Photos depicting alleged mistreatment of fallschirmjäger in Crete, 1941

WW2, WW2 in Greece

By Pierre Kosmidis

A series of photos depicting dead German paratroopers in Crete, resurfaced on the internet.

1a

This series of photos was used as evidence by the nazis to order large-scale reprisals against civilians in Crete.

1b

Reports from General Julius Ringel, commander of the 5th Mountain Division, stated that Cretan civilians were picking off paratroopers or attacking them with knives, axes and scythes. Even before the end of the battle, unproven and exaggerated stories had started to circulate, attributing the excessively high casualties to torture and mutilation of paratroopers by the Cretans.

1c

Throughout the Battle of Crete, the Allied forces and Cretan irregulars had inflicted heavy losses of lives on the Wehrmacht. In particular, the unprecedented resistance from the local population exasperated the Prussian sense of military order according to which no one but professional warriors should be allowed to fight.

1d

When these stories reached the Luftwaffe’s High Command in Berlin, Göring ordered temporary commander General Kurt Student to undertake inquiries and reprisals. Thus, seeking to counter insurgency and before inquiries were complete, Student issued an order for launching a wave of brutal reprisals against the local population right after the surrender of Crete on 31 May.

1e

The reprisals were to be carried out rapidly, omitting formalities or trials and by the same units who had been confronted by the locals

1f

After the surrender of Germany, Kurt Student was captured by the British. In May 1947, he came before a military tribunal to answer charges of mistreatment and murder of prisoners of war by his forces in Crete. Greece’s demand to have Student extradited was declined. Student was found guilty of three out of eight charges and sentenced to five years in prison. However, he was given a medical discharge and was released in 1948. Student was never tried for crimes against civilians.