In November 1943, the WERMACHT 117th JAEGER DIVISION began "Unternehmen Kalavryta" (Operation Kalavryta). The objective was to encircle and then destroy the Greek guerilla forces in the hills and mountains around the town of Kalavryta.
During the operation, numerous Jaeger Division troops were killed in combat, and 81 from the 1st Battalion of the 749th Jaeger Regiment were captured.
One of the Jaeger Regiment survivors claimed that 4 soldiers were summarily executed immediately upon capture; 3 were taken to hospital at Kalavryta, but were later battered to death by Guerilla fighters, and the rest - 70 in total - were kept prisoner at Mazeika, near Kalavryta, where they were treated as POWs, until Guerilla commanders decided to kill them all.
Most were shot dead near Mazi, but two managed to escape and report what had happened to the Jaeger Division HQ.
Over 3000 Jaeger Division troops were dispatched for Operation Kalavryta , beginning on 4th December. They left in 5 formations, heading towards the area from Patras, Aigion, Tripolis, Corinth and Pyrgos with the objective being to free their captured comrades if possible, and draw the Geurillas into combat, then destroy them.
The German commander, General Karl Von Le Suire, learned of the execution of the Jaeger prisoners on the 8th of December, and issued immediate orders for reprisals against the civilian population. He flew to Kalavryta and personally instructed Major Ebersberger,the commander of the operation, on how to carry out what he termed, "atonement measures."
The Jaeger Division troops rounded up all male inhabitants of Kalavryata aged 12 upwards, and herded them into a hollow near the town's cemetery. Survivors said they expected to be told they were being deported as forced labour.
In the village, all the women were taken to the school and shut inside. The village was then set alight. Once this was done, flares were lit in the village as a sign to the troops with the male captives near the cemetery. Upon seeing the flares, the Jaeger troops opened up on the men with their machine guns. 463 boys and men aged 12 onwards were mown down in a very short space of time. 13 survived because bodies fell on top of them, hiding them from the Jaeger troops who moved amongst the fallen finishing off anyone who moved, groaned or looked as though they were breathing.
A British SOE agent, Captain Conal O'Donnell of the Royal Engineers, had been parachuted into Greece earlier in the War and was stationed near Kalavryta. He and his small group were unable to do anything but observe and remember what they saw.
The women were able to escape from the School because the Jaeger troops neglected to lock the door. Had they done so, the women too would have died, burned to death in the town.
O'Donnell and his small group heard the gunfire as they marched towards Mount Helmos near Kalavyta. In the days to come they witnessed Stukas dive bombing the village of Visoka, north of Kalavryta. They also confirmed that the monasteries of Mega Spilaio and Agia Lavra were destroyed, and all the Monks and staff were massacred by Jaeger Division men.
Several other villages and hamlets were destroyed in the days following the main massacre in Kalvryta, in addition to which civilians passed on the roadside were also summarily executed, shot from the trucks as the Jaeger troops travelled around the area.
By the end of the operation, 696 civilians had been murdered. It stands as the largest massacre of non-Jewish civilians carried out in Greece by the occupying German forces.
In the montage below are photos of some of the men murdered in kalavryta by the Jaeger troops; a photo of the Jaeger troops resting just after the main massacre as the village burns in the background....and the anguish of the women of Kalavryta after they had learned of the fate of their boys and men.
None of the the officers or men responsible for the massacres stood trial of faced justice for their actions.
Thanks to Gabi Enahoro