The Cretan Federation of Australia and New Zealand is preparing to mark the 79th anniversary of the Battle of Crete despite the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The battle, which began on the morning of May 20, 1941 when Nazi Germany began an airborne invasion of Crete, symbolizes the heroic resistance of the Cretan population against the invaders.
“The pandemic will not derail us from remembering the struggle our predecessors gave in Crete in 1941 against the Germans…The heroic victims gave their lives for us to live free today,” a statement from the organizers said.
On May 17 a memorial service will be held for the victims of the Battle at the Holy Cathedral of the Annunciation at Redfern in Sydney, officiated by the Archbishop of Australia, Makarios.
The service will be transmitted live through the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.
On Sunday, May 24, a wreath-laying ceremony will be held — behind closed doors — for the victims of the Battle inside the shrine of the Monument of the Unknown Soldier of Melbourne by the Shrine Guards, the monument’s military guard.
The Battle of Crete
Greek and other Allied forces, along with ordinary Cretan civilians, defended the island in one of the most stunning instances of heroism in the War before the superior military forces of the Nazis eventually prevailed.
The Battle marked the very first time in the Second World War that German troops had encountered mass resistance from a civilian population, and they were unprepared for such a desperate fight.
Cretans joined the battle with whatever weapons were at hand. Most civilians went into action armed only with what they could grab from their kitchens or barns and several German parachutists were knifed or even clubbed to death where they landed, even as they hung by their parachutes in olive groves.
But the local population paid a high price for their courageous resistance. As most Cretan partisans wore no uniforms or insignia such as armbands or headbands, the Germans felt free of all of the constraints of the Hague Conventions, and they killed armed and unarmed civilians indiscriminately.
Throughout the German occupation in the years that followed, reprisals in retaliation for the involvement of the local population in the Cretan resistance continued. Villagers were rounded up and summarily executed on several occasions.