1st Edition

The Battle for Bodies, Hearts and Minds in Postwar Greece Social Worker Charles Schermerhorn in Thessaloniki, 1946–1951

Edited By Gonda Van Steen Copyright 2024
    284 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The previously unpublished memoir of social worker Charles Schermerhorn offers new and eye-opening source material pertaining to the epicenter of the early Cold War: northern Greece. This book brings this memoir to light to enrich the discussion about the Greek Civil War and the late 1940s, through the highly perceptive views of a firsthand observer of the turmoil. Schermerhorn’s writings speak most compellingly to the power of human agency amid adverse sociopolitical circumstances. His memoir takes a child-centered and social-historical approach to controversial events, filling a great void in our knowledge.

    This book looks at a single mid-twentieth-century crisis in multidimensional ways, as a moral, material, social, and institutional calamity that mobilized a motley crew of actors, from new humanitarian aid organizations to press agents, from soldiers to destitute repeat-refugees, from fledgling modern missionaries to foreign diplomats and economic strategists. It was Schermerhorn’s unique achievement to interact with them all, seeking common ground in the arduous task of trying to improve living conditions for children and rural families. But he also realized how easily foreign aid could become a tool of political power and expediency.

    Focusing on the Greek Civil War, this book will interest readers studying the Cold War, the heated peripheries of proxy wars, and the devastating social fallout of conflicts raging in areas hidden from public view. The global history of humanitarian crises is a burgeoning field, and Schermerhorn was the first to place Greek children and villagers, who themselves left hardly any sources behind, at the center of this urgent and ever-relevant debate.

    List of Figures and Maps


    Preface and Acknowledgments



    Charley in Greece: 1946 to 1951




    Gonda Van Steen holds the Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language, and Literature in the Department of Classics at King’s College London. She is the author of five books: Venom in Verse: Aristophanes in Modern Greece (2000); Liberating Hellenism from the Ottoman Empire (2010); Theatre of the Condemned: Classical Tragedy on Greek Prison Islands (2011); and Stage of Emergency: Theater and Public Performance under the Greek Military Dictatorship of 1967–1974 (2015). Her latest book, Adoption, Memory, and Cold War Greece (2019), takes the reader into the uncharted terrain of Greek adoption stories that become paradigmatic of Cold War politics and history.

    ‘With the Greek Civil War at its epicentre, the memoir written by [Charles] Schermerhorn and edited by Professor Van Steen, holds special interest for those who study the Cold War, the “hot” zones in the peripheries of wars fought “by proxy”, and the catastrophic social repercussions of battles that rage in areas hidden from public view.

    The global history of humanitarian crises is a burgeoning field of research. As far as Greece is concerned, Schermerhorn was the first to position the children and the rural Greeks, who left behind very few personal narratives about the hardships of that turbulent time, at the centre of this urgent and ever-current debate’ - The Books’ Journal 151, March 2024 (review translated from Greek).