Four days after the Allied invasion of Normandy, a most despicable atrocity took place in the village of Distomo in the province of Boeotia in Central Greece. A unit of the SS Police Panzergrenadier Regiment No 7, on an anti-partisan sweep, massacred 218 Greek civilians in the village. Packed into seven trucks, the unit drove through the village without incident but a short distance beyond the village the convoy was ambushed by a guerrilla band that resulted in the killing of seven SS soldiers.
The SS unit doubled back into the village and in a last ditch effort to crush partisan activities, the reprisals, including looting, burning and rape, began. When a Red Cross delegation visited the village some days later they found bodies hanging from trees along the main street. One survivor, Yannes Basdekis, recalled, 'I walked into a house and saw a woman, stripped naked and covered in blood. Her breasts had been sliced off. Her baby lay dead nearby, the cut off nipple still in its mouth'. The body of the village priest was found headless.
The unit commander, SS Hauptstrumführer Lautenbach, was later charged with falsifying a military report on the massacre but the charges were dropped as the massacre was judged a 'military necessity'. Today, the skulls and bones of the victims are displayed in the Mausoleum of Distomo. In 1960, Germany paid the Greek government 115 million marks as compensation for the suffering of its citizens during the German occupation but as yet no payment is forthcoming for the victims of Distomo. It was not until 1990 that members of the German embassy first took part in the wreath laying ceremony on the annual anniversary of the massacre. (It is somewhat ironic that other massacres took place on a same date, the 10th of June, Lidice in 1943, Oradour-zur-Glane and Distomo, in 1944)
Last photo: The skulls and bones of the victims of Distimo on display in the Museum.