Hitler's forces invaded our homeland on May 20, 1941, in the first-ever airborne invasion of an island fortress. The ensuing battle brought devastating losses to the Nazi forces, as civilians-- women, children and the elderly-- grabbed pitchforks, homemade weapons and anything they could find. Thousands of young Germans were dead before their parachuttes had even landed on Cretan soil.

The casualties suffered by Hitler's elite 7th Parachutte Division were heavier than the total number of Germans killed in the war to that date-- and his precious "live airborne weapon" had been altogether decimated.

wpe6.jpg (11606 bytes)The Greek people in Crete, together with the remnants of allied forces from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, showed the greatest valour of any of the conquered nations in Europe. The commanding German general, Kurt Student called it "the fiercest struggle that any German formation had ever had to face..."

It took Hitler's forces eleven days to declare victory-- but the Cretan soul was never conquered, and the resistance movement continued, for four long years, inflicting heavy casualties on the German troops. The heavy resistance by the people of Crete, with leaders only made up of fiery clergy and self –taught folk commanders, obliged the Germans to keep large numbers of soldiers on the island-- soldiers that were originally intended to serve elsewhere. The fight never stopped; but the price was high and the reprisals were attrocious. Death was at the doorstep of every Cretan household. Mass executions were commonplace, as were the burning of entire villages and towns.

Hitler won the Battle for Crete, but the victory cost him the entire war. History tells us that the unexpected delays on Crete-- perpetrated by the free-spirited Cretan fighters-- forced Hitler to invade Russia five entire months after schedule , only to face the frozen mud and icy snow of Moscow and Stalingrad. Moreover, the costly Cretan campaign in the opinion of many historians may have prevented Hitler from invading the British Isles through airborne troops, as advocated all along by Hitler 's close associate, Marshall Goering.