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Crete TOURnet: Home Crete Guide History of Crete World War II and German Occupation

World War II and German Occupation

The Allied World War II Cemetery in Souda
The Allied World War II Cemetery in Souda
The Cretan desire for independence, combined with the tendency for resistance, resurfaced in 1940. The Cretan Division took part in the fight to repel the Italian forces of Mussolini from northern Greece. After Mussolini's failure, Greece became the target of Hitler's forces. In April of 1941, Nazi Germany began its attack against mainland Greece, rapidly penetrated the Greek defences, and occupied the country.
With Cretan troops trapped, the Germans began their assault on largely unprotected Crete. The elite German airborne forces landed by parachute and glider on 20 May 1941. Only about 30,000 poorly equipped troops of the British Commonwealth and 12,000 Greeks defended the island along with the local population.
The Battle of Crete lasted only ten days, but produced enormous losses on both sides. Although heavily outgunned, the Commonwealth troops and local fighters effectively wiped out the German airborne division. The German capture of the airfield at Maleme near Chania, provided them with a strong foothold on the island. On 30 May the battle ended and Allied forces retreated across the mountains to Hora Sfakion and other southern areas and evacuated to Egypt.
The German occupation lasted for four years, a period once again marked by constant local opposition (such as in the villages of Kanadanos and Koustogerako in western Crete and the area of Arvi in central Crete). English and Commonwealth intelligence officers landed as Allied soldiers evacuated, and they organized extensive resistance networks. Most of these men were hidden in the mountains, in caves, and in monasteries, protected by the Cretans at enormous risk. A high point for the resistance movement came with the abduction of the German commander, General Kreipe, in 1944. The kidnapping was spectacular not only for its boldness, but because of the relatively amateurish group that successfully carried it out. However, reprisals to any resistance were swift and brutal.

Photos of World War II and German Occupation:


Imbros Gorge viewed from Sfakia
Imbros Gorge viewed from Sfakia
World War II German cemetery in Maleme
World War II German cemetery in Maleme
World II War Memorial, Arvi
World II War Memorial, Arvi
The Allied World War II Cemetery in Souda
The Allied World War II Cemetery in Souda