The terror against Greek civilians began shortly after the German Wehrmacht landed on Crete at the end of May 1941. Wehrmacht soldiers shot hundreds of civilians in several villages in the western part of the island during the first weeks of occupation. Monuments and memorial graves at numerous sites honour the victims.
In May 1941, Wehrmacht units occupied Crete. During the airborne invasion of Crete - codenamed »Operation Mercury« - thousands of German paratroopers landed on the strategically important island and took it with the help of the Italian army. On Crete, they faced a battle against British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers. They also encountered unexpected mass resistance from the civilian population. While civilians on the Greek mainland had for the most part remained passive, many Cretans were involved in the fighting. After a sharp struggle, Axis forces seized control of the island. Major general Kurt Student (1890-1978) gave his officers permission to undertake »retaliation measures« against Cretan civilians in revenge for the many fallen soldiers, justifying his decision with the allegedly »bestial« and »vengeful« manner in which Cretans killed German soldiers. His orders made it possible for soldiers to kill and pillage without the consequence of a trial before a military tribunal. This set in motion a wave of criminal actions committed by German soldiers in occupied Greece: following Student's orders, German soldiers undertook »retaliation measures« in numerous townships in which at times the entire male population was shot. Soldiers destroyed many villages in the north-west of Crete, such as the village of Kandanos on June 3, 1941. Here, the occupying forces set up signs which read: »Kandanos was destroyed in retaliation for the bestial murder of a paratrooper platoon and a half-platoon of military engineers by armed men and women«.
There is no exact data concerning the number of victims of »retaliation measures« which took place in the west of Crete, but it is estimated to lie between 2,000 and 3,500. Moreover, it is assumed that there were victims in almost every village in the region. In Kandanos alone, Wehrmacht units massacred over 300 people on June 3, 1941; the day before they had killed about 23 men in Kondomari and about fifty men in Alikianos.
Several monuments were set up in memory of the victims of the terror of May and June 1941 in Alikianos, Kondomari und Kandanos, most of them in the 1990s. The community of Kondomari set up memorial graves on the Kondomari cemetery for the killed village residents after the end of the war.
- Mnimeia sti ditike Krete