The position of Meliana by village Amiras hosts one of the many memorials of the German atrocities experienced by the Cretans during the Second World War and a small museum next to it. This commemorated one of the most violent massacres of German Occupation in Greece, the holocaust of Viannos district.
The German attrocities
After the Battle of Crete, East Crete was under Italian occupation. The Italians generally were less fierce than the Germans and had no special presence in Viannos district. This favored the action of groups of resistance. In early 1943, the information that the Allies intended to invade Crete led the Italians in building forts in the region. In May 1943, the Germans built an outpost with 3 men at Kato Simi. On 10 September, Cretan rebels led by Manolis Bantouvas, killed the two German soldiers.
When the news reached the officer’s office, he ordered the infantry to go to Symi and investigate the incident. In the gorge of Kato Symi, Bantouvas with 40 men, waited for the Germans. In morning, September 12, the Germans were attacked and a fierce battle lasted till night. The result was 84 dead Germans and the rebels escaped to the mountains.
Then, the German commander in Heraklion, Friedrich-Wilhelm Muller, known as “Butcher of the Cretans”, ordered his troops to devastate the province of Viannos and execute all men older than sixteen, and anyone arrested in the countryside regardless of gender or age.
In 13 September 1943, the German forces with more than 2000 men invaded the villages of Viannos province from various directions. At the beginning they assured the residents that their intentions were peaceful, convincing many of the men who had escaped to the mountains to return to their homes. The next day, September 14, they started mass executions, arrests, looting, arson, vandalism and blasting. Even children, disabled and the elderly people were killed. After the destruction, the survivors were forbidden to bury their dead persons or to return to their villages, most of which had been burned to the ground.
The Germans executed massively more than 500 unarmed people from twenty villages of Viannos (Kato Simi, Amiras, Pefki, Agios Vasilios, Ano Viannos, Krevatas, Riza, Mournies, Kalami, Mythi, Malles, etc). Today, in each of these villages you will see memorials for the executed residents.
When General Muller was captured by the Red Army in East Prussia, we was sentenced to Greece. Along with Bruno Brauer, the German commander of Crete, they were charged with war crimes by the Greek military Justice and were executed on May 20, 1947.
Till date there has been no substantial justice and the Germans have not paid for this obscene war crime at Viannos, like in all holocausts of Crete.