52:19 | Modern history

WWII: Battle of Crete

Occupation  |  Episode 3  |  The History Channel

The resulting German and Italian occupation of Crete was marred by massacres on both sides of both German soldiers and Greek partisans and civilians. More than 8000 Cretans lost their lives in the resistance. When 20,000 Italians surrendered in 1943 they were made POWs too but almost a third drowned at sea after German merchant ships carrying them to the mainland were torpedoed by British submarines. These forgotten tragedies constituted one of the world's biggest maritime disasters. In all more than 20,000 people from all sides lost their lives in the Cretan conflict. The British intelligence service, known as the SOE, assisted what became one of the most successful resistance movements of the war. It helped rescue Allied soldiers who had been abandoned on the island and involved agents such as archaeologist John Pendulbury, known as 'the Cretan Lawrence' and writer and adventurer Patrick Leigh Fermor who staged the famous kidnap of the German commander of Crete with William Moss. Crete was one of the last places surrendered by the Nazis right at the end of the war. German soldiers had to be escorted off the island by the British for fear of reprisals. Two German commanders on the island were executed by firing squad for war crimes. It took more than 30 years before the 4000 German dead were properly buried on the island. They were stored in a monastery as claims for reparations dragged on. They have still not been settled today.

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