Holocaust Monument in Kalavryta

The Holocaust of Kalavryta: The town of Kalavryta suffered a holocaust that is considered as one of the cruelest atrocities of the World War II in Europe. The German Operation Kalavryta started in October 1943, when the Greek resistant forces won the Nazi troops in a battle near Kerpini village and 80 German soldiers were captured. The Nazi forces demanded Greece to free the prisoners and threatened to execute the population of nearby villages to take revenge. However, the resistance leadership refused to free the Germans, in spite of the intervention of the Church.

On December 8th, the German troops destroyed the villages Kerpini and Pogi and killed their male population; after this, the Greek forces executed the German prisoners, only one of them managed to escape. The following days, the Germans entered Kalavryta, looking for the Greek resistant soldiers.

Although the villagers affirmed them that the Greek forces had left, on Monday, December 13th, 1943, the Nazi troops ordered all residents to get to the schoolyard. They locked up women and children in the school and gathered all male residents, older than 14 years old, at the Kapi hill, outside the town. They set the school on fire and killed almost all 700 men; only 13 of them managed to survive. The women and the children locked up in the burning school could see their husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers being killed and the men from the hill could see their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters being burnt inside the school. Finally, the women managed to escape from the burning building. It is said that an Austrian soldier had pitied on them and helped them to get out.

The following days were awful: the women had to bury their beloved persons and family. They were also homeless and had nothing to eat because the Germans had burned the whole village and nearby fields and had taken all food with them. The Germans continued their cruel operations in the days to come and destroyed close by villages, the monasteries of Agia Lavra and Mega Spilaio and killed most of the residents. Nowadays, there is a memorial dedicated to the Holocaust on the top of Kapi hill, where the men were killed, decorated with a large white cross. There are also stones inscribed with the names of these men and a chapel, which includes a nameplate with the name and the age of each man, attached to a candle that burns for him.

The cathedral of the town was rebuilt after the massacre but the left clock remains stopped at the time when the crime began, at 14:34 pm. Moreover, the school where women and children were locked up currently houses the Kalavryta Holocaust Museum, founded in 2005 and hosting objects from the Nazi occupation as well as photographs, old newspapers, and documents that commemorate the execution; some floors of the school remain still burned, as part of the remembrance. This massacre shocked Europe and united the Greeks. It always remains in our memory as a great shame and stands for the misfortunes of war.

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