|Date||September 19–29, 1943|
|Target||Greek citizens of the town|
|Massive executions, burning of villages|
|Perpetrators||Cham Albanian paramilitary, German 1st Mountain Division|
The Paramythia executions, also known as the Paramythia massacre (19–29 September 1943) was a combined Nazi and Cham Albanian war crime perpetrated by members of the 1st Mountain Division and the Muslim Cham militia in the town of Paramythia and its surrounding region, during the Axis occupation of Greece. 201 Greek villagers were murdered and 19 municipalities in the region of Paramythia were destroyed. The years after the war, a series a war crime trials condemned these actions, however not a single defendant was ever arrested and brought to trial.
The town of Paramythia was the administrative center of Thesprotia Prefecture before World War II. When the war broke out it had a mixed population of 3,000 Greeks and 3,000 Muslim Cham Albanians.
Axis propaganda had adopted a pro-Albanian approach, promising that the region would become part of Great Albania when the war ended. As a result, the Muslim Cham community collaborated in large parts with the Italian and later the German troops, committing a number of crimes against the unarmed population. The occupation forces installed a local Cham administration in the town of Paramythia, with Xhemil Dino as local administrator of Thesprotia and as a representative of the Albanian government. Apart from the local Cham administration (Këshilla) and militia, a paramilitary organization named 'Kosla' was operating from July 1942.
Anti-resistance activity and first wave of executions
Due to increased guerilla activity in the surrounding region, in September 1943, German Lt Colonel Josef Remold ordered the initiation of several scouting missions consisting of combined German-Cham Albanian groups.
On September 18, a group of 60 villagers was stopped by a patrol and were interrogated. Nine of them (one woman and eight men) were considered members of the resistance. The next day they were executed in front of the town's elementary school. On September 20, the scouting missions intensified and on several occasions engaged EDES units in combat. Remold himself remarked that the Cham units were very effective and "with their knowledge of the surrounding area, they have proved their value in the scouting missions".
On September 24, a patrol team consisting of five German soldiers was ambushed, possibly by Greek guerillas. The next day their bodies were found in a condition that made recognition difficult. A rumor spread that the team was accompanied by Muslim Chams, who committed the murders in order to accuse the Greeks and to initiate a major pogrom over the following days. However, according to post-war testimonies this possibility has not been proven.
On September 27, combined German and Cham forces launched a large scale operation, burning and destroying villages north of Paramythia, including, Eleftherochori, Seliani, Semelika, Aghios Nikolaos, and killing 50 Greek villagers in the process. In this operation the Cham contingent numbered 150 men, and according to German Major Stöckert, "performed very well".
However, this operation was not enough, on the eve of September 27, group of Cham Albanian militiamen investigated almost every home in Paramythia. Cham militia officer Mazar Dino, based on a list of names in his possession, arrested 53 inhabitants and locked them in the town's elementary school to await execution.
Execution of the captives
The brothers Mazar and Nuri Dino, who had orchestrated this action to get rid of the Greek community's representatives and intellectuals, were aware of Dorotheos' intention and acted immediately. On midnight of September 29 the prisoners were taken to the execution site on the outskirts of town. However, four prisoners were released. According to German sergeant Helmut Götte, who was part of the firing squad:
The hostages were ordered to leave the school and to line up. A translator read them each person's name that would be executed. They made a step forward. We had to move them to the execution site, out of Paramythia. The graves were already opened and in front of them they had to stay. The execution was performed with carbines at a distance of 5-6 meters. There were no Coup de grâce.
According to Götte's post-war testimony, Cham Albanians were part of the firing squad. Although there were reports corpses were looted for jewellery and money, Götte denies that fact. According to another German who was part of the firing squad, the relatives were immediately ordered to bury the bodies after the execution.
The victims were people from all walks of life, but most of them were prominent personalities of the Greek community of Paramythia. Among them there were a priest, a doctor, five teachers, the school's director and most of the local entrepreneurs.
Trials and responsibilities
In the post-war years a number of war crimes trials concerning the Axis occupation were held in Greece. However not a single defendant was arrested or imprisoned, as these had already fled the country. At the Nuremberg trials, General Hubert Lanz reported that the executions and the reprisal missions were part of "war regulations", however he admitted utter ignorance about the executions in Paramythia. In 1948 the Greek National Bureau on War Crimes ordered juridical research on the crimes committed by Italians, Albanians and Germans during the Axis occupation. Two days later, the immediate arrest of the defendants was ordered. Because all the defendants were abroad it is unknown if the Greek Foreign Ministry initiated the needed diplomatic procedure. In the Hostages Trial in Nuremberg (1948) the American judges called the executions in Paramythia "plain murder".
- Meyer, Hermann Frank (2008). Blutiges Edelweiß: Die 1. Gebirgs-division im zweiten Weltkrieg [Bloodstained Edelweiss. The 1st Mountain-Division in WWII] (in German). Ch. Links Verlag. ISBN 978-3-86153-447-1.