Greek, Italian presidents attend WWII commemoration parade

Greek, Italian presidents attend WWII commemoration parade
Evzones of Greek presidential guard parade through the streets of the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece during a military parade, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Sunday attended Greece's annual military parade commemorating Greece's entry into World War II — against Italy.

Mattarella appeared at the parade in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, at the invitation of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who later hailed his counterpart's presence.

"We are leaving behind what divided us. We are determined to defend Europe from ... the forces of populism and racism, bordering on Nazism, that want to destroy Europe," Pavlopoulos said. "(We are) determined never to let the revival of the nightmares that led to World War II happen again."

Greek police on Sunday kept at bay a small crowd of protesters who wanted to march and protest the name change deal signed by Greece and Macedonia in July resolving a long-standing dispute over Macedonia's name.

Some reservist units taking part in the parade shouted "Macedonia is Greek!" while marching past the VIP stand.

People holding Greek flags watch a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
People holding Greek flags watch a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, the leader of a small right-wing populist party allied with the left-wing Syriza party in government, has opposed the Macedonia deal. While he was making a statement about the parade after Pavlopoulos, someone shouted "Resign! Save (Greek) Macedonia!"

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, and his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos, center, watch as people dressed in traditional costumes take part in a military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, and his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos, center, watch as people dressed in traditional costumes take part in a military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

"When the time comes," the minister answered.

Greek special forces officers gather before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Greek special forces officers gather before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, is the capital of the Greek province of Macedonia. Greece had long objected to its neighbor to the north naming itself Macedonia on the grounds that the name implied territorial claims on the Greek province, as well as being an appropriation of Greek history and symbols.

A group of people wearing traditional costumes gather before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
A group of people wearing traditional costumes gather before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Macedonia plans to change its name to North Macedonia so it can finally move past Greek objections and join NATO.

Greek special forces officers stand to attention before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Greek special forces officers stand to attention before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Italy invaded Greece on Oct. 28, 1940, from neighboring Albania, which it had occupied the previous year. The Italians expected a swift advance but were soon beaten back deep into Albania by the Greeks. The front stabilized by December and a major Italian spring offensive failed, prompting Germany to invade and occupy Greece and Yugoslavia in April 1941.

A man selling Greek flags walks past a Hellenic army tank before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece , Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
A man selling Greek flags walks past a Hellenic army tank before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece , Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

The two presidents then traveled to the island of Kefalonia, in western Greece, the site of a massacre of an Italian division by the Germans in September 1943, after Italy surrendered to the Allies.

Greek police officers stand guard as a group of protesters against Greece's name deal with neighboring Macedonia watches the military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Greek police officers stand guard as a group of protesters against Greece's name deal with neighboring Macedonia watches the military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

The Germans attempted to disarm the 12,000-strong 33rd Italian Division, known as the Acqui Division, which, until then, had served as the main occupying force. The soldiers decided to resist the Germans; after nine days of fighting, and suffering 1,315 dead, the Italians surrendered. The Germans executed about 5,100 soldiers and a further 3,000, destined for concentration camps, died when the German ships transporting them, were hit by Allied planes. The massacre eventually became the subject of a 2001 Hollywood film, "Captain Corelli's Mandolin," based on the novel of the same name.

A man kisses his son as they walk past a Greek army tank before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
A man kisses his son as they walk past a Greek army tank before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

"A new Greece and a new Italy were born from the resistance against Nazism and fascism. After the terrible wars of the last century, the European Union chartered a new course for the European peoples, cementing peace, friendship and cooperation," Mattarella said. "This day marks our resolve to continue on this path and avoid any danger of repeating the mistakes of the past."

Hellenic Air Force F-16 takes part at the annual military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece during a military parade, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Hellenic Air Force F-16 takes part at the annual military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece during a military parade, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

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Italian President Sergio Mattarella, center left, and his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos, center, applaud as Greek students march during a military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Italian President Sergio Mattarella, center left, and his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos, center, applaud as Greek students march during a military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Demetris Nellas reported from Athens.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, center, attends a military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Italian President Sergio Mattarella, center, attends a military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

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Greek protesters watch a military parade as others hold a banner against Greece's name deal with neighboring Macedonia, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Greek protesters watch a military parade as others hold a banner against Greece's name deal with neighboring Macedonia, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)

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An elderly man wearing a traditional costume holds a placard reading "Greeks save Macedonia" before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
An elderly man wearing a traditional costume holds a placard reading "Greeks save Macedonia" before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (Source: Giannis Papanikos/AP)