80th Kalavrita Anniversary

The 'Kalavrita Massacre' was carried out 80 years ago on Monday 13th December 1943.  It was the largest massacre of civilians, not just in Greece, but in Europe during World War II.  Over 500 men and boys of Kalavrita village were marched up to Kappi Hill, and had to watch in horror as the womenfolk of the village, who were locked inside the village school, were engulfed in flames, as the Nazi German troops started to burn down the whole village.  At this point, the German troops opened fire on the helpless men, until not one was standing.  This massacre was part of the Nazi German Army's 'Operation Kalavryta' where troops from Patras, Corinth, Kalamata, Tripoli and Pyrgos would converge on Kalavtita, destroying everything in their path.  In total 693 civilians were killed in the whole German operation.

The screaming women and children finally managed to flee from the flaming school house only to witness the burning village and their menfolk massacred.  Thirteen of the men and boys managed to survive the massacre on the hillside.  Many sources claim the civilian death toll was over 1,100, taking into account all the 28 surrounding towns, villages, churches and monasteries, including the 10th century Monastery of Agia Lavra, where the Hellenic flag was blessed at the start of the 1821 Greek War of Independence.

The surviving people of Kalavrita, after burying their murdered beloved ones, then had to survive the cold mountain winter, as the atrocities left them with no clothes, food or shelter.  The German army had destroyed all their village homes and public buildings, looted everything, including the livestock.  Within a few hours, Kalavrita had suffered the most destruction and largest loss of life.

The village school house where the women, girls, younger boys and children were locked into in 1943, was rebuilt after the war and has now become the Kalavrita Holoucaust Museum, located just above the Kalavrita railway station at the lower part of the town.  Today, the post-war rebuilt town's cathedral church clock still continues to show the time of murder and destruction as 2:34 pm. 

On Wednesday 13th December 2023, the Greek Defence Minister, Nikos Dendias, represented Prime Minister Mitsotakis and the Hellenic Government at events commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Kalavrita massacre.  Dendias laid a wreath at the Kappi Hill memorial to the victims of Nazi atrocities and stated that reparations from Germany remain 'absolutely open' for the present Hellenic government.  This includes the destruction of infrastructure, loss of property and death of over 300,000 civilians.

In April 2000, the then-president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Johannes Rau, visited the memorial site in Kalavrita and expressed shame and sorrow for the tragedy.  The massacre was memorialized in the 2014 book, 'Hitler's Orphan: Demetri of Kalavryta' by Marc Zirogiannis.  This historical novella tells the story of the massacre from the perspective of the Zirogiannis family.  The 2021 movie Kalavryta 1943 (Echoes of the Past) staring Max von Sydow, revives the horrific massacre by the Nazi Germans.