The story of the legendary Rupel fortress in Serres survives in our collective memory through the unique in Greece festival of historical re-enactment that takes place every May on the site.
Now the people behind this initiative have released the very first comic book on the subject which takes us back to 1941. Then a handful of Greek defenders forced Europe’s largest military machine to change radically its initial plans in order to enter and take over Greece.
The Greeks, chosen by fate to defend the “Macedonian Thermopylae” on April 1941 in Rupel and the rest of the Metaxas Line fortresses, were just a handful of soldiers.
But they were the ones who did not hesitate to tell the Germans that, “fortresses do not surrender; they are taken”. This was the answer given by Lieutenant Colonel Georgios Douratsos, the Commander of Rupel, when the enemy asked him to surrender the fort. It was, literally, a new “ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ”.
It was later proved that the Battle of the Forts, combined with the Battle of Crete, ruined Hitler’s plans. The strong resistance the Germans encountered in Greece, apart from being unexpected, proved to be time-consuming in a critical phase of the Second World War. Experts believe that the resistance they faced in the two corners of the country, namely Macedonia and Crete, and the troops they were forced to divert to Greece delayed the Nazi attack against Russia and winter caught up with them there.
Now, for the first time illustrated in a comic book, the story of Rupel’s unbeaten heroes is presented. As the creators of the project say, this is probably the best way to make Rupel’s legacy more widely known – and above all to touch younger generations and to inspire children.
However, investigating and communicating these heroic acts is not limited to a specific audience. They are part of preserving the historical memory, highlighting those events that marked and determined the course of the nation. That is why the creation of the comic “Rupel 1941” was based not only on elements that were already known. Instead, some previously unknown and dramatic aspects of the Battle of the Forts are included for the first time.
One of these is about the involvement of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the Battle of the Forts and especially the WWII Ace, Marmaduke Thomas St John Pattle a.k.a. Pat Pattle.
Another lesser-known side of the story that is included in the comic book is the battles that were fought outside the underground forts, at West Belles and Omorfoplagia. In the latter, the heroic Sergeant Demetrios Itsios single-handedly inflicted unprecedented damage to the advancing enemy forces.
Also, the comic book reveals for the first time the presence of the only woman in the war operations around the Metaxas Line.
It should be noted that two narrative lines were combined for the creation of the comic book: The official account of the events and the informal, human stories that occurred at the individual level.
The comic “Rupel 1941” is published by the “Agistro Drasi”, which promotes actions and initiatives aimed at preserving the historical memory, as well as in the rescue and promotion of the abandoned fortifications of the Metaxa Line. The illustration is by Spyros Zacharopoulos and the editing of the texts by Panagiotis Savvidis.