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Greece remembers Nazi slaughter at Distomo

An event commemorating the 74th anniversary of the Distomo village massacre was held over the weekend in the south-central Greek mainland town of the same name, where Nazi occupation troops executed 218 civilians in 1944.

Memorial events were held in the town's mausoleum, with the placement of wreaths by office-holders, military officers and diplomats, with the most prominent being German ambassador to Greece Jens Plötner, who kneeled to lay a wreath at the monument. 

"The Wehrmacht's crime at Distomo is one of the blackest chapters of German occupation during WWII. The murder of innocent women, men, children and the elderly fills me with shame and pain. These crimes should never be forgotten. We teach and pledge: Never again!" Plötner said.

On his part, deputy infrastructure and transport minister Nikos Mavraganis, who represented the government, said that the appropriate diplomatic juncture has arrived to demand war reparations.

On June 10, 1944, for over two hours, Waffen-SS troops of the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division under the command of SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritz Lautenbach went door to door and massacred Greek civilians as part of "savage reprisals" for a partisan attack upon the unit's convoy. A total of 214 men, women and children were killed in Distomo, a small village near Delphi. According to survivors, SS forces "bayoneted babies in their cribs, stabbed pregnant women, and beheaded the village priest."

Following the massacre, a Secret Field Police agent accompanying the German forces informed the authorities that, contrary to Lautenbach's official report, the German troops had come under attack several miles from Distomo and had not been fired upon "with mortars, machine-guns and rifles from the direction of Distomo". An inquiry was convened. Lautenbach admitted that he had gone beyond standing orders, but the tribunal found in his favour, holding that he had been motivated, not by negligence or ignorance, but by a sense of responsibility towards his men.