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GreekReporter.comGreek NewsThe German Massacre at Viannos, Crete Still Haunts Greece

The German Massacre at Viannos, Crete Still Haunts Greece

Viannos Crete massacre
German troops round up innocent civilians. Credit: Franz Peter Weixler/German Federal Archives

The Viannos massacre, known as the “Viannos Holocaust,” was a mass extermination campaign launched by Nazi forces against the civilian residents of around twenty villages located in the areas of east Viannos and west Ierapetra provinces on the Greek island of Crete during World War II.

The massacres took place over three days beginning on September 14, 1943. In total, more than five hundred civilians were executed, and nearly twenty villages were pillaged, 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.

Viannos Crete massacre
Credit: Franz Peter Weixler/German Federal Archives

This heartless 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.

In the end, the indomitable 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

More than two hundred Nazi soldiers were deployed to Viannos following the unexpected defeat of the German company in Kato Simi.

Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, 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.

Viannos Crete massacre
Credit: Franz Peter Weixler/German Federal Archives

On September 14th, the Germans began to arrest and execute people, often indiscriminately shooting them on sight, in twenty area villages. The atrocity went on for the next two horrendous days.

They burned houses and destroyed the precious harvest—everything that the people had grown and gathered over the summer. It was the only means they had of surviving the long winter. Such was the rage of Müller that he even forbade survivors from returning to their ruined homes and burying their dead.

Viannos Holocaust one of the deadliest massacres

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.

Viannos Crete massacre
The memorial was designed by sculptor Yiannis Parmakelis. Credit: Marc Ryckaert/Wikimedia commons

Müller, 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, Müller was shot by a Greek firing squad on May 20, 1947, the anniversary of the German invasion of Crete.

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