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Gilly Carr and Keir Reeves, editors, Heritage and Memory of War: Responses from Small Islands. New York and London: Routledge. 2015. Pp. xiii + 320. Cloth $148.

The editors of this interesting volume do not insist that islands are uniquely proficient in remembering the past, but as with other bounded geographies, islands can have considerable capacity for retaining information that might otherwise become forgotten over time. Islander memory traditions benefit from [End Page 249] population continuity and physical isolation, which means these traditions are less susceptible to extraneous influences.

In regard to wartime, these can have particular kinds of effects and leave distinctive legacies. The editors, Gilly Carr and Keir Reeves, claim that islanders can find it harder to dispose of, or recycle, war "debris" (4–7) by which they mean actual debris, infrastructure (for example, jetties and bunkers), memorabilia, and graves. As many of the chapters show, each category can play an important role in keeping wartime memories close to the surface of local consciousness. Why wartime memories should matter inevitably has to do with the particular kinds of traumas that island communities are prone to suffering. During World War II, for example, Greek islands were places where people starved because there was limited scope for foraging, fishing was forbidden by the Axis occupiers for security reasons, and escape was a perilous exercise. Most Greek islanders, however, were spared the kinds of traumas that were experienced on Crete, which was large and rugged enough to wage a resistance struggle. As a consequence, Cretan civilians were exposed to more direct forms of wartime violence.

Wartime traumas inform social identities in a variety of ways. Heritage and Memory of War: Responses from Small Islands seeks to examine how small islands—Crete counts as a small island in this book—have dealt with questions of heritage and social memory relating to wartime experiences. Carr and Reeves present case studies from the Atlantic, Pacific, and the Mediterranean, while including many chapters that deal with Greek islands. Given the target audience of this journal, this review will confine itself to the latter.

In chapter 2, entitled "Fragmented Memories," Hazal Papuccular discusses World War II memories of the Turkish-speaking Muslim communities of Rhodes and Kos and contrasts these traditions with those of the Greek Orthodox and Jewish communities. As owners of much of the prime agricultural land, Muslims fared better than other confessional communities when it came to food access. They also acknowledged that given their association with a neutral power (Turkey), the Axis occupiers treated them less harshly than the Greeks and, needless to say, the Jews. Of course, the Muslim communities did suffer wartime privations, but their experience could not be ascribed any political meaning. While the few Jewish survivors could erect a Holocaust memorial in Rhodes's Old City, and Greeks could claim that the war led to independence, for the Turks, the war resulted in Greek rule, leaving them nothing to commemorate or celebrate (48).

The following chapter, by Elena Mamoulaki, examines the relations between the people of Ikaria and the large political prisoner population interred [End Page 250] on the island during the Greek Civil War. Mamoulaki tries to explain why locals retained positive memories of those times, especially as prisoner numbers equaled that of the indigenous population. Looking deep into Ikarian tradition, she notes the prominence given in local lore of an egalitarian ethos and a history of autonomy, which fostered empathy for the prisoners as victims of state persecution. In being kind to the prisoners—a kindness which prisoners have corroborated—Ikarians also believed they were expressing their characteristic hospitality. Rather than viewing the mass internment as an embarrassment, they believed the experience exhibited their high moral worth. However, as those who remember the Civil War years pass away, there is "an increased need for a stable keeper and guarantor of a stable memory" (69); hence, memorializing practices are becoming more institutionalized. Nota Pantzou writes more broadly about the political prisoners in chapter 13, and the vast number of Aegean islands that hosted internment camps. Pantzou makes the point that islands, while commonly associated with vacationing, used to be lands of cruelty. Aside from piracy and slave kidnapping, the boundedness of islands made them ideal for penal colonies, military bases, and mental asylums. She notes that between 1920 and the 1970s, many "Aegean Islands were places of confinement and exclusion" (236) and discusses the problems regarding the heritage value of camp remains. Notorious prison islands, such as Makronisos, Giaros, and Ai Strati, draw leftist pilgrims and former prisoners, with Ai Strati being among the few island communities exploiting its dark history to attract tourists "seeking alternative experiences" (247). Many tourist islands, however, including many of the Cyclades Islands, make no mention of the fact that they housed political exiles in their municipal portals.

Irene Lagani's chapter, "Post-War Legacies in the Island of Kythera," explains why World War II is not memorialized on Kythera. The short answer is that the island community appeared to agree to a willful act of amnesia in order to avoid a damaging schism. Not wishing to support the Communist-dominated National Liberation Front (EAM), many southern Kytherians colluded with the occupation forces against EAM-affiliated islanders, who were based in the poorer north. When the time came to punish the southerners, the local EAM leader, Giorgos Polymenakos, refused to carry out execution orders and instead granted amnesty to the condemned. In the decades that followed the war, the German Occupation remained a taboo subject among those Kytherians who opposed EAM, and all attempts to commemorate the war were successfully thwarted, save for a small plaque installed in 1983 in the village of Kapsali, which celebrates the arrival of British forces in September 1944. Lagani suspects that Kythera's history of collaboration could explain why local [End Page 251] youth might be susceptible to the Golden Dawn party, although comparative analysis with other localities might reveal if historical ignorance, local political tradition, or unemployment is the crucial factor.

For Cretans, on the other hand, the war holds a primary place in island memory. In her evocative essay, Maria Kagiadaki considers how the war experience is conveyed in artistic expression, and how familiar Greek War of Independence imagery and allusions are used to underscore the meaning of Cretan actions and identity during the war. More than any other historical period, World War II informs local identity, and Cretans have used it to sustain claims to exceptional courage and sacrifice. Since that exceptionalism finds its meaning within a national frame, Cretan history must also find its meaning in the dominant national narrative. Thus, Cretan heroes are likened to the great warriors who liberated Greece in 1821, a comparison meant "to ensure comprehension" and to make "the 'new' heritage" an acceptable "extension of the 'old' and 'common' heritage" (287).

The case studies (including the nonGreek ones) could have done more to draw the significance of the physical boundedness of islands, analyzing in particular the way isolation and confinement might (or might not) shape cultural experience and memory traditions. But as Carr and Reeves intimate in their introduction, the aim of the collection is to begin exploring island memory and the possibility that it might render particular kinds of memorialization. There may well be something unique about islands, where memories of war cannot be suppressed or concealed for long, and where the conspicuousness of the past appears to affect the way it is memorialized.

Nicholas Doumanis
University of New South Wales
Nicholas Doumanis

Nicholas Doumanis teaches History at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. He has published Myth and Memory in the Mediterranean (Macmillan, 1997), Italy (Oxford, 2001), A History of Greece (Palgrave, 2009), Before the Nation (Oxford, 2013), and most recently he edited The Oxford Handbook of European History, 1914–1945 (Oxford, 2016). He is working on a long diachronic study of the Eastern Mediterranean.