Remembering Distomo: On June 10th 1944 the Nazis exterminate old men, women & children

Hans Zampel, the person responsible for the massacre, never paid for his crimes…

Time stopped in Distomo on June 10, 1944. The Nazis committed one of the most heinous crimes.

The events that unfolded in Distomo on June 10, 1944 are as follows:

About 20 German soldiers, dressed as prisoners, headed towards Arachova in two Greek trucks, followed by – at a considerable distance – German cars with armored soldiers. With this trick, the Germans sought to confront the resistance forces of the area, who would mistakenly think that it was a transfer of Greek prisoners. The five military trucks full of soldiers that follow, join the procession with a German phalanx of sixty cars with soldiers.

The convoy, with the lorries in the middle, spreads terror in its path, taking passers-by as hostages, killing unsuspecting shepherds. In Distomo they joined another German team that had started from Amfissa and proceeded to the village of Steiri.

The inhabitants of Distomo were ordered not to leave the village until the return of the German forces. At Katavothra, the Germans were attacked by ELAS fighters. After a brief but fierce battle, they were forced to retreat, leaving 6 to 15 soldiers dead and 15 wounded on the battlefield.

The residents of Distomo are terrified to see the Germans upon their return executing 12 hostages and three residents at the Primary School. Shortly before the battle, the Germans were again in Distomo where they asked if the residents knew about the resistance’s positions. They received a negative answer, asked for supplies and left. Their return now was different…

The order that arrived from Lamia and Major Rickert was: “Leave nothing standing”.

And they left nothing standing nor alive.

With machine guns, grenades and fire they leveled the Distomo. Executions, rapes, massacres, arsons. They did not spare infants or young children. The few inhabitants that survived described images of inconceivable savagery and inhumanity. It is said -and has been officially testified in the subsequent War Crimes Bureau- that a German soldier tried to rape a pregnant woman and when she resisted he tore her abdomen with his bayonet and threw the fetus at her feet!

The crimes of the Nazis had no end. The dead officially were 228 but other sources speak of more than 600 of which at least 117 were women, 111 were men and among them 53 were children under the age of 16, while the vengeful fury of the executors did not spare even the animals of the area.

The unprecedented atrocity immediately became known through the BBC abroad and caused an outcry in international public opinion. The German Administration of Athens blamed the residents of Distomo exclusively, because, as it stated in its announcement, they did not comply with the military orders.

After the Germans left Greece, the Greek War Crimes Bureau was able to find the person responsible for the massacre, Hans Zampel, who had taken refuge in Paris and had been arrested. The French authorities handed him over to the Greek authorities. In August 1949 he confessed the German atrocities in Distomo, but his defence was that he was carrying out orders from his superiors. During his pre-trial detention, Zambel was temporarily extradited to West Germany for another trial, but -apparently- protected by the post-war German governments he was never extradited to Greece and he never faced the consequences of his actions…

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