Massacre of Kalavryta

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Massacre of Kalavryta
Part of War crimes of the Wehrmacht
The Massacre of Kalavryta Place of Sacrifice memorial with modern-day Kalavryta in the background
LocationKalavryta, Kingdom of Greece (under German-occupation)
Date13 December 1943
WeaponsMachine guns and rifles
Deaths1,200 Greeks (mass murder) by firing squads
Perpetrators117th Jäger Division

The Massacre of Kalavryta (Greek: Σφαγή των Καλαβρύτων), or the Holocaust of Kalavryta (Ολοκαύτωμα των Καλαβρύτων), refers to the near-extermination of the male population and the total destruction of the town of Kalavryta, Greece, by the 117th Jäger Division (Wehrmacht) during World War II, on 13 December 1943.


In early December 1943, the German Army's 117th Jäger Division began a mission named Unternehmen Kalavryta (Operation Kalavryta), intending to encircle Greek Resistance guerilla fighters in the mountainous area surrounding Kalavryta. During the operation, 78 German soldiers, who had been taken prisoner by the guerrillas in October, were executed by their captors. In response, the commander of the German division, General Karl von Le Suire personally ordered the "severest measures" — the killing of the male population of Kalavryta — on 10 December 1943.[1]

Operation Kalavryta was mounted from Patras and Aigion on the Gulf of Corinth and from near Tripolis in central Peloponnese. All "Battle-Groups" were aimed at Kalavryta. Wehrmacht troops burnt villages and monasteries and shot civilians on their way. When they reached the town they locked all women and children in the local school, set it afire from outside, and marched all males 12 and older to a hill just overlooking the town. There, the German troops machine-gunned them.[citation needed] More than 1175 died. There were only 13 male survivors, saved because they were hidden under the bodies of the dead. The women and children managed to free themselves from the flaming school while the rest of the town was set ablaze. The following day the Nazi troops burned down the Agia Lavra monastery, a landmark of the Greek War of Independence.[1]

In total, nearly 1200 (actual memorial in Kalvrita names every one) civilians were killed during the reprisals of Operation Kalavryta. Twenty-eight communities—towns, villages, monasteries and settlements—were destroyed. In Kalavryta itself about 1,000 houses were looted and burned, and more than 2,000 livestock seized by the Germans. The massacre was memorialized in the 2014 book, Hitler's Orphan: Demetri of Kalavyrta by Marc Zirogiannis. This historical novella tells the story of the massacre from the perspective of the Zirogiannis family.[2]

Today the Place of Sacrifice is kept as a memorial site, and the events are commemorated every December. On 18 April 2000, then-President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Johannes Rau, visited Kalavryta and expressed shame and sorrow for the tragedy.[3]

In art[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Δημάρχου, Γραφείο. "Το Ολοκαύτωμα των Καλαβρύτων". Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  2. ^ Zirogiannis, Marc (24 May 2014). Hitler's Orphan: Demetri of Kalavryta (1st ed.). New York, NY: Lulu. p. 34. ISBN 9781312222595.
  3. ^ "Der Bundespräsident / Reden / Ansprache in Kalavryta". Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  4. ^ "About Theodorakis's Requiem | "The Music of Mikis Theodorakis"". Retrieved 15 March 2017.


  • Hermann Frank Meyer, Von Wien nach Kalavryta: Die blutige Spur der 117. Jäger-Division durch Serbien und Griechenland
  • Andy Varlow, Just Another Man: A Story of the Nazi Massacre of Kalavryta. 1998; ISBN 1-883319-72-2

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°2′N 22°7′E / 38.033°N 22.117°E / 38.033; 22.117