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Nazi atrocities in Crete: Murdering civilians, women and children
WW2 in Greece
By Pierre Kosmidis
A photograph from a nazi propaganda publication shows German soldiers rounding up soldiers and Greek civilians in Crete. What was the fate of this man?
It has been documented by historians that even during the Battle of Crete, the Germans summarily executed civilians who took up their arms against the invading nazis, inflicting a significant number of casualties among them.
After the Battle of Crete was over, a real bloodbath started. The nazis, blinded by their revenge, murdered indiscriminately citizens of the island, including pregnant women and young children, as well as old men and women.
Furious at the resistance they met, the Germans shot, burned and bayoneted thousands of civilians, they burned down villages and committed every imaginable sort of atrocity against the population of the island, in order to terrorise them, leaving an indelible mark on the indigenous population.
“It is an endless list of tragedy,” said Efi Paschalidou from the Greek army history department (DIS).
The dispatches provided weekly casualty reports but when referring to slain Greeks, they “rarely state whether the dead are women or children,” she said. Reprisal killings were referred to as “atonement measures.”
They also list tons of goods seized at a time when much of the country was starving to death – including livestock, wheat, olive oil, vehicles and even wool carpets.
The documents relate to a four-year period which covered the invasion of Greece in 1941, the battle of Crete, the occupation of Athens and efforts to suppress the Greek resistance movement which continued until 1944.
Troops operating in Epirus, northwestern Greece, were instructed to show no mercy, Paschalidou said.
“There must be no hesitation, even towards the families… suspects must be executed on the spot,” one dispatch said, adding that weakness “would cost German blood.”
Meanwhile on Crete, which managed to hold off the invasion for longest, the high command decreed that 10 Cretans be executed for every dead or injured German. And the few Cretan laborers who agreed to work for the Germans were paid less than the cost of a loaf of bread.
“The value of this information is that it is not coming from a Greek grandfather. It’s from Hitler’s forces themselves,” Paschalidou told AFP.
The Viannos massacres
A mass extermination campaign was launched by Nazi forces against the civilian residents of around 20 villages located in the areas of east Viannos and west Ierapetra provinces on the Greek island of Crete during World War II.
The killings, with a death toll in excess of 500, were carried out on 14–16 September 1943 by Wehrmacht units.
They were accompanied by the burning of most villages, and the looting and destruction of harvests.
The massive loss of life amounted to one of the deadliest massacres during the Axis occupation of Greece.
It was ordered by Generalleutnant Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, in retaliation for the support and involvement of the local population in the Cretan resistance. Müller, who earned the nickname “the Butcher of Crete”, was executed after the war for his part in this and other massacres.
The Massacre of Kondomari
The execution of male civilians from the village of Kondomari in Crete by an ad hoc firing squad consisting of German paratroopers on 2 June 1941 during World War II.
The shooting was the first of a series of reprisals in Crete.
It was orchestrated by Generaloberst Kurt Student, in retaliation for the participation of Cretans in the Battle of Crete which had ended with the surrender of the island two days earlier.
The massacre was photographed by a German army war correspondent whose negatives were discovered 39 years later in the federal German archives.