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On This Day in Rotten History: June 2nd

In 1941 – (77 years ago) — four truckloads of Nazi German paratroopers arrived at the village of Kondomari, on the Greek island of Crete, where local farmers, armed with crude weapons and assisted by New Zealand troops, had fiercely resisted the German invaders just days before. The Germans had lost several hundred troops in their World War II invasion all across Crete, and now their survivors on the island were being ordered to carry out reprisals against Greek civilians — and to do it fast, without trials or other formalities. At Kondomari, the Germans surrounded the village and rounded up men, women, and children in the town square. Then a number of Greek men were chosen from the group, while the women and children were let go. The Germans led the men to a nearby olive orchard, where they methodically lined them up and shot them dead. German records list twenty-three victims, but Greek sources put the death toll at or near sixty. The lieutenant who led the massacre at Kondomari was later killed by Allied troops at Normandy. A German military photographer who captured the Kondomari episode on film was later arrested by the Gestapo and jailed for having secretly helped some Cretans to escape. He survived the war, to testify against Hermann Göring at Nuremberg — but his chilling photographs from Kondomari lay forgotten in German archives until their rediscovery in 1980.  

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