asia Minor Catastrophe by deserting Greece.

Students and teachers of Greek Schools, Asia Minor.

 The official handout said “in August 1922, the Turks of Kemal attacked the weakened Greek military forces. The defender line was broken and the Greek army was forced to retreat. Thousands of Greeks followed, fearing Turkish reprisals. At the end of August, the Turks entered Smyrna, set fire to the Greek and Armenian quarter of the city. Metropolitan Chrysostomos was handed over to the Muslim mob and killed. Unspeakable scenes of pain unfolded in the port, with a crowd of refugees who were struggling to get onto the ships to save themselves. Massacres of Christians and looting completed the destruction.

It was the dramatic end of centuries of Greek presence in the region. After defeating them, Kemalists signed the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Greece evacuates North Thrace without fighting, which is ceded to Turkey and the Imbros and Tenedos islands. There is an exchange of populations. Greece successfully absorbs 1,500,000 refugees.” Facts are accurate.

 Chrisostomos, Bishop of Smyrna, who was tortured by enraged mob.

  The historical photos are exceptional. A photo of Greek Health officials of the VII Division vaccinating Turkish children is unforgettable. This is never mentioned in mainstream history. Photographs show the Greeks of the coast of Asia Minor were an urban population, wearing Western attire and not traditional Greek folk clothing.

 Photos showed the following: Calvary and Evzone military charges in 1921; Refugees waiting for the train; Students and teachers of Greek schools; 2nd group of kindergarten school of Usak 1921; Easter at the front; Commemorative photo of Giorgos Papanikolaou of Kalianou, Arcadias of the Afyon Kara Hisar front; Greek aviators in Asia Minor; Welcome of Greek army in Ephesus: Bandaging station for wounded of the 5th Division; “The Averoff”, “Kilkis”, and “Limnos” warships; Panagiotis Zafiriou Zafiropoulos of Theoktisto Gortinia Arcadia, of Plastiras regiment, received 3 medals of honor; Turkish sword, rifles, guns; Evzones resting after battle; 1921 Fallen war hero Periklis of Dimitriou from Tsarouhli village of Agaia; Arcadian war heroes; Students and teachers of Greek Schools; 2nd group kindergarten Usak 1921 and other memorable photos.

A photograph of the Bishop of Smyrna, Chrisostomos Kalafatis, personally autographed, is exceptional. He signed “to the foreign minister, the Honorable Mr. Dromidis from Smyrna, Chrisostomos, Bishop of Smyrna.

 In his memoirs Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story (1918) Henry Morgenthau wrote, “Acting under Germany’s prompting, Turkey now began to apply this principle of deportation to her Greek subjects in Asia Minor… This procedure against the Greeks not improperly aroused my indignation. I did not have the slightest suspicion at that time that the Germans had instigated these deportations……” The other Major Powers did not oppose the uprooting of Greeks from their ancestral lands. They were all in it together for their national interests. General Nikolaos Plastiras role in the peace settlement is not mentioned. He was a patriot, who put the interests of his country first.

Evangelia Serbou Katogoudi has a photograph of her grandfather Alexandros Koutouvides, son of Nikolaos, on her Facebook page. He was from Kato Panagia of Cesme. Her grandfather is shown as an urbanite in a fashionable suit. He was one of the many urbanites of the Western Anatolian coast. They were not peasants as shown in news photos. The Mikrasiatic Greeks had economic means. They went from riches to rags as refugees in Greece.

Panagiotis Zafiriou Zafiropoulos of Theoktisto Gortinia Arcadia, of Plastiras regiment, received 3 medals of honor.

 Dr. John Siolas’ grandfather, Panagiotis, a farmer from Bodia (Palaiopyrgos), Arcadia, was a prisoner of war in Turkey for several months during the Asia Minor campaign. He was later released to the Greek military. He returned on boats to Greece. He always remembered the Greeks community left behind.

 The Anatolian Greeks known as Asia Minor Greeks (Mikrasiates) lived in Anatolia B.C. till 1923, as a result of colonization to 1923, as a result of Greek colonization. Over 3,000 years of history ended. It was an advanced civilization that was the birthplace of coinage and first used coined money in trade. The War Museum of Tripoli remembers the Arcadian role in the Asia Minor campaign. “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”

Special appreciation to the War Museum of Tripolis administrator who gave me permission to photograph and receive digital files online. For more information, visit https://warmuseum.gr/en/tripoli-war-museum-branch/exhibitions-and-collections/.