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HISTORY: The Allied bombing of Piraeus that killed 5,000 Greeks and 8 Germans

Featured HISTORY: The Allied bombing of Piraeus that killed 5,000 Greeks and 8 Germans

At noon on January 11, 1944, an event took place, which besmirched the Allied cause in Greek eyes. The populations of the urban areas in particular, suffered from extreme hunger while everyone anticipated the final outcome of the World War, whichwas still raging, but the fortunes of which were now leaning towards the allied forces.

In the Piraeus region, the German army maintained facilities at the the Naval Yard, the airport and the Perama yards, facilities that could be considered military targets. An allied bomber group, comprising British and American aircraft, was launching its own operation, the aim of which was supposed to be the German military installations. At 12 noon on Tuesday January 11, 1944 and for about three hours, they flew above the country's largest port. The bombing began and it another martyrdom for the Greek people.3

Former Prime Minister George Rallis wrote: "On January 11, 1944, Piraeus and the surrounding settlements were bombed by allied airplanes, killing about 1,000 and injuring even more Greeks.
There was little damage in the harbor and the other day in a speech over the radio station in Athens, my father (the Prime Minister of the occupation of Ioannis Rallis) condemned the unpredictable raid. For this action by allied planes he protested strongly, describing it as an "unspeakable crime". These sentences were considered treacherous by the Cairo radio station and the same opinion was held by the judges who condemned my father. The exiled Greek government, rather than regretting the misguided action that caused so many victims, attacked my father while announcing that the operation was successful. "

Then student, Iakovos Vayiakis, a witness to the allied bombing, said: "The most tragic incident was the collapse of the building of the Electric Company located at the then Vasileos Konstantinou Street and today Iroon Polytechneion, between Karaoli - Demetriou Street and El. Venizelou.
In its basement there was an organized shelter where all the students, along with their teachers, that resided at the Vocational and Housekeeping Female School of the Municipality of Piraeus (housed where the Town Hall is today), sought to hide. The building collapsed, the shelter survived but was buried under the ruins of the upper floors, resulting in the burial of all those who were in the shelter. Immediately after the bombing, German military personnel began the effort to remove the ruins to free those trapped. It was almost dusk on the same day when, together with my friend, the late Petros Roussis, we wanted to see what had happened to the city.

We drove to Vassileos Konstantinou main street towards Korais Square (Municipal Theater). Bomb craters were scattered throughout the city. There were bodies in them, and a whole lot of destroyed houses were around us. I am reminded of the fact that on the sidewalk outside the store diagonally opposite the Municipal Theater there was a huge crater from the depth of which emerged a whole woman's leg weaping a pump. Electricity poles had fallen and their cables were scattered here and there. We ended up at the corner of Iroon Polytechniou and Karaoli - Demetriou streets.

From there, we saw the efforts of the German military units, which, with the light of headlights, were trying to remove the ruins from the shelter of the Electric Company. At the same time other sections guarded the surrounding areas so that strangers or pillagers did not approach them. But as bad luck for those trapped would have it, at eight the alarm was sounded for the second bombardment. After the Americans came our other "allies," the English. The head of the effort, a German officer whistled, the soldiers complied and left. When they succeeded in removing the ruins the next day they found everyone dead of suffocation."

Estimates concerning the victims of the bombardment vary. Only at the burial ground of the Municipal Cemetery of the Resurrection there are the names of 492 victims.

The number of deaths that died and were buried in the first and third Cemetery of Athens remains unknown. There were also those who were buried without any details so their relatives could keep in their possession the individual food vouchers that were necessary for the distribution of food. It is estimated that 5,500 Greeks and 8 German soldiers died due to the bombing. Numbers of impoverished Greeks, who lost their few assets, began to move massively to Athens, which was characterized as an "open city".

It is worth noting that from the bombing, no significant German military target was hit. On the contrary, the harbor and the buildings along it, as well as the center of Piraeus, labor quarters and churches, were hit. Material damage in infrastructure was enormous. The biggest disasters occurred in the area, which ranges from the Railway Station to Kolokotroni Street, behind the theater.

Electricity and telephone networks, the water network and transport infrastructure were also destroyed.

The Allies argued that the operation was successful. The same bombing tactic was also applied to other mass bombings such as that of Volos, Chios and Zakynthos, where the victims were again innocent Greek civilians. In the case of Chios, the target of allied bombing was the port, while it was full of women and children, due to the unloading of supplies and food sent by the International Red Cross with the Swedish ship "Viril".