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THE HOLOCAUST OF KOMMENO IN 16 AUGUST 1943

THE HOLOCAUST OF KOMMENO IN 16 AUGUST 1943

epizontes1On 24th April the military leadership of Greece signed the surrender of the country to the Nazi regime and the fascistic regime of Italy. On 30th April German tanks invaded Athens. Greece is under the occupation of Germans, Italians and their Bulgarian allies who claimed the right to include in their territories Central and Eastern Macedonia with Thessalonica.

The Greek population, after warding off the Italian attack which broke out from Albania on the 28th of October 1940 and was held out until March 1941 and the German one which broke out from Bulgaria on the 6th of April was tired and exhausted living under a barbarian regime which ransacked and killed them without mercy. As soon as they got over the first suddenness and their initial hesitation abandoned from the King George and the policy, who found shelter in Cairo-which was under the British control- finally they seek more efficient ways of Resistance in the triple occupation.

In September 1941 the first organisations of Resistance had already been founded the United Democratic Greek League(Ε.Δ.Ε.Σ) the National and Solidarity(Ε.Κ.Κ.Α.) and the National Liberation Front(Ε.Α.Μ.) with a common purpose: to liberate the country and ensure the democratic Institutions of the country for the future which will guarantee the individual freedom and the human rights. The most important action was developed by the Greek Popular Liberation Army (Ε.Λ.Α.Σ.) which was guided by E.A.M. and the National Greek Partisan (E.O.E.A.) which was guided by Ε.Δ.Ε.Σ

In 1942 and much more in 1943 the Liberating and Resistant fight is intensified with sabotage, fights between rebels and conquerors with executions of German soldiers and officers, with creation of free zones not only in the capital but mainly in mountainous regions with proclamations, with strike foundation of Youth organisations, radio messages and through the art. front begins to collapse. In front of this new situation the Germans place in application the Hitleric principle of "interdepenendent responsibility" executing a hundred Greek civilians for every killed co patriot. Meanwhile as they weren't able to fight against partisans annihilate them, they turned against cities and villages and commit bloodcurdling crimes changing them into holocausts aiming to bend the Greek fighting spirit. Their aim was to dissolve the dhmos giannisorganisations of Resistance and with reprisal for their loses spread the terror in the cities and the villages so that every source of resistance to be extinguished.

Kommeno was a small village located at the edge of Amvrakikos gulf in the mouth of river Arachthos. It is a plain, drowned in waters, bogs and thick regitation. It is a plain, browned in the waters, bogs and thick regitation. It didn’t develop certain appreciable action in the resistance. It simply took part in the struggle for freedom ensuring food for the armed forces of the rebels in the mountainous regions.

Although men in charge of the two main organisations Ε.Δ.Ε.Σ. and E.A.M. acted well, Ε.Δ.Ε.Σ had a greater influence and more essential control on all the villages of the plain.

In August 1943 a strange mobility is noticed as part of Ε.Λ.Α.Σ. reached Kommeno and asked the municipal authority to care of its catering with big quantities of goods.

The authorities denied satisfying its demand, claiming that didn’t have such large quantities of goods as at the same time they were catering the force of Ε.Δ.Ε.Σ.Because of the partisans’ insistence those in charge of Ε.Δ.Ε.Σ. asked for support and assistance which will be taken by its own forces, which didn’t delay to come up to the village and asked to leave it without the food stuffs they had already ordered. The conversations and arguments had no effect while the days passed and the situation was becoming more and more dangerous for Kommeno.

On August 12, just a little before noon a German car reached Kommeno to investigate if there were really groups of partisans there malios oikogeneiaaccording to the given information. It seemed that the German authorities had the information that in the region of Kommeno a very singular situation of trade and smuggling was taking place.

Trades people from Lefkada were carrying oil, potatoes, grapes etc on their boats and hand them on the villagers close to Arachthos river at the banks of which they were dropping anchor and were spending their nights. A quantity of their products reached the rebels either on payment or under coercion.

It was just that day and time when the partisans of Ε.Δ.Ε.Σ. and Ε.Λ.Α.Σ. had left their arms down and were sitting under the trees, when the German officers found themselves in front of this scene and turned back immediately and left the village thinking that their information was unreliable and

Some women hurried to collect and hide the arms but the movement seemed to have been noticed by the German soldiers. Someone of the guards was ready to shoot at them (Germans) but was stopped by a high ranking officer who thought that this action could be taken as a hostile one and the reprisals against the village would be soon started. From that moment started the terrible nightmare.

