Some views on the Greek fascist youth organization EON

metaxas greece ιωαννης μεταξας νεολαια εον

 

By David Littlejohn

“Greece, like all other occupied lands, had, of course, its own home-grown fascists. Before the war an extreme right-wing and ‘patriotic’ movement, the EON (Ethniki Organosis Neolaias – National Youth Organization) had been formed by Alexandro Kanellopoulos. It was subdivided into two age groups: Scaponfs (Pioneers): young people of 10 to 13 years Phalangites (Falangists): young people of 14 to 25 years. The EON wore a blue uniform of forage cao, blouse-type shirt, and ski trousers with a white tie, white spats, and a white belt. The shoulder straps and the flaps of the breast pockets were piped in blue/white. The EON emblem was a Greek double headed axe not unlike the francisque of Petain in France within a wreath of laurel leaves surmounted by a crown. Oddly enough, this crown did not disappear with the supposed ‘abdication’ of the king as it did from army insignia. The EON flag was a white cross on blue (like the upper left quarter of the Greek national flag) with, in the center, the axe head within a wreath of green laurels.”

Source: “Forgotten Legions of the Third Reich, vol. III”

By Ioannis Natsinas

EON was not a fascist political grouping. The name means National Youth Organisation and it was set up by the Greek government under Gen. I. Metaxas. Metaxas was voted to the premiership by a Greek parliament in 1936 but dissolved that same parliament on 4 August 1936 with the King’s consent and from then on ruled by decree. His regime followed a pro-British foreign policy and eventually resisted the Italian attack of 1940. However, in outlook it was often pro-fascist and that is why it set up a youth organisation on the Italian or German model. Hence the choice of the axe as emblem I suppose, although it is also an ancient Greek emblem.

 

EON originally came in conflict with the Greek Scouts whose leader was Crown Prince Paul (later King Paul I). Eventually, the scouts were dissolved and Paul become nominal head of the EON. Perhaps that is one reason for the crown over the axe, although I think that was there before Paul became head of EON. EON did not survive the German occupation, so the question of why the crown was not removed after 1941 is mistaken. There was no flag to remove the crown from, after 1941. The government set up by the Germans after they occupied Greece in April 1941, took some controversial measures aimed at boosting its popularity. One was abolishing the monarchy (the King and the royal family had fled abroad anyway). Another was dissolving the EON which had grown a very nasty reputation for swindles etc. since a lot of money had been poured into it by the previous regime. EON’s flag died with it.

Source: Ioannis Natsinas, 12 November 2000

By P.J. Vatikiotis

With EON now a state institution with its own Government Inspector, the industrialist Alexandros Kanellopoulos, Metaxas was able to disband the Boy Scouts, whose titular heard had been the Crown Prince Pavlos. In a decree dated 21 June 1939, setting out the role of national youth, Metaxas declared the Boy Scouts absorbed into EON. A similar fate awaited the YMCA and YWCA soon thereafter. With this Metaxas could consider his original objective of a national state education and preparation of youth towards the goals of the New National State to have been achieved. And to proclaim, ‘ For me the success of EON is the success of all my political life or career.

 

Metaxas, incidentally, highlighted the two features of EON as being, first that membership was voluntary, and second, that it practiced autonomy in the management of its affairs and training programmes. In October 1939 it had 750,000 members. As an army of the Youth of Greece, which turned its members mentally and physically into (patriotic) Greeks, it could also be seen as a future combat army.

 

Its is only fair though to point to the massive evidence, including the regime’s appointment of the Director of EON, its close control of the Organization’s finances, as well as the funding and organization of its summer camps, the control of the syllabus, the agenda of its Information and Education programmes, all of which contradict the claim by Metaxas of EON’s autonomy. On the contrary; there was great social and political pressure as well as several attractive perks for Greek youth to join the EON.

 

Like most other similar youth organizations elsewhere, EON too became the cause of family divisions, and the alienation of children from their parents and vice versa. Furthermore, Metaxas himself kept a keen and close personal control over EON; it was, he thought, his greatest accomplishment, ‘kamari mou’, his pride and joy, and referred to its members as his children people [Diary, IV, pp.769-851].”