In an event held today at the “KORAI 4” Historical Memorial Area, in the presence of the Minister of Culture Linas Mendonis, the Mayor of Athens Kostas Bakoyannis, the Managing Director of the National Bank Pavlos Mylonas and the Managing Director of the National Insurance Robert Gauci, the donation process was completed and delivery of the site by National Bank and National Insurance to the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Athens, who jointly assume responsibility for its operation.

During the event, the Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, said: “We, the Municipality of Athens and the Ministry of Culture, welcome the donation of the National Bank and the National Insurance Company, which is handing over to the two institutions the Space of Historical Memory 1941-1944, in the building of Korai Street 4.

Today, seventy-two years later, we are in the basement of the building on Korai Street, whose walls “speak” of the years of hard trials, but also of the brilliant resistance action of the Greek people.

With the outbreak of war, it is engaged by the Ministry of the Interior to host its services. With the occupation of Athens by the Nazi invaders, he is ordered by the Komandatur. The underground anti-aircraft shelters will become hell for the Greek patriots. It is a space, one of the few left, where history remains “alive”. In the second basement, the 1944 mattress is preserved intact, where messages, dates, names, sketches can still be read. Seemingly paradoxical for a place of martyrdom. However, it shows patriotism, the indomitable will to resist the conqueror, but also the belief in the final victory and the vindication of their struggle.

So that they convey the hope of a short return not only to a peaceful life, but to a better world. The messages on the walls of the prisons are a precious nugget of micro-history of such a savage, but also heroic period. The collective resistance of the Greek people to the conqueror is made up of myriad unseen stories of personal self-denial and sacrifice.

After the Liberation and until the Decembers, the building housed the offices of the EAM. In 1991, the old underground prisons were turned into a 1941-1944 Historical Memory Area by the Ministry of Culture, which also undertook maintenance.

Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis inaugurated the site on May 16, 1991, in order to honor the history of the Resistance and its fighters at the highest level.

I consider the assignment of the ownership of the underground storage facilities by the National Insurance Company to the Municipality of Athens and the Ministry of Culture, an act of corporate responsibility, with a very strong historical symbolism.

The management of the Bank and the National Insurance rightfully deserve not only the thanks of the Municipality of Athens and the Ministry, but also all the praise. Along with our own commitment that this ark of memory will have the prominence and recognition it deserves.”

For his part, the Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis, stated: “The Korai 4 Historical Monument is one of the strongest historical landmarks in Athens, where the national historical and collective memory is kept intact. In these underground detention centers of Kommandantour during the Occupation, thousands of Greeks were detained and tortured. They left in the area “fragments” of their existence and shocking testimonies that make up a large part of the National Resistance in the capital. After the kind donation of the National Bank and the National Insurance Company, the Municipality of Athens and the Ministry of Culture, in kind cooperation, will ensure the operation and the best promotion of this historical space.

Besides, in the last years in the Municipality of Athens, with planning, persistence and corresponding collaborations, we managed to make emblematic landmarks, historical buildings, cultural spaces, once again part of the life of the city. So I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank the minister, as well as her excellent team, for what we did, for what we achieved together.”

“It is important not only to preserve this great historic site, but also to display it – both in memory of the victims, but also as a reminder of the excesses that passions and thirst for power can cause – in the hope that it will at least play a small role in shaping the morals of future generations. Hence, 3 years ago, wanting to ensure its protection as a place of historical memory, we decided to donate it to the Greek government, judging that this would be the best way to preserve its legacy for the Greek citizens. I am very grateful to the Managing Director of National Insurance Robert Gauci for the completion of the process”, emphasized the Managing Director of National Bank Pavlos Mylonas.

Mr. R. Gauci, Managing Director of National Insurance Company, during the event said: “With joy and special honor, we complete today, together with the Managing Director of NBG, Mr. Mylonas, the donation to the Greek state of a site of inestimable value and strong historical memory for the Greeks. A building that is our legacy to the current and future generations of the country. We are convinced that with this donation of the Space to the competent Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Athens where it geographically belongs, we will ensure its orderly and uninterrupted operation. We are implementing today, a decision that was taken with the sole consideration that this specific area is the property of the Greek people and for this reason we feel proud that it is passing into their hands”.

During the Occupation, the National Insurance building – the work of the architects Emmanuel Kriezis and Anastasios Metaxas – was commandeered and housed the Kommandantour, i.e. the German Guard. The basements of the building, which were built as air raid shelters buried deep in the earth with solid steel doors and excellent insulation, were used as a place of detention for thousands of Greeks as well as foreign citizens, but even the walls testify.

In 1991, the underground detention centers were preserved and classified as a Historic Preserved Monument under the name “Historical Memory Area 1941-1944”.

In a specially designed chamber of the first basement, small objects of the prisoners found during the maintenance of the site, notes in the German language, the Nazi flag that flew in the building and a door from the Gestapo detention center on Merlin Street are exhibited.

From 1991 until today, when the responsibility of the site is shared by the Municipality of Athens and the Ministry of Culture, the Historical Memory Site operated under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and the responsibility of the National Insurance Company.