The residents terrified carried their possessions and hid them in their fields where they themselves were spending their nights while the chairman of the community Lambros Zorbas the next day had already asked the Italians and the collaborating with the conquerors authorities of the city of Arta to inform him about the lack of his village. Then they ensured him that his village had nothing to afraid of because the rebels were not residents of Kommeno. On 15 of August, day of birth of Virgin Mary, the residents were celebrating their festival.

At dawn, however, on the 16 of August, a hundred of men according to the English historical Mark Mazower, too according to Stefano Pappa, resident of Kommeno and high school principal, of the 12 company of the 98 German regiment which was resided in the region of Philippiada, a small town about 10 kilometers away from North Arta, they encamped outside the Kommeno village.

The mission of the 12 company was the extermination of the rebels who were acting in the region and the destruction of the village, which supported with food and other essentials the resistance against the Germans. Governor of the 98 regiment was the Colonel Geozef Zalmingker who boasted that he had changed the 98 regiment, a regiment for Hitler. This man had assembled the German soldiers the previous day to announce them that German soldiers had been killed in Kommeno and they owed to act immediately with cruelty against the skaras serrebels and they owed to wipe out the village where the rebels had their den.

Governor of the 12 company was lieutenant Reger, Former executive of youth of Hitler. The soldiers were in their total conscripts. As the sun rose, after they had had their breakfast, they surrounded the village. The units of assault received the sigh – two flares – and began to soot with arms machine – guns, grenades and mortars. They left nothing right. They burned whatever they found in front of them and killed with an indescriptable ferocity men, old people, women and children, even babies. Entire families were burned live in their houses as soon as they had wakened up and realized what was happening around them. Some of them rushed into the streets to save themselves and fell dead from the balls which mowed the village down.

Human bodies were cut in two pieces, were dissolved or they were never found. It seemed that the order was explicit: nothing to remain alive in the village that was the rebels’ nest.

The slaughter lasted six hours. Streets, yards, burned houses, gardens, ditches, the square; the whole village was filled with corpses which remained unburied many days, as there was no one alive from their relatives to bury them. They knocked up pits just in the place of the slaughter and dropped into them the dead bodies for fear that they could become food for the dogs and vultures or cause incurable diseases. Those who were alive had to bear it and leave the teardrops and grief for later on.

In Theodore Mallio’s house a wedding was held. His daughter was getting married to Theoharis Karinos from Pachicalamus, a nearby village. All the people were lost. Germans burned and killed them. They were about thirty to thirty-five persons. Only two out of twelve were koliokotsis nikossurvived from Theodore Mallio’s family. They were Alexandros and Maria who had left just a few seconds to the farms to feed the animals. Nazi didn’t respect anything. They killed both, the bride Alexandra and the groom Theoharis.

Those who rushed out of their houses were running in the fields to save themselves and were hidden in deep ditches. The only safe place (salvation) remained the river.

A crowd of people was running towards the river. Some of them jumped into it and cross it to save themselves. Others were hanging from the river boats shivering were struggling to be rescued from the nightmare. Those who jumped on Spyros Vlachopanos’ boat were drowned. They were about twenty people. The lamentation and the cries were mixed up with the clamor of the fire and the guns that had ruined Kommeno.

The irony of the History is that the German services in their official documents had mentioned robberies and rebels in Kommeno and had prepared the soldiers for a big confrontation with the forces of the Resistance. The tragic element is that they didn’t find any resistance, not the least of it.

papazoisThe only thing it could be heard were the moans, sobs and the lamentations of the terrified civilians coming out of their own gun fires and death.

Within a morning Kommeno counted 317 victims of the unique ferocity and savagery that it is unbearable even if you listen to it. Twenty families were exterminated, 97 infants and children of about 15 years old were executed and 119 women were killed. Kommeno was executed in cold blood by the Nazi who committed it to the flames without mercy.

The tragic page of Kommeno remains live and it burns an unquenchable flame in the memory of about a hundred residents who had experienced the horror and they are still alive. Kommeno is a permanent charge of violence and savagery. It is an unappeased pain and a protest against every form of racism.

Those few who have survived effortlessly come out of their heart a sign. No other violence and no other ferocity in the planet.

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