The Distomo massacre (Greek: Η σφαγή του Διστόμου; German: Massaker von Distomo or Distomo-Massaker) was a Nazi war crime perpetrated by members of the Waffen-SS in the village of Distomo, Greece, during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II.
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On June 10, 1944, for over two hours, Waffen-SS troops of the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division under the command of SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritz Lautenbach went door to door and massacred Greek civilians, reportedly in revenge for a partisan attack. A total of 218 men, women and children were killed in Distomo, a small village near Delphi. According to survivors, SS forces "bayoneted babies in their cribs, stabbed pregnant women, and beheaded the village priest."
The battle report states that 'members and suspects of gangs' were killed in the course of a 'retaliation measure' against partisan resistance. However, survivors of the massacre reported afterwards that men as well as children were shot, women were violated and killed. No soldier was ever held responsible for the massacre.
Argyris Sfountouris (protagonist of the film "A song for Argyris") was nearly four years of age in June 1944 and survived by chance. He lost his parents and 30 family members. Up until this day he and the other survivors and relatives have not received a single cent as compensation even though the Areopag, the Greek High court, has passed a legally binding decision in May 2000 obliging the Federal Republic of Germany to pay a sum of altogether 28 million Euro as compensation to the victims.
In the meantime Italian courts have likewise awarded compensation to Italian victims of the German occupation. The Greek victims were successful in their claim for enforceability of their legal titles against German property in Italy awarded by Greek courts. Germany has objected to this by saying that these were 'sovereign measures' and has claimed 'state immunity' for the war crimes and the crimes against international law. Both the Areopag as well as the Italian court of appeal have rejected this argument. In December 2008 the German government has filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice in Den Haag in order to circumvent the enforcement of the compensation claims. Its aim is to establish once and for all that this kind of lawsuits does not fall under the competence of the Italian courts, that their rulings constitute an infringement of international law and that they constitute an infringement of Germany' sovereignty rights.
Following the massacre, a Secret Field Police agent accompanying the German forces informed the authorities that, contrary to Lautenbach's official report, the German troops had come under attack several miles from Distomo and had not been fired upon "with mortars, machine-guns and rifles from the direction of Distomo". An inquiry was convened. Lautenbach admitted that he had gone beyond standing orders, but the tribunal found in his favour, holding that he had been motivated, not by negligence or ignorance, but by a sense of responsibility towards his men.
Compensation demands 
As the matter of reparations and restitution between Greece and Germany is not closed, survivors and relatives of the victims made claims for individual compensation and sued in the German courts and the European Court of Human Rights, which could have made Germany liable for several billion dollars in reparations. The claims were denied by the European Court of Human Rights and by German lower courts and in June 2003 were rejected by the Federal Court of Justice. Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled in March 2006, it didn’t have to pay compensation to individuals seeking damages over war crimes.
In November 2008, a court in Florence ruled that the families of the 218 men and women killed should be awarded a villa in Menaggio, near Lake Como, which is owned by a German state nonprofit organization, by way of restitution. Germany appealed against the Italian ruling at the International Court of Justice, claiming for State immunity. In January 2011, Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou announced that the Greek Government will be represented at the International Court of Justice in relation to the claim for reparations by relatives of victims. In its 2012 final judgment, the court decided that Italy had erred in ignoring Germany's state immunity, and directed that the judgment by the Italian courts be retracted.
See also 
- Hellmuth Felmy
- List of massacres in Greece
- Krupki massacre
- Szczurowa massacre
- Massacre of Kalavryta
- Oradour-sur-Glane massacre, which occurred on the same date.
- "Greeks lose Nazi massacre claim." 26 June 2003 BBC.
- Mark Mazower, Inside Hitler's Greece (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1993), at pages 212 to 214
- "German Supreme Court: Distomo Massacre Case, BGH - III ZR 245/98 (June 26, 2003)." International Law In Brief, American Society of International Law. 25 July 2003.
- Eleni Chrepa; Maria Petrakis (2011-01-12). "Greece to Join Hague German War Reparations Case". Bloomberg. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
- "Greece to join Distomo trial". Kathimerini. 2011-01-12. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
- Municipality of Distomo on massacre
- German website describing the Distomo massacre
- Dutch website with reference to the Distomo massacre
- Ein Lied für Argyris (A Song for Argyris). A documentary with Argyris Sfountouris, a survivor of the massacre.
- 1944 Life Magazine report on massacre beginning on page 21
- Chandrinos, Iasonas (2012). "Η σφαγή στο Δίστομο και στο Καλάμι (1944)". Encyclopedia of the Hellenic World, Boeotia (in Greek). Foundation of the Hellenic World.