#037 – Hunger and War during the Italian Occupation of Greece

with Paolo Fonzi

A 1941 cartoon from the newspaper “The Manchester Dispatch”, mocking Mussolini’s dependency on Hitler to defeat Greece


In the spring of 1941, after a brief war ending in an embarrassing retreat for Italy one year earlier, Mussolini’s troops supported by Nazi Germany occupied various regions of Greece. In Fascist Italy’s vision of a Mediterranean empire, Greece had a pivotal place, but several defeats on other war fronts led to the collapse of Italy’s ambitions and the occupation ended in 1943. In this installment, we discuss this World War II occupation through the prism of food scarcity and famine. Despite its brevity, the occupation caused a humanitarian catastrophe, and the question of food supply also complicated the Italian authorities’ control over the territory. The episode focuses on aspects related to gender, ethnic engineering, and violence to illustrate how food shortages shaped the interactions between occupying troops and the local population, but also the hierarchies within the latter.



Paolo Fonzi is Adjunct Professor in Contemporary History at the University of Eastern Piedmont. His fields of expertise include the history of Fascism with a particular focus on the Axis occupation policies. He has investigated the Nazi currency policy in occupied Europe during WWII and the Italian occupation policies in the Balkans with two monographs, one dedicated to Greece between 1941 and 1943 and another, broader in scope, on the occupation of Albania, Yugoslavia, Greece, but also France and the USSR, during WWII.




Fame di guerra. L'occupazione italiana della Grecia (1941-43) - Paolo Fonzi - Libro - Carocci - Studi storici Carocci | IBS


To cite this episode: Paolo Fonzi, Andreas Guidi (2021): Hunger and War during the Italian Occupation of Greece. The Southeast Passage #037, http://thesoutheastpassage.com/hunger-war-italian-occupation-greece


Sound Effects:

BBC Sound Archive: Air Raid Siren, Soldiers Marching.


Antonis Nasis and Thanos Bouris: “Koroido Mousolini” (Mussolini the Sucker).

To know more about Antonis and Thanos’s music, visit the “Cherchez la femme: Rebetiko quartet” website.

Stelios Perpiniadis: “Akou Ntoutse mou ta nea” (Hear the news, my Duce).

English translation of Perpiniadis’s lyrics:

Hear the news, my Duce

With a smile on their lips,
Our soldiers march forward
And the Italians have become a ridicule
Because their hearts aren’t brave enough

Mussolini, you fool
None of you will be left standing
You and Italy,
Your ridiculous country,
Are all afraid of the khaki color

You have no honor
And when we march in,
Even in Rome, we will raise,
The Greek, blue and white flag

It’s raining and they’re under the tent
They’re not taking a step forward
And they are announcing,
That the weather is to blame

Mussolini, you fool
None of you will be left standing
You and Italy,
Your ridiculous country,
Are all afraid of the khaki color

You have no honor
And when we march in,
Even in Rome, we will raise,
The Greek, blue and white flag.

Further reading:

Clementi, M. (2013). Camicie nere sull’Acropoli. L’occupazione italiana in Grecia (1941-1943). Roma, DeriveApprodi.

Dreidoppel, K. (2009). Der griechische Dämon. Widerstand und Bürgerkrieg im besetzten Griechenland 1941-1944. Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz.

Etmektsoglou, G. (1997). “Changes in the Civilian Economy as a Factor in the Radicalization of Popular Opposition in Greece, 1941-1944”, in Die “Neuordnung” Europas: NS-Wirtschaftspolitik in den besetzten Gebieten. R. J. Overy. Berlin, Metropol: 193-240.

Fleischer, H. (1986). Im Kreuzschatten der Mächte. Griechenland 1941-1944 (Okkupation – Resistance – Kollaboration). Frankfurt am Main/Bern/New York, Peter Lang.

Fleischer, H. (1998). „Die »Viehmenschen« und das »Sauvolk«. Feindbilder einer dreifachen Okkupation: Der Fall Griechenland“, in Kultur, Propaganda, Öffentlichkeit : Intentionen deutscher Besatzungspolitik und Reaktionen auf die Okkupation. W. Benz, G. Otto, A. Weismann and O. Wolfgang. Berlin, Metropol: 135-170.

Fonzi, P. (2018). “Italian occupation of Crete during the Second World War. A view from below”, in Italy in the Second World War: Alternative Perspectives, ed. by Emanuele Sica and Richard Carrier, Leiden, Brill, pp. 51-75.

Fonzi, P. (2019). “Heirs of the Roman Empire? Aromanians and the Fascist Occupation of Greece, 1941-1943”, in Xavier Bougarel. Maria Vulesica, and Hannes Grandits (eds.), Local Dimensions of The Second World War in Southeastern Europe, London, Routledge, pp. 27-49.

Gerlach, C. (2000). Kalkulierte Morde: Die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weißrußland 1941 bis 1944, Hamburg, Hamburger.

Hionidou, V. (2006). Famine and Death in Occupied Greece, 1941-1944, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Hionidou, V. (2013). “Relief and Politics in Occupied Greece, 1941–4.” Journal of Contemporary History 48 (4): 761-783.

Kalogrias, V. (2008). Okkupation, Widerstand und Kollaboration in Makedonien, Mainz, Ruhpolding Rutzen.

Kalyvas, S. N. (2008). “Armed collaboration in Greece, 1941-1944.” European Review of History 15(2): 129-142.

Manta, E. K. (2008). Muslim Albanians in Greece. The Chams of Epirus (1923-2000). Thessaloniki, Institute for Balkan Studies.

Mazower, M. (1992). “Military Violence and National Socialist Values: The Wehrmacht in Greece 1941–1944.” Past and Present 134: 129-158.

Mazower, M. (1993). Inside Hitler’s Greece. The experience of occupation 1941-44. New Haven/London, Yale University Press.

Rodogno, D. (2006). Fascism’s European Empire: Italian Occupation during the Second World War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Scott, J.C. (1987). Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven/London, Yale University Press.

Vervenioti, T. (1994). I ginaika tis antistasis: I eisodos ton ginaikon stin politiki. Athina, Odysseas.



Italian troops take over the control of Athens from their German allies after the invasion of Greece, june 1941 (Istituto LUCE)


Corpses transported through the streets of Athens in the Winter of 1941-1942 (Wikimedia Commons)


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#037 - Hunger and War during the Italian Occupation of Greece