The British were alarmed by the Greek people's record. They saw their prewar domination seriously challenged. They immediately set out to disarm the E.L.A.S. and impose their own control. First move was to insist that the E.L.A.S. lay down its arms and place itself at the mercy of the armed fascist bands.
The people protested. They poured into the streets for tremendous public demonstrations. They were indignant and determined not to lose the sovereignty they had fought for so bitterly and long.
British troops fired on such a demonstration in Constitution Square, Athens, in December. The unarmed people were killed and injured. For 33 days the British kept up their attack. They strafed, shelled, even used their battleships for barraging the E.L.A.S. and its supporters.
Thousands were killed—men, women and children. The people dipped rags into the blood of those slain by the British and made banners of them. The name of Scobie, British commander in Athens, became one with history's worst killers. You remember your own indignation—and the pictures, the reports in Life magazine, in the New York Times, in many other publications, that shocked and angered you.
World protest and the realization that this kind of massacre was too blatant finally made the British agree to negotiation. A regency was set up to front for their rule. The agreement giving E.A.M. posts in the government was completely scrapped.
At about this time Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent a message to Nicolas Plastiras, premier, expressing for the American people "profound sorrow" over the bloodshed in Greece.
"I have been reassured by your recent statements," Roosevelt wrote, "that the cessation of hostilities will not be followed by reprisals, but will be the prelude to early decisions by means of free democratic processes, on the vexed questions which led to civil strife."
The Varkiza Agreement of February 12, 1945, provided that the E.L.A.S. would lay down its arms, the terror and bloodshed would end, and free elections would be held at an early date. E.L.A.S. carried out its end of the bargain, but immediately the persecution of E.L.A.S. veterans began.
Costas Rentis, then Minister of the Interior, later said that 100,000 arrest warrants were issued. Men and women were arrested for writing the names of E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. on walls, for singing the songs which celebrated their heroism. Schools were converted into prisons to hold all the people—the men and women of the resistance.
The British, meanwhile, reorganized and strengthened the fascist bands with the weapons they had collected from E.L.A.S. The bands had the run of the country, raiding villages, murdering women and children, machine gunning offics of resistance newspapers and organizations, attacking particularly those localities where the people were most famous for their war-time resistance.
All over Greece the people organized campaigns and demonstrations. The E.A.M. reconsolidated its organization and led the demand for enforcement of Varkiza. Many people, hunted by the police and terrorized by the fascist bands, started going to the mountains once more. Among them were many E.L.A.S. veterans.