A living museum of historical memory that is worth seeing by any visitor of Crete that records the suffering of the Greek people during the German Occupation, is the galleries of Platanias. The shelter was built below the church of Agios Dimitrios at Pano Platanias by the requisitioned locals, for the Germans, and is open in order to serve as a memorial museum for the Second World War.
Locals say that when the Germans occupied the island, due to the strategic position of Platanias village, they settled infantry and artillery. They got the best houses for the officers, built barracks and camps for soldiers in various places, but for storing ammunition and other supplies they built underground tunnels in various positions.
The most important of these tunnels is the one below the church of Agios Dimitrios. Despite the abandonment of so many decades, it is in good position. This place was preferred because of the presence of the church that protected the tunnels from attacks and due to the soft limestone that was ideal for fast digging by the requisitioned workers. The galleries have a length of 120 meters while inside the shelter there are 10 “blind” chambers and two exits which are connected externally with trenches.
The place hosts several interesting objects from the period of the German occupation and important photographs from the Battle of Crete.
The "sacred" olive tree
During the Battle of Crete, a wounded German pilot was carried in Platanias by locals, but succumbed to his severe injuries. In fear of harsh reprisals by the Germans, he was not buried in the local cemetery but in a rough grave next to the church of St. Demetrius.
Unfortunately this point was later chosen by the German officer for starting the construction of the shelter. The intervention of the Church Commissioner Michael Stamatakis was crucial, as he finally persuaded the Germans to move the starting point 3 meters away, in order not to reveal the secret and he saved Platanias from retaliations by the Germans.
He invoked the sanctity of an olive tree , the oil of which is used in religious ceremonies, and should be cut to start digging. This olive is still located at the entrance of the galleries.