Traces of Ger­many in Greece

Dozens of lo­ca­tions in At­tica can be ex­plored us­ing new app for smart­phones and tablets

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY IOANNA FOTIADI

Few passers-by rush­ing along Panepis­timiou Street in down­town Athens know that at one time, the old Mavroke­fa­los Casino at No 64 wasn’t just some­where pun­ters headed when they were feel­ing lucky but also a meet­ing place for high-rank­ing Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion of­fi­cers with their Greek col­lab­o­ra­tors dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

Like­wise, Proas­ti­akos sub­ur­ban rail­way pas­sen­gers look­ing out the win­dow at Rouf sta­tion wouldn’t guess that it was here that thou­sands of Greek Jews and dis­si­dents were forced to board trains headed to the Nazi death camps of Cen­tral Europe.

Dozens of lo­ca­tions around the re­gion of At­tica that played a part in mod­ern his­tory and Greek-Ger­man re­la­tions now fea­ture on the Ger­man Traces app for smart­phones and tablets launched in late De­cem­ber by the Goethe In­sti­tute and funded by the Ger­man In­te­rior Min­istry’s Greek-Ger­man Fund for the Fu­ture.

The app also goes back to the 19th cen­tury, to the age of King Otto and Queen Amalia, as well as Bavar­ian ar­chi­tect Ernst Ziller, who gave the Greek cap­i­tal some of its most em­blem­atic build­ings. Ar­chi­tec­ture fans will likely be sur­prised by the sheer num­ber of build­ings Greece owes to Ziller, in­clud­ing the Church of Aghios Loukas on Patis­sion Street, the Me­ga­los Alexan­dros Ho­tel on Omo­nia Square and the Mela Man­sion on Kotzia Square, which once housed the Grand Ho­tel d’Athenes.

The First Ceme­tery of Athens in the cen­tral district of Mets also con­tains se­crets with a Ger­man an­gle. Most Greeks, for ex­am­ple, know of the tragic ro­mance be­tween Mimikos and Mary, the coun­try’s ver­sion of Romeo and Juliet, but through the app we learn that this was a Greek-Ger­man cou­ple. Maria We­ber was born in Ber­lin in 1873 and her fa­ther was an at­ten­dant in the court of Em­peror Wil­helm II. She came to Athens in 1891 as a gov­erness for the fam­ily of King Ge­orge. There she fell in love with Greek army sur­geon Michalis Mimikos but a se­ries of un­for­tu­nate co­in­ci­dences re­sulted in the death of the Ger­man maiden, whom the Greek press had ex­alted for her beauty and likened to Goethe’s Gretchen. Her sui­cide and the en­su­ing death of her beloved have since taken on the man­tle of myth, and a film was even based on the story, but few Greeks are aware of her true iden­tity.

The in­for­ma­tion on the app has been re­searched and brought to­gether by the Na­tional Re­search Cen­ter (for the 19th cen­tury his­tory part) and a team of doc­toral stu­dents su­per­vised by Ger­man his­to­rian Hagen Fleis­cher. Users can use the map or their smart­phone cam­era to nav­i­gate, or choose from a list of 60 lo­ca­tions. The de­tails are avail­able in both text and au­dio. A sim­i­lar ap­pli­ca­tion is also ex­pected to be launched by early March for Thes­sa­loniki, with 40 points of in­ter­est, many of which are as­so­ci­ated with the per­se­cu­tion of the Jewish pop­u­la­tion in the north­ern port city.

The creators of the project had Greeks in­ter­ested in his­tory and Ger- mans liv­ing in Greece in mind when they de­signed the app.

“The ma­te­rial is in Greek and Ger­man, so it is not re­ally aimed at Athens’s other for­eign vis­i­tors,” says Anna Bairak­tari, co­or­di­na­tor of the pro­gram.

The pur­pose of the fund, af­ter all, is to explore Greece and Ger­many’s joint past and to cul­ti­vate stronger ties for the fu­ture. Other ver­sions of the Goethe In­sti­tute’s app have al­ready been cre­ated for other coun­tries, in­clud­ing Is­rael, Brazil, Ire­land and Ukraine and the cities of Bratislava and Stock­holm, where they have proved a suc­cess, so it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore it came to Greece, where, with­out any pro­mo­tion, it has al­ready been down­loaded by 360 users.

Ar­chi­tec­ture fans may be sur­prised by the sheer num­ber of build­ings Greece owes to Ziller, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Theater.

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