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Constantinos Doxiadis Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Dr. Constantinos Doxiadis

Minister of Housing and Reconstruction, Greece, 1945-48.

Athens, Greece
May 5, 1964
by Philip C. Brooks

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

 


Notice
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened January 1966
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

 

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

 



Oral History Interview with
Dr. Constantinos Doxiadis

 

Athens, Greece
May 5, 1964
by Philip C. Brooks

[1]

DR. BROOKS: Doctor Doxiadis, may I ask first, to get it correct on the record, your position at the time of the initiation of the "Truman Doctrine," you were Minister of Housing and Reconstruction. Is that correct?

DR. DOXIADIS: At that time, I was not a minister. Actually, earlier, before the elections, I was the first Minister of Housing and Reconstruction. Then, after the elections, I resigned, and the government which came into power asked me to remain as head of the services of the Ministry,

[2]

so I had the title of the Director General of Housing and Reconstruction.

BROOKS: In that position, you were obviously interested in the economic recovery of the country. At the time that Mr. Truman made his speech of March 12,1947,what was your immediate reaction? Do you remember?

DOXIADIS: Oh, yes. At that time, apart from my role as Director General of Housing and Reconstruction, I was mainly concerned with the overall program of economic development for Greece. I was a member of the board which was studying officially the plans for Greece's recovery; and I was also the chairman of a small private group, which was working out a plan, which we called For the Survival of the Greek People. It was published in two volumes and it has helped in many efforts which have

[3]

been made since for the recovery of Greece. I mention this to show that I was greatly concerned with the very bad situation which Greece was in, and with several other people I was trying to work out plans for our recovery.

The declaration of the new doctrine by President Truman was, for all of us, a very important declaration. It was a surprise, I should say, although we think now that it was something very natural. At that moment, it was a surprise. It changed right from that moment, the attitude of every Greek towards the possibilities of recovery of the country. I should mention that when we were working on the plans of the survival of the Greek people, we were considered by many "just crazy" to believe that recovery was possible. The declaration of the Truman Doctrine made all the change. From then on, everybody thought

[4]

recovery was possible.

BROOKS: Do you think that most of the Greek people were surprised at the vigor of President Truman's statement?

DOXIADIS: I should say so. Although they all thought that the American people would back Greece, and that the American administration would look at Greece favorably. We did not have any specific declaration or even a sign, up that moment, that the USA would be especially concerned with Greece's tragic situation.

BROOKS: I talked last night with Mr. Tsaldaris. It was extremely interesting. He said that he was confident, because he had been to the United States two or three months before, that this aid would be forthcoming. But I suppose that he knew more than most of the people about this.

[5]

DOXIADIS: This is quite probable. I would say that we were confident that Greece would not be left alone after having been through all these difficulties. It was quite clear to us that Greece could not survive as a free nation without the Truman Doctrine. Anarchy would be the first problem which we would have to face, and then anyone could exploit.

BROOKS: Were you concerned particularly in your activity with the British support? Had you expected the British withdrawal?

DOXIADIS: We were not expecting any withdrawal, I must confess. If this had been known, Greece would have entered into another major crisis. But we were worried that British support was not stronger. I don't say that it should be. I know that Britain had its own major difficulties, but I just say that if it had been known that Britain

[6]

would withdraw, without the Truman Doctrine, this would have meant a disaster -- maybe this would have meant that for two or three weeks only would Greece be a free, well administered nation.

Panic would have followed. The first sign would be seen in the stability of the Greek drachma. I think we could have faced within two weeks a real economic disaster, which would have been followed by anarchy. No government would stand in power and so you understand the results.

BROOKS: Did the Greek people feel that the British had let them down, or as you said a minute ago, that Britain had its own problems?

DOXIADIS: No, I don't believe that we felt this way, especially because no sign of their desire to withdraw had been felt. If it had been

[7]

felt, then we would have thought we were let down. But as it was handled very carefully, and their desire to withdraw followed the declaration of the Truman Doctrine, I don't believe anyone would be entitled to say that.

BROOKS: Doctor Doxiadis, in what I have read about the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, in which I am much interested, I get the impression that in the United States, some groups, say in Congress, were willing to support an economic recovery of European nations, but they were tired of defense aid. For this reason, I am wondering, was the Truman Doctrine in your view primarily a program of military aid to settle the civil war, or primarily a matter of economic reconstruction, or can they be separated?

DOXIADIS: I don't believe they could in those days. It was impossible. I think that Greece needed some aid in order to survive. For Greece, and

[8]

I can only speak for Greece, it was a matter of survival or not. As I told you, I would have expected a real disaster without the Doctrine, even with British support, but at the low level, the disaster would have come later. If the British would withdraw, then the disaster would have come earlier, so it was a matter to help Greece survive, and the only way was to help economic recovery and the rehabilitation of the Armed Forces. The two had to go together in Greece.

BROOKS: Did you look on this as something different from the program of UNRRA -- United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration?

DOXIADIS: Oh, it was completely different, because UNRRA was mainly interested in giving food and some supplies. But the rate at which aid was given by UNRRA, the speed at which it was given, was so low, that it would have been impossible

[9]

for Greece to recover with the continuation of the UNRRA program. I could only see it as a first aid program, and nothing else.

BROOKS: President Truman, in his speech, mentioned a number of different needs of the Greeks, including funds for importation of goods, rebuilding of industry, direct military assistance, food, the provision of administrators, technicians, economists, and others. Which of these would you regard as the greatest need or needs?

