Friday, June 12, 2015

A Greek Holocaust

We've all heard of  the Holocaust- the slaughter of Jews during World War 2.  But did you realize there were additional atrocities committed in that time frame.  On June 10, 1944 a Nazi troop invaded the Greek village of Distomo and massacred everyone.  The only villagers to survive were those who were out in the fields or away from the village for the day.

This was during the occupation of Greece.  The Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria all spent time occupying Greece during the WW2 time frame.

The reason for the German Nazi's to murder this village ? Retaliation.  They were retaliating for a partisan (Greek resistance) attack upon the Nazi troop division.  They believed some of the partisan members were Distomo villagers.

So the Nazi's came to town.  They beheaded the local priest. They shot women and children. They took their bayonets to little babies in their cribs.  They killed the men, young and old alike. And if that is not enough-- the village was looted and burned before they left.

A few days later the Nazi's returned to the village, but the villagers had received a message alerting them and the surviving villagers fled to the the hills.

Read and see more about the Distomo massacre here.

 This horror reminds me  of stories that had been shared with me when I lived in Greece.  Stories that I found difficult to comprehend because they seem to be so out of my realm of experience.

A story stating that Nazi retaliation was common place. People stayed home- did not venture out unless absolutely necessary.  If something happened to a German soldier, their troops would gather the first 5 Greeks they saw and retaliated with death.  You could be merely walking down the street to buy a loaf of bread and be grabbed and shot.  This happened in a small train station village near me.

Another story of how Nazi's came to my in-laws village.  The village knew they were coming and ran to the hills.  Some villagers stayed back and were found dead when the village returned.  Babies and children put in outdoor ovens to bake, men and women shot. The village plundered.  My mother-in-law ( who would have been around 12-13 years old at the time) tells me that her younger brother was snatched by the Germans.  They never saw him again.  They believe he was taken to be raised German.  Or maybe that is just easier for her to think that than to believe he might have been killed.  His remains were never found, so they have hope he remained alive.

And even a slight hint that my own grandfather may have had a part in the Greek resistance.  I need to investigate this more.  He died during this time period (early 1940's) from pneumonia that he caught while walking from one village to another in winter.  That was what I had always been told until recently when I was told that he did work against the Nazi's.

Really.  People I know and love personally have experienced these things.  I can hardly fathom it because the blessed life I have led on this western hemisphere of the world.  A land that has not seen the horrors of war up close and personal in our own yard.  

It is important that these stories aren't forgotten.  As George Santayana's quote says, "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."

No comments: