Massacre of Kalavryta
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The Massacre of Kalavryta (Greek: Σφαγή των Καλαβρύτων), or the Holocaust of Kalavryta (Ολοκαύτωμα των Καλαβρύτων), refers to the near-extermination of the male population and the total destruction of the town of Kalavryta, Greece, by the 117th Jäger Division (Wehrmacht) during World War II, on 13 December 1943.
|Massacre of Kalavryta|
|Part of War crimes of the Wehrmacht|
The Massacre of Kalavryta Place of Sacrifice memorial with modern-day Kalavryta in the background
|Location||Kalavryta, Kingdom of Greece (under German-occupation)|
|Date||13 December 1943|
|Weapons||Machine guns and rifles|
|Deaths||1,200 Greeks (mass murder) by firing squads|
|Perpetrators||117th Jäger Division|
In early December 1943, the German Army's 117th Jäger Division began a mission named Unternehmen Kalavryta (Operation Kalavryta), intending to encircle Greek Resistance guerilla fighters in the mountainous area surrounding Kalavryta. During the operation, 78 German soldiers, who had been taken prisoner by the guerrillas in October, were executed by their captors. In response, the commander of the German division, General Karl von Le Suire personally ordered the "severest measures" — the killing of the male population of Kalavryta — on 10 December 1943.
Operation Kalavryta was mounted from six cities: [Patras]], Aigion, and Cornith on the Gulf of Corinth and from Argos, Pyrgos and Tripolis in central Peloponnese. All "Battle-Groups" were aimed at Kalavryta, although the divisions from Pyrgos, Argos, and Corinth returned to their bases soon after. Wehrmacht troops burnt villages and monasteries and shot civilians on their way. The Germans reached Kalavryta on December 9. In the early morning of December 13, 1943 the Germans rounded up all residents of the town and forced them into the school building where they separated the older boys and men from the women and children. They moved the men to a field owned by Thanasis Kappis, a school teacher, just overlooking the town. After looting the town and setting it ablaze, the Germans machine-gunned the men. 438 men and older boys were killed. There were only 13 male survivors, saved because they were hidden under the bodies of the dead. The women and children managed to free themselves from the flaming school while the rest of the town was set ablaze. The following day the Nazi troops burned down the Agia Lavra monastery, a landmark of the Greek War of Independence.
In total, 693 (actual memorials in Kalavrita and other villages name every one) civilians were killed during the reprisals of Operation Kalavryta. Twenty-eight communities—towns, villages, monasteries and settlements—were destroyed. In Kalavryta itself about 1,000 houses were looted and burned, and more than 2,000 livestock seized by the Germans.
Today the Place of Sacrifice is kept as a memorial site, and the events are commemorated every December. On 18 April 2000, then-President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Johannes Rau, visited Kalavryta and expressed shame and sorrow for the tragedy.
Comprehensive historical accounts of Operation Kalavryta have been documented in two non-fiction books:
Hermann Frank Meyer, whose father had been a German lieutenant captured and executed in Greece during WWII, wrote Von Wien Nach Kalavrita: Die blutige Spur der 117: Jäger-Division durch Serbien und Griechenland (From Vienna to Kalavryta: The bloodstained trail of the 117th Jäger-Division through Serbia and Greece), 2002. Moehnesee: Bibliopolis.
Antonis Kakoyannis, a local villager who interviewed over seventy eyewitnesses to the events, documented Operation Kalavryta from the perspective of his family and local Greeks in The Cursed Day: Eyewitness Accounts of the Nazi Massacres During Operation Kalavryta, 2019.
Some survivors of the events have documented their stories in short publications in Greek which can be found in Kalavryta’s museum and bookstore.
Other authors have weaved narratives into the events surrounding the Kalavryta massacre, including Just Another Man: A Story of the Nazi Massacre of Kalavryta, 1998, written by Andy Varlow and Hitler's Orphan: Demetri of Kalavyrta, 2014, by Marc Zirogiannis.
- Δημάρχου, Γραφείο. "Το Ολοκαύτωμα των Καλαβρύτων". Kalavrita.gr. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
- German map of Operation Kalavryta from the archives of German documents at the Municipal Museum of the Kalavryta Holocaust. https://www.dmko.gr
- Meyer, Hermann Frank. 2002. Von Wien Nach Kalavrita: Die blutige Spur der 117: Jäger-Division durch Serbien und Griechenland (From Vienna to Kalavryta: The bloodstained trail of the 117th Jäger-Division through Serbia and Greece). 1st edition. Moehnesee: Bibliopolis.
- Fefes, Archimandrite Theoklitos. Καλάβρυτα-Θυμήσες: Ήμουν Δεκατετράχρονο Παιδί. (Kalavryta-Memories: I was a 14-yr-old Boy). Athens: Simandro.
- Kaldiris, Dimitris. Το Δράμα των Καλαβρύτων (The Drama of Kalavryta). 2nd edition. Athens: Eptalofos. 1989.
- All names of the men are listed in the Municipal Museum of the Kalavryta Holocaust. https://www.dmko.gr
- From German records described in Meyer, Hermann Frank. 2002. Von Wien Nach Kalavrita: Die blutige Spur der 117: Jäger-Division durch Serbien und Griechenland (From Vienna to Kalavryta: The bloodstained trail of the 117th Jäger-Division through Serbia and Greece). 1st edition. Moehnesee: Bibliopolis. Also, all names are listed in the Municipal Museum of the Kalavryta Holocaust. https://www.dmko.gr.
- "Der Bundespräsident / Reden / Ansprache in Kalavryta". Bundespraesident.de. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
- "About Theodorakis's Requiem | "The Music of Mikis Theodorakis"". Theodorakisfriends.com. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
- SOE, the Irish Agent and the Greek Massacre by Conal O'Donnell
- Greek Government Information re. the Kalavryta massacre
- Museum of the Sacrifice of the People of Kalavryta
- Crimes of the German Wehrmacht
The massacre was memorialized in the 2014 book, Hitler's Orphan: Demetri of Kalavyrta by Marc Zirogiannis. This historical novella tells the story of the massacre from the perspective of the Zirogiannis family.