Life Magazine carried the illustration back in June 1941, depicting an old Cretan villager “welcoming” a Nazi paratrooper to his island with his pitchfork.
The illustration was part of a multi-page report about the invasion of Crete— before the era of iPhones and instantaneous transfer of photography.
It was an artist’s depiction of the events that transpired.
A real life photograph from German national archives shows something similar— a dead Nazi who was either killed before he hit the ground, or shortly thereafter.
On May 20, 1941 thousands of Nazi Germans invaded my parents’ ancestral island of Crete from the air. The epic Battle of Crete, which coupled with the ferocious resistance that was happening in the occupied Greek mainland would forever change the course of the Second World War.
A teenager, my dad remembered thousands of “umbrellas” falling from the sky on this day in 1941.
It was the first ever airborne invasion of an island fortress and the Germans were using Crete as a test-run to eventually invade the British Isles.
Much of my upbringing was dotted with my dad’s “war stories,” which were prevalent in his mind, and his dreams and nightmares.
Although the Nazis eventually took Crete, they never overcame the Cretans’ spirit.
The resistance was brutal as average villagers used household weapons to defend their homeland and honor against the fascists who wanted to take away their freedom.
Locals collaborated with allied soldiers to bring chaos to the German occupiers. They disrupted convoys, organized successful ambushes and in an unprecedented incident in all of World War II— even kidnapped a German general.
By the eighth day of battle, Adolf Hitler famously and angrily telegrammed his general in Crete, asking “France fell in eight days… Why is Crete still free?”
But just as the resistance was brutal, so were the reprisals against the locals.
Entire towns and villages were burned to the ground and thousands of men, woman and children were brutally murdered in firing squads and mass murders perpetrated by the Nazis.
I’ve written about the sights that I’ve visited and the experiences I’ve had while visiting the island of my parents’ birth.
Despite happening almost eight decades ago, the Battle of Crete lives on in the hearts and minds of the people of Crete— both on the island, as well as throughout the world where it is commemorated.
And rightfully so.
Today, more then ever— we must remember— and learn from— the sacrifices of the people of Crete— and all of Greece— who paid the ultimate price to protect and defend their freedom.
It’s why I focus so much on WWII history when I write articles on The Pappas Post. We have so much to learn from this remarkable generation of people who placed their ideals ahead of everything else— even their own lives.
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