Maleme is one of the most historic places in Greece, and especially the military airport of the Allies, as here took place the Battle of Crete during the WWII. The Germans wanted to occupy the aerodrome and thus open the way for lifting reinforecements for occupying Crete. In order to occupy the airstrip, German paratroopers landed in Maleme in May 1941. The Germans, who met heroic resistance from the locals and the allied forces, finally occupied the airport after suffering very important casualties.
The heroic resistance of the Cretans, who fought only with sticks, stones and knives, dealt a huge blow to the most elite units of the German army, i.e. its paratroopers. This led Hitler to praise Cretan patriotism. It was the first time in the history of the Second World War, that German troops encountered strong resistance from a local population. Moreover, it was the first airborne invasion in history.
The 4465 Germans, mostly paratroopers who were killed during the invasion, were buried in the German Military Cemetery of Maleme (Deutschen Soldatenfriedhof in Maleme). It is the second German military airport in Greece, as there is another one near Athens. The cemetery was founded in 1974 by the former General Gericke and is managed by the Association for Managing German Military Tombs (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraberfursorge e.V.).