The destruction of Anogia in Crete in World War 2

The destruction of Anogia

One of the villages of Crete which paid a high price for the help it offered to the abductors of General Kreipe was Anogia, the famous mountain village of Mt Psiloritis. The village was emptied of its inhabitants, who were driven from their homes and moved to other villages in Mylopotamos, and then razed to the ground. When the “punishment” of Anogia was complete, not one brick was left on another. But however hard the invaders tried to erase historic Anogia from the map, they failed once more.

After the war, the inhabitants returned, rebuilt their homes and today Anogia lives again as a reminder of the struggles of the Cretans against all the invaders of the tragic island, their determination and their love of their homeland. The invaders were those who were lost and are now remembered only for their barbarity and the blood they spilt on Cretan soil.

Order Of the German Commander of the Garrison of Crete:

Since the town of Anogia is a centre of the English espionage in Crete, since the Anogians carried out the murder of the sergeant of the Yeni-Gavé garrison and the garrison itself, since the Anogians carried out the sabotage at Damasta, since the andartes of various resistance bands find asylum and protection in Anogia, and since the abductors of General Kreipe passed through Anogia, using Anogia as a stopping place when transporting him, we order its RAZING to the ground and the execution of every male Anogian who is found within the village and within an area of one kilometre round it.

Chania, 13 – 8- 44.

The Commander of the Garrison of Crete
H. Müller

Anogia before its destruction by the German army

– An old photo of Anogia. Aftet the village was destroyed by the German Army, there were no houses left to be photographed –

Nikos Kazantzakis’ describes the destruction of Anogia

The pillage of Anogia lasted from 13 August to 5 September 1944. In July 1945, almost a year after the destruction of the village by the Nazis, Nikos Kazantzakis visited Anogia as the head of the Central Committee for the ascertainment of German atrocities in Crete during the war. By order of the Greek government and with the aid of I. Kakrides, I. Kalitsounakis and K. Koutoulakis, he recorded the chronicle of the destruction.

Anogia fighter

“The largest village in Crete, Anogia, on the borders of the Prefectures of Heraklion and Rethymnon, with 940 houses and 4,000 inhabitants, was the first of the villages of the island to be destroyed during this period. The Germans had not established a permanent garrison here, but only carried out roundups from time to time. The first took place on 16/2/42, when, searching for 8 individuals, they arrested 5 of them and another 4 people, whom they imprisoned for two months.

The compulsory labour imposed on the village from the start was that 500 men should present themselves each day to work for the Germans. However, the Anogians did not present themselves, because, as a people composed mainly of shepherds, they could not leave their flocks. This number was then diminished by half, but again the inhabitants showed little inclination to comply with the order. The imprisonment of women and old men of the village in Rethymnon as blackmail had no effect. Therefore an order was issued in early 1943 for the demolition of 16 houses in Anogia as punishment and to serve as an example. Because the Commander of Rethymnon, a descendant of the Philhellene General Norman who was wounded at the battle of Petas, did not hasten to execute the order but went to Anogia and, in a friendly manner, tried to persuade the inhabitants to obey the compulsory labour order, he was immediately removed from his post.

In May 1943, in a new German drive, 3 shepherds were murdered, including the 13-year-old Vassilis K. Xylouris. 2,000 sheep and goats were also carried off. On 19/8/1943, 9 men were arrested (4 of the Kounalis family, 4 of the Sbokos family and one by the name of Stavrakis). Two of them escaped, while the rest were imprisoned in Ayia Prison and later sent to Germany, drowning en route. On 3/9/43 there was a new drive, during which the Germans carried off as many sheep and goats as they could find (4-5,000). They used the shepherd Michalis Vrentzos as a guide and afterwards ordered him to leave and shot him in the back. On 13/2/44 they surrounded the village once more and gathered all the inhabitants together in the school. They took 11 men away on the pretext that they had attempted to escape. The fate of these men was never known. It is said that they were shot at Karteros.

On 7/8/44 the notoriously cruel German sergeant major “Sifis”, the commander of the Yeni-Gavé garrison, arrived with a detachment of four Germans and four Italians. They arrested all the women and children they could find and led them to Yeni-Gavé, beating them savagely on the way, on the charge that the men refused to present themselves for compulsory labour. However, a little outside the village they were ambushed by the andartes, who killed the men of the detachment and freed the women and children.

The following day the Anogians carried out the sabotage of Damasta, in which 3 German cars were burnt and about 15 Italians killed and 7 captured. The next day, the 9th of August, about 60 Germans came to Anogia. The men were away but the women were hospitable. The Germans acted with great friendliness and did not steal anything, only asking the women for information on the resistance attack on “Sifis’” detachment.

family from Anogia

On the evening of the 12th, the men of the village, being warned that many Germans were coming, left the village and thus many executions were prevented. On the 13th the Germans completely surrounded the village, entered Anogia and ordered the remaining inhabitants (about 1,500 women and children) to leave in half an hour in the direction of Yeni-Gavé, whence they would be scattered through the various villages of Rethymnon. The Germans then proceeded to a general pillage of the village – which was very rich in animal husbandry and wool products. Following the proclamation, each house was first burned down and then blown up with dynamite. The Germans withdrew to Sisarha each night and returned in the morning. One may understand the extent of the pillage, if one bears in mind that it lasted from the 13th of August to the 5th of September.

During the pillage, the Germans murdered in the village G. Spinthouris, who had been unable to leave with the other inhabitants, and also the paralysed cousins Konst. and I. Xylouris (or Kitris) and the aged Nikolaos Aerakis, in whose arms they placed, after his execution, two dead pigs on left and right in mockery.

Two sisters, the widow Emm. Kallergi and the widow Emm. Kavlendi, the lame Irene Karaiskou and Evang. Io. Pasparaki, who refused to leave, preferring death, were burnt to death and then buried under the ruins of their demolished houses.

The Germans also killed Emm. I. Saloustros, who was insane due to a head injury. Many others were killed in the environs of the village.

The Germans also destroyed the four cheese-dairies in the area and took the flocks of the inhabitants, killing any animals they were unable to carry off. Today, of the 940 houses in Anogia not a single one is left. The newly-built school was blown up, and the three churches, which the Germans used as stables, have also been damaged by the nearby explosions.

The official register of Rethymnon Prefecture lists 117 Anogians executed during the German occupation…”

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