DOXIADIS: I would not make any difference. There again, Greece had only 40 percent of its prewar income. All our bridges were blown up. I am afraid we had contributed to many of them being blown up during the years of the resistance. Three thousand villages were destroyed. One-fourth of the Greek population was homeless, most of our peasants did not have cattle or implements to cultivate their fields. There

[10]

was a real anarchy in most of the rural areas of Greece, and even in some small cities. Our people did not have any radio sets in order to hear the broadcasts. It was quite interesting that in 1947 -- I mention just one example -- out of twenty Greeks asked in Northern Greece, on the highway between two cities, "Who was the Prime Minister of Greece?", only four could give the proper answer. Sixteen of them did not know who was Prime Minister. They were cut off completely from any news sources. They were not receiving newspapers. In one mountainous village, they told us "Why are you all worried that we read only the Communist newspaper? There is no other one published." Because of the condition of this region it was really in the hands of people who were not interested to send old newspapers up to the mountainous villages. So in every aspect of Greek life, there was complete

[11]

disorganization. We needed help in everything. I could not exclude even one single factor.

BROOKS: What were Greece's greatest assets? What did you have to build on or contribute to this program?

DOXIADIS: I must say at that moment, only the will of the Greek people to survive as a free nation, because we did not have a system of transportation; our administration was at a very low level; industry could not operate at all. I don't see any other asset than the real will of the people to survive. I was very much strengthened, one day, when, after touring many villages which were destroyed, I saw in a mountainous village, right in the middle of winter, a teacher sitting on the steps of what was earlier a school -- at that time, there was only a few lower parts of the walls left -- with all his children, and

[12]

he was teaching them in a snowstorm. At that moment, I felt that Greece would survive.

BROOKS: Did you see any special significance to the fact that Greece and Turkey were bracketed in the Truman Doctrine, or did this fact raise any problems, so far as Greece was concerned?

DOXIADIS: When we look at it today, it raises problems. In those days, we were so much concerned with the fate of Greece that we did not care at all if anyone else was put in the same package, Turkey or any other country. Our only concern was to help Greece survive.

BROOKS: The Turkish needs and the Turkish program were very different from those of Greece.

DOXIADIS: That's true. Today we can criticize, but in those days, the concern of Greeks was to survive as a nation.

[13]

BROOKS: It has been suggested to me that perhaps this was done in order to sell the program to the American people more readily.

DOXIADIS: This is quite probable, quite probable, and as I tell you, I don't remember any Greek questioning the wisdom of such an action. Our only concern was Greece.

BROOKS: Now, I asked you a while ago, Doctor Doxiadis, about whether you looked at the Truman Doctrine plan as primarily a matter of defense, military aid, or economic reconstruction. Many people in the United States were conscious of the distinction between the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan on this same basis. There were some people who were more willing to support the Marshall Plan because it was primarily a constructive, economic program. Now, do you think that the

[14]

two can be that readily separated and that they are really quite different?

DOXIADIS: In Greece, the one was a continuation of the other. Thank God, the Truman Doctrine came first, on time and quite strong as a declaration, as a spirit; and then, when the Marshall Plan was declared for all of Europe, then Greece was beginning to get on its feet. Otherwise, the Marshall Plan would have come too late for Greece.

BROOKS: Well, of course, it was almost a year after the Marshall speech, before that program was approved by the Congress.

DOXIADIS: That's true.

BROOKS: And, this made a pretty serious situation in some parts of Europe.

[15]

DOXIADIS: Much more in Greece. Just for an insight on this, in Greece, there was no time to be lost. We needed aid badly, and President Truman made it clear that we'd have this aid. We started on this basis although we knew that this aid would not solve the problem, we needed a continuation. This was provided by the Marshall Plan.

BROOKS: Some ardent backers of the United Nations, which was pretty young at that time, felt that one way to strengthen the United Nations, among other factors, would be to have all aid programs administered by the United Nations. Would that have been worth considering at all?

DOXIADIS: I doubt if this could provide any real solution. The United Nations did not have especially at that time the talent, the experience, the experts, the policies, to help

[16]

in such a difficult program. This could not be very good for the nations on the donor side either, which had enough trouble coordinating the donor with the recipient. If we had problems within the donor side, if we had expected international committees to define their policies, develop programs, and so on this would have meant such a delay, if nothing else, that it would have led to disaster.

BROOKS: Were you in a position to be familiar, Doctor Doxiadis, with the way things went at Paris in July to September of 1947, when the Oliver Franks committee was drawing up the statement of needs of the various countries?

DOXIADIS: I was always studying the problem in Greece and not abroad, so what I learned about the Paris negotiations, I learned indirectly.

BROOKS: Well, this again, is a question about reactions

[17]

rather than about factual details. I am interested to know whether the smaller nations of Europe felt they were adequately represented at that session. Or did the British, French, or the Americans tend to dominate the scene too much?

DOXIADIS: I have had the feeling that the smaller nations were not properly heard, but, to be frank with you, I don't know if decisions could be made in any other way. You see, at that time there was no experience at all about the needs of any country. There were no policies; there was no system, no program. So, if we had to satisfy everybody's needs as he thought his needs should be satisfied, I doubt that we could come to any conclusions. And, our experience, from all types of meetings among nations, or corporations, or professions, shows that at the end two or three people who

[18]

are either more experienced or who have the greatest talent in this field have to take the decisions. So, although I did not like the way the decisions were made, I don't know if there was any other way.

BROOKS: I gather that the estimates made by Greece, itself, were rather drastically cut.

DOXI