The slaughter of the “eagles” in Kefalonia in 1943
In 1940 Benito Mussolini sent the Aqui Division to the Albanian front where he engaged in fierce battles with the Greek Army. Immediately after the Germans’ victory over Greece, members of the Italian division landed in Corfu, while Italian paratroopers fell to Kefalonia and occupied the town hall in Argostoli. It was April 29, 1941. The Italian occupation army did not receive a friendly welcome, as the inhabitants of Argostoli had not forgotten the heavy shelling that their city had suffered in November 1940.
By the end of 1942, some 12,000 Aqui officers and soldiers had been sent to Kefalonia, and in the summer of 1943 they had moved to the island and forces of Vermacht. In September, German troops were ordered to disarm the Italians. The commander of the Akui Division was 52-year-old General Antonio Gaddin, who after considering all the possibilities decided that “there is no other option than peaceful surrender of weapons to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.”
At that time, EPON members scattered leaflets on the streets of Argostoli addressed to Italian soldiers and wrote: “Do not give up your weapons to the Germans who want to continue the slaughter of mankind. Resist your superiors if they ask you to hand them over. ” As chronographer Giuseppe Moscardelli noted, “the distribution of these leaflets meant the beginning of a rupture between General Gaddin and his soldiers.”
The Corelli.A key role in the developments was played by Captain Amos Pamaloni, the man who inspired the creation of Louis Bernier’s literary hero, Captain Corelli. The 32-year-old antifascist commanded the 1st Battalion of the 33rd Artillery Regiment consisting of 150 men and had camped in the port of Argostoli. The Italian captain had cultivated from early contact with EAM leadership.
Pamaloni himself, at the age of 95, in January 2005, told the author of the book: “After the fierce fighting on the Greek-Albanian Front, we officers were resting comfortably on the islands. Our daily schedule was sitting and riding. After July 25 we were all against Mussolini. All we wanted was to return to our homes. In the evenings, when I rode to Argostoli to get my aperitif there, I met up with local Greeks in cafes.
When it became known that the disarmament of the Italians in Corfu had failed, their compatriots in Kefalonia braved the first clashes between the German and Italian forces in Argostoli. It is now the Akui division that decides to resist. Two days later, German forces will land on the island’s coasts under Stoukas cover. The bombings will cause major damage to Argostoli as the city was constantly bombarded from dawn until sunset. The residents fled “with shoulder belts, caressing young children by hand or in their arms, (…) mainly by the exit roads in the direction of Krania and Lassios”, as eyewitness Loukatos wrote.
In the afternoon of September 18, 15-year-old Panagis Papadatos returned to the mountainous village of Kourouklatas, when he was told “I saw many backpacks near an iconostasis. Then I heard shots. As soon as I turned, I saw 5 or 6 Germans take two men from a group of Italians wrapped in soil. As soon as they could stand on their feet. They were dragged to the edge of the road in front of the bushes and shot. They slipped down the steep slope. There was already a pile of corpses. “
German interpreter Wallert recalled seeing a group of Italian officers who had surrendered on September 20 and guarding the battlefield command station. After removing their weapons, they were warned that they would be executed “if they found more weapons”. When “one of the officers found a bullet in the night,” Wallert wrote, “the officers were executed, despite their protests, and despite calls from those in South Tyrol that they were Germans too.”
The only survivor.The 1st Fire Brigade of the 33rd Italian Regiment under the command of Captain Amos Pamaloni moved to the village of Dillinata at night on the 21st of September and was captured there by Germans. Pamaloni was ordered to line up his men in a convoy to begin a march. He told the author: “I was walking next to the German officer, at the head of my unit. Suddenly Lieutenant Toniato began to voice the funeral voicemail. I wanted to scold him, because I thought he was disgusting men. But I didn’t catch up, because at that moment a German officer shot me in the neck. I dropped my head to the ground. I didn’t lose consciousness and didn’t feel pain. My legs were on the head of the ill-fated Toniato. He had died instantly. I heard machine gun bursts,
Amos Pamaloni was the only one who survived his unit. The bullet pierced his neck without hitting a vital point. Greek guerrillas found Pabaloni around noon. According to his notes, “about 80 men were executed”. They took care of him at the priest’s house in Faraklata and later escaped from the island. Near Agrinio he joined ELAS. They are all executed, including wounded carriers and priests.In early September 1943 Italian disarmament operations in mainland Greece proceeded normally. But in Cephalonia and Corfu, problems emerged that quickly escalated into armed conflict and