View Full Version : Massacre in Kondomari (Crete)

02-06-2012, 04:52 AM
Today in history: 2 June 1941

The Massacre of Kondomari refers to the execution of male civilians from the village of Kondomari in Crete by an ad hoc firing squad consisting of German/Austrian paratroopers on 2 June 1941 during World War II. The shooting was the first of a long series of mass reprisals in Crete and was also the first mass execution of civilians during WW II. 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 only two days earlier.

Generaloberst Kurt Student

On the morning of 20 May 1941, German/Austrian paratroopers of the III Battalion of the 1st Air Landing Assault Regiment were dropped southeast of Maleme. Their landing site included Kondomari. The invaders were confronted by the 21st and 22nd New Zealand Infantry Battalions, joined by ill-armed local civilians carrying primitive weapons. The paratroopers experienced strong resistance and suffered severe losses that totaled nearly 400 men.

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. 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. When these stories reached the Luftwaffe's High Command in Berlin, Gring commanded Student to undertake inquiries and reprisals. Thus, seeking to counter insurgency and before inquiries were complete, temporary commander General Kurt Student issued an order for launching a wave of brutal reprisals against the local population right after the surrender of Crete on 31 May. The reprisals were to be carried out rapidly, omitting formalities or trials and by the same units who had been confronted by the locals.

Following Student's order, the occupants of Kondomari were blamed for the death of a few German soldiers whose bodies had been found near the village. On 2 June 1941, four lorries full of German/Austrian paratroopers from the III Battalion of Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment 1 under the command of Oberleutnant Horst Trebes surrounded Kondomari.

Horst Trebes (right) with Hauptmann Walter Gericke, Crete 1941

Trebes, a former member of the Hitler Youth, was the only key officer of the Battalion to have survived the Battle of Crete unwounded. Men, women and children were forced to gather in the village square. Then, a number of hostages was selected among the men while women and children were released. The hostages were led to the surrounding olive groves and later fired upon. The exact number of the victims is unclear. According to German records, a total of 23 men were killed but other sources raise the toll to about 60.

The whole operation of the massacre was captured on film by Franz-Peter Weixler, then serving as a war propaganda correspondent (Kriegsberichter) for the Wehrmacht. After the summer of 1941, Franz-Peter Weixler was dismissed from the Wehrmacht for political reasons. Later on, he was accused of high treason for having leaked uncensored material related to the paratroopers' activities in Crete that included photographs taken in Kondomari, and for having helped some Cretans to flee. Weixler was arrested by the Gestapo, court martialled and imprisoned from early 1944. In November 1945, during Gring's trial in Nrnberg, Weixler gave a written eyewitness report on the Kondomari massacre. His negatives from Kondomari were discovered in the German archives in the early 1980s and his photographs became widely known. They appear in the following video.

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C. Flower
02-06-2012, 09:29 AM
Not the only such massacre in Greece. This is within living memory and it isn't surprising that there are strong feelings about being strongarmed by the German government and -- in most of the population -- against fascism.