The 11th Day: Crete 1941
|The 11th Day: Crete 1941|
|Directed by||Christos Epperson|
|Produced by||Christos Epperson
|Written by||Michael Epperson|
|Edited by||Jordan Dertinger|
The 11th Day: Crete 1941 is a 2005 documentary film featuring eyewitness accounts from survivors of the Battle for Crete during World War II. The film was created by producer-director Christos Epperson and writer-producer Michael Epperson, and funded by Alex Spanos. Among the eyewitnesses are British SOE operative and famous travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, along with George Doundoulakis, and Cretan Resistance hero George Tzitzika. The non-veterans giving historical commentary include Chase Brandon of the CIA and Professor Andre Gerolymatos of Simon Fraser University.
On May 20, 1941, an invasion begun with elite German paratroopers, the Fallschirmjäger, invading the island. It was to be the beginning of one of the largest paratrooper assaults in modern history, ultimately involving 22,040 German soldiers.. It was also to be the first time German troops faced a unified resistance from a civilian populace. The Battle of Crete would become the largest German airborne operation of World War II, known as "Operation Mercury," (German: Luftlandeschlacht um Kreta, also Unternehmen Merkur, Greek: Μάχη της Κρήτης).
The Germans had expected to control the island within a few days; after all, in less than 7 weeks they had defeated France and occupied Paris for eight days before an armistice was signed. What the Germans had not accounted for was the opposition from men, women, and children of Crete, who would fight alongside British and Dominion forces.
The Cretan resistance, alongside British and British Commonwealth soldiers who had been evacuated to Crete from mainland Greece, handed Nazi Germany one of their most costly campaigns of the war. Collaborating with a handful of British Special Operations Executive commandos like John Pendlebury, they put a resistance like no other encountered by Nazi Germany. Although the Battle of Crete ended after ten days with the withdrawal of British forces from the island, it would, nonetheless, go down in history as a Pyrrhic victory for the Germans — as the "11th Day" would belong to the Cretans.
Abduction of General Kreipe
Alongside the Special Operations Executive, Greek civilians helped in many sabotages, such as the destruction of the Kastelli Airfield. George Doundoulakis, along with Kimon Zografakis and two English commandos, was able to destroy the airfield, which included German airplanes and hundreds of barrels of aviation fuel.. Ultimately, these risky sabotages led up to the daring abduction of the German Commander of Crete. Masterminded and led by British Special Operations Executive officers Patrick Leigh Fermor and Billy Stanley Moss, it was undoubtedly the most ambitious, if not the only successful, kidnapping of a German general throughout the war. Both Leigh Fermor and Moss became legend after the war in the British book and film, Ill Met by Moonlight, for their abduction of German General Kreipe from Crete to Egypt.
In 2005, The 11th Day toured theaters throughout the United States and Canada. In November 2006, the film was released on DVD with Greek and English-language tracks. A photo gallery of over 500 images is also included. The film is available in libraries as well as through commercial online retailers. On the official film website, the producers have made available their collection of research material. Included are over 2000+ photos, of which many are rare and unpublished. It is the perhaps one of the largest online archive of World War II photos and documents in the world.
About the filmmakers
Producer-director Christos Epperson is an award-winning director and documentary cinematographer. His work can be seen on the Discovery Channel. His production company, Archangel Films, is based in Sacramento, California.
Writer-Producer Michael Epperson earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2003 and is the founding director of the Center for Philosophy and the Natural Sciences in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at California State University, Sacramento where he is a Research Professor and Principal Investigator. His published works on history and philosophy include the books Foundations of Relational Realism: A Topological Approach to Quantum Mechanics and the Philosophy of Nature (Lexington Books / Rowman & Littlefield, 2013, ISBN 0-7391-8032-0) and Quantum Mechanics and the Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (Fordham University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8232-2319-1).
The great-aunts and uncles of Christos and Michael Epperson were members of the Cretan resistance in World War II. In 1943, their uncle Kyriako Xirouhakis and his sisters Eleftheria and Rita joined the small resistance group led by Manolis Piblis in Hania. Eleftheria spoke three languages, including German, and worked in a German office where she had access to classified documents that she would copy, translate and pass on to her resistance group.
On June 11, at a wedding reception, the Germans arrested the siblings except for Artemisia who was a baby at the time. During the search of their house, the Germans found a diagram of the "Perivolitsa Camp" behind a painting on the wall. They interrogated the siblings and Eleftheria took responsibility for the diagram in order to protect her brothers and sisters. Her exact words according to German Lieutenant Volf Sinter were, "I am a spy, I work with the resistance group of Piblis and I will not reveal anything else." They were all taken to the prison at the town of Agia where Eleftheria was severely tortured by the Germans Hoffman and Fritz Sterling to reveal her contacts in the resistance. During her interrogation, she was hung naked in the ladies room and beaten repeatedly for three days and nights but did not reveal any information. There was a German guard next to her 24 hours a day to prevent her from sleeping. On July 13, 1944, the Germans executed Eleftheria. Her last words according to the testimony of German nurse Fritz Nider who went to check that she was dead were, "Away with your dirty hands so you don’t pollute a Greek woman. Long live Greece."[better source needed] Kyriako, Manoli, and Dimitri were sent to the Dachau concentration camp and Rita was sent to another concentration camp somewhere in Eastern Europe. They all survived and returned to Crete after the war was over. The three brothers returned the same day their parents were having a memorial for them in the belief that they had died. On April 4, 2004, the cultural group "Omonia" honored Eleftheria with a statue at the church grounds in Aroni, Crete.
The Epperson brothers also produced Outpost Harry - a documentary that recounts the story of 150 Greek and U.S. soldiers stationed in a remote outpost. They defeated over 3,000 Chinese infantrymen in one of the little-known sieges of the Korean War, ordered to "hold at all costs" against an enemy that vastly outnumbered them. (See The Outpost Harry Survivors Association)
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