In 1944, there was a plot to blow up HQ the Hotel Grande Bretagne. The end of the war was coming near, and the communist resistance didn't like how Greece would become in the hands of the West rather than the East. A ton of dynamite was put in sewers under the hotel. Manolis Glezos (later MEP in Brussels) was one of them. He said: “There were about 30 of us involved. We worked through the tunnels … we had people cover the grid lines, so scared we were of being heard. We crawled through all the shit and water and laid the dynamite right under the hotel.” The explosion was planned on Christmas day 1944. But in a twist of fate the attack was abandoned when members of the communist-led resistance movement, EAM, learned that Churchill had flown into Greece and, unexpectedly, was visiting the British command. One thing was attacking the British HQ. Another was killing Churchill himself. The attack was abandoned when members of the communist-led resistance movement, EAM, learned that Churchill had flown into Greece and, unexpectedly, was visiting the British command. “I went over to the boy with the detonator and we waited, waited for the signal, but it never came. Nothing. There was no explosion. Then I found out: at the last minute EAM found out that Churchill was in the building and put out an order to call off the attack.”
Winston Churchill wrote in a telegram to his wife of his close brush with death in Athens on Christmas Day 1944.
The would-be attack, barely two months after the Germans had retreated from Greece, came as the country was hurtling headlong into civil war. Athens had been racked by violence after the British army alongside Nazi collaborators – in one of the most controversial episodes of the second world war – opened fire on a crowd of unarmed civilians demonstrating in support of the partisans in Syntagma Square. The 3 December killings, which kicked off a wave of violence that is known in Greece as the Dekemvriana, are regarded as the opening shots in the cold war. Back in Britain, public opinion was outraged.
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