Greece remembers the Nazi massacre at Distomo
The massacre at Distomo remains to this day one of the most atrocious crimes the Nazis committed against innocent women and children, only months before the German occupying forces pulled out of Greece.
On 10 June 1944, Fritz Laufenbach, captain of the 2nd company of the 1st battalion of the 7th SS armored regiment, was ordered to move his troops from Livadia to Distomo, Steiri and Kyriaki in order to locate guerrillas in the western side of Helicon Mountain.
This move by the German soldiers was in retaliation for some troops killed by the Greek resistance. As bait, the Nazis had used two Greek civilian trucks filled with SS men disguised as villagers. The two trucks were moving ahead of the main phalanx.
At the same time, the 10th and 11th Amphissa companies of the 3rd Battalion were directed to Distomo to meet the 2nd company. The German troops met outside Distomo without finding any resistance fighters, save for 18 children hiding close to the village. Six of the children who tried to escape were executed.
The Germans entered Distomo and after intimidating the villagers, they found out that there were Greek guerrillas at Steiri. The 2nd company headed towards Steiri and at Litharaki, close to Steiri, they were ambushed by fighters from the ELAS resistance group. The battle at Steiri was bloody and the Germans were forced to retreat. About 40 of them were killed.
After the casualties at Steiri, the Nazis entered Distomo and in retaliation for their losses began the massacre of everyone they found in the village.
They went from door to door, killing everyone at sight. Their fury was so that they did not care if they killed women and children. The slaughter lasted into the night until the Nazi troops had to return to Livadia. However, they did not leave before burning the whole village to the ground.
According to survivors describing the atrocities, SS soldiers bayoneted babies in their cribs, stabbed pregnant women and beheaded the village priest.
The Germans did not stop at Distomo. The executions continued on the way back to their base, as they killed any civilian they encountered on the way. The death count inside Distomo reached 228, of which 117 were women and 111 men, with 53 children under the age of 16 among them.
According to the testimony of the International Red Cross Swiss envoy George Wehrly, who arrived in Distomo a few days later, about 600 people were killed by the Nazis in the wider region.
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