Today, he is an iconic figure in Greece, a leftist who transcends ideology and a national symbol of resistance — beginning in 1941, when he and a friend, Apostolos Santas, ripped down the Nazi flag from the Acropolis, risking death as Hitler’s forces conquered Athens.
That brazen act was telegraphed the world over and inspired millions during one of Europe’s darkest hours. A snowy mane has replaced the brown locks of Mr. Glezos’ youth, and his powerful frame is now stooped. But his steel-gray eyes still burn with conviction, especially when he recalls his foray to the Acropolis.
“We had absolute consciousness that it was a historic moment,” Mr. Glezos said one recent weekend at his home in an Athens suburb, where he greeted a reporter with a viselike handshake. “No struggle for what you believe in is ever futile.”
He has turned up the volume on that message with his latest fight against German-led austerity in Greece, which has gotten him pepper-sprayed, hospitalized and arrested. His platform won him a landslide election victory in May representing Greece’s leftist party Syriza in the European Parliament, where he began work this month as its oldest lawmaker.
“Across Europe, I keep hearing the same theme,” Mr. Glezos said. “People are saying, ‘I don’t want others deciding my future for me.’ ”