Locals and government officials honored the memory of the 500 victims of the Viannos Holocaust by the Nazis on September 14-16, 1943 with ceremonies in churches and at monuments in the villages of Viannos on Crete on Monday.
The commemorative events continued at the Holocaust Museum of the Viannos Municipality in Amiras, which were attended by regional and state officials.
Crete Regional Governor Stavros Arnaoutakis stated in his address: “Today’s anniversary sends multiple and timeless messages. It reminds us that Viannos is a small place that deserves to be proud of its residents’ struggle for freedom and prosperity. Viannos can rightly and deservedly be described as a human sacrifice, a sacrifice carried out through a holocaust.”
“Seventy-six years later,” the governor continued, “we are well aware that a holocaust can not be written in quotation marks, because it is a crime against human nature. This crime was perpetrated by Hitler’s Nazi regime in retaliation for a people who defended their freedom and their lives.
“Holocausts and atrocities are not actions that are carried out in the heat of the moment. They are well-designed and well-operated political acts, committed by all the totalitarian and inhumane regimes that the planet has known. The truth is one and indisputable: crimes against humanity can not be written off,” he declared.
Minas Stavrakakis, the mayor of Viannos, stated in his remarks that “I want to believe that the vindication of the resistance and sacrifice of Viannos, as well as of all of Greece, will not be late. The memory of the victims who did not cower, did not retreat and were not afraid to stand up to the Nazis remains eternal.
“That is why we call for the recognition of debts and reparations in practice. We owe it to the history and the victims of the atrocity to say that crimes like this cannot go unpunished, but that reparation for the damages will be an additional shield to prevent them from happening again,” Stavrakakis added.
The Viannos area massacres, known as the “Viannos Holocaust,” took place between September 14-16, 1943, by Nazi troops who were occupying Crete. In total, more than 500 civilians were executed, and nearly twenty villages between east Viannos and west Ierapetra were ransacked, looted and burned to the ground.
Every bit of the grain and other agricultural crops growing in the fields, as well as the harvest which had already been brought in for the year, was destroyed by the Wehrmacht soldiers.
The slaughter was in retaliation for the killing of German troops by a band of Cretan resistance fighters, who had been led by Manolis Bandouvas. After the Cretan guerillas killed two German soldiers in a Kato Simi outpost and hid their bodies, their superiors sent an infantry company to the village to investigate their deaths.
Bandouvas and his men received notice that the Germans were coming to retaliate, and decided to defend Kato Simi instead of giving in or running away. They ambushed the German company and a fierce battle then ensued.
At the end, the Greeks defeated the Nazi troops and forced them to retreat. The Partisans then fled into the mountains.
More than 200 Nazi soldiers were deployed to Viannos following the unexpected defeat of the German company in Kato Simi.
Friedrich-Wilhelm Muller, the German commander of Heraklion, ordered troops of the 65th regiment of the 22nd Luftlande Infanterie-Division garrison unit to destroy Viannos and execute all males over the age of sixteen — as well as everyone who was arrested in the countryside, regardless of gender or age.
On September 14, the Germans began to arrested and execute people, often indiscriminately shooting them on sight, in twenty area villages for the next two horrendous days.
They burned houses and destroyed the precious harvests, all that the people had grown and gathered over the summer, the only means they had of surviving the long winter. Such was the rage of Muller that he even forbade survivors to return to their ruined homes and bury their dead.
The “Viannos Holocaust,” as it was later called, was one of the deadliest massacres during the long years of Axis occupation of Greece, second only to the Massacre of Kalavryta.
Muller, who became known as “The Butcher of Crete,” was brought before a Greek military tribunal after the war to account for his actions in this and other atrocities he had committed on Crete.
After being found guilty, Muller was shot by a Greek firing squad on May 20, 1947, the anniversary of the German invasion of Crete.
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