Operation Kalawrita

(Greek town)

This was a German operation against Greek resistance fighters and then the massacre of all the males and the subsequent total destruction of the town of Kalavryta as the worst German atrocity of the occupation of Greece (13 December 1943).

Early in December 1943 Generalleutnant Karl von le Suire’s 117th Jägerdivision began ‘Kalawrita’ to trap Greek guerrillas in the mountainous area surrounding Kalavryta in the northern part of the Peloponnese. As a direct result 78 German soldiers, who had been taken prisoner by the resistance fighters in October, were killed by their captors. In response von Le Suire ordered large-scale and harsh reprisals in the area, and on 10 December personally ordered the killing of the male population of Kalavryta.

The undertaking closed on the town from Patras and Aigion on the Gulf of Corinth and from a location near Trípolis in the central Peloponnese. As the Kampfgruppen closed on Kalavryta, the troops burned villages and monasteries, and shot any civilians they encountered. When they reached Kalavryta, the Germans locked all the town’s women and children in the school and marched all males aged 12 or more years to a nearby hill. Here the Germans opened fire with machine guns: more than 500 boys and men were killed, and there were only 13 survivors. The incarcerated women and children managed to escape from the school, some say after a German soldier took pity on them and let them escape, as the town was set on fire.

On the following day the Germans burned to the ground the monastery of Agia Lavra.

In overall terms, almost 700 Greek civilians were killed during ‘Kalawrita’, and 28 towns, villages, settlements and monasteries were destroyed. In Kalavryta itself about 1,000 houses were looted then burned, and more than 2,000 head of livestock were seized.