August 22nd in German History: German Troops Perpetrate the Holocaust of Kedros

Memorial to the massacre of the village of Ano Meros.

While the German occupations of France, Poland, and Yugoslavia are well-known, the occupation of Greece is not often discussed. From 1941 until 1945, Greece was occupied by both Italian and German forces following the invasion of the country. The occupying forces committed numerous atrocities. One of the worst, the Holocaust of Kedros, occurred on the island of Crete on August 22nd, 1944.

Soon after mainland Greece fell, the island of Crete was invaded by German paratroopers and amphibious troops. Although Allied forces were defeated, many remained in the countryside and the island became a hotbed of resistance activity. In the Amari Basin are located the Kedros villages, which during the war sheltered several bands of Commonwealth soldiers. During the summer of 1944 the German occupying forces were preparing to withdraw to the city of Chania as they could no longer maintain any effective control over the countryside. In order to dissuade any resistance attacks against their retreating troops, German commanders decided to attack villages which were known to have sheltered the enemy. So, at dawn on August 22nd, German infantry battalions arrived in the Amari valley and rounded up the populations of the eight Kedros villages. They gathered the locals together and separated those who would be executed. Women were told to gather valuable belongings and the men who were not to be executed were sent to a separate location and held there. After the men and women left, the Germans began shooting those they had selected for execution. When done, they burned the bodies and looted the houses of everything they could find. Then they burned the houses.

The commander of the German occupation, Lieutenant General Friedrich-Wilhelm Muller, was captured by the Soviets on the Eastern Front and in 1947 was executed by Greece for war crimes. However, the damage that he did to the Kedros villages was never fully undone. One of the villages, Smiles, was never rebuilt and no reparations were ever paid to the survivors. While the world has done a great deal to repair the damage done by the Second World War, the Kedros Holocaust is just one example of how we have failed to completely erase what was done.

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