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German President Pays Homage to Nazi Greek Village Massacre

Gauck to Nazi Greek Village MassacreOn Thursday, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Joachim Gauck, along with his Greek counterpart, Karolos Papoulias, visited the historic village of Ligiades, where the German President paid tribute to the people killed by the Nazis during World War II.
Arriving in the village of Ligiades, in northwestern Greece, German President Joachim Gauck expressed his country’s formal apology for the atrocities suffered by villagers at the hands of German troops, during the Nazi occupation of WWII.
“I wish to express what the culprits but also those politically responsible over the years in the post-war period did not want to or could not say: that what happened here was a brutal injustice. With a sense of shame and anguish, I want to say sorry to the families of those who were murdered,” he said.
Earlier, the German president had laid a wreath at a monument for the fallen, who were killed in a mass execution carried out by the Nazi regime on October 3, 1943.
During his speech, Gauck declared himself shocked at the “robberies, terrorist actions and murders committed by a country that had become a ruthless dictatorship”.
“I bow before the victims of the horrific crimes that were committed here and in so many other places in Greece,” he said. Gauck noted that such places made him feel a “double shame”, both that people raised within German culture had become murderers but also because democratic Germany, from the moment that it started to gradually process its past with a critical eye, had learned so little from its guilt concerning the Greeks.
“I so wish that those who at that time gave orders or obeyed orders had long ago said ‘I ask forgiveness’ or ‘I repent’ or ‘I am very sorry for the fact that I obeyed criminal orders’. These are phrases that have not been said, it is this incomplete knowledge that establishes a second guilt, since it excludes the victims from memory,” he noted.
In the afternoon he visited the Ioannina synagogue and held discussions with the Jewish community of the city, prior to his return to Athens and departure for Berlin.
On the occasion of the visit, let us remember why this small village located on the western slope of mount Mitsikeli and only 12 km away from the north-western city of Ioannina, lays in the center of the German President’s visit.
It was October 3, 1943, when Greece’s Nazi invaders arrived at Ligiades and unleashed havoc.
The sole survivor today of the massacre, 70-year-old Panagiotis Bampouskas, still has German bayonet markings visible all over his body. At the time, Bampouskas was only four months old. He was found in a basement two days after the mass execution, lying wounded in the arms of his murdered young mother, along with many other corpses.
According to the testimony of three other residents who survived the massacre — a woman who was found under the corpses of other villagers, as well as two less injured 24-year-olds  — the Nazis lured all the village people into their basements by telling them that they would be transferred to the neighboring city of Ioannina. After the residents were moved to their basements they were eventually executed. All houses were then looted and set on fire.
A total of 43 houses and 57 premises, stalls and huts were reduced to ashes. The report on the operation to the German Wehrmacht mentioned: “The enemy in the village Ligiades and from the altitudes 1,015 and 1,277 showed light resistance. Fifty residents were exterminated. Ligiades was reduced to ashes. Loot: 20 mules.”
The atrocities by the German occupying forces had started several hours before in the village Amfithea, located 5 km before Ligiades. The troops raided a local house, as there were reports that the family was supplying the Greek resistance with food. Two children, aged 4 and 7, were murdered in cold blood along with their mother and the house was set on fire.
One hour later, the German motorized squad reached Ligiades. At the time, there were only a few older people, women and children in the village, as the men were pasturing their flocks or gathering walnuts. Upon returning to the village, they saw the horror and brutality the Nazis had left behind.
To date, everyone in Ligiades is still looking for an answer to the holocaust. Historical sources indicate that the massacre was ordered in retaliation to the murder of Nazi Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Mountain Division Josef Salminger, who two days earlier was killed by Greek resistance fighters in an ambush.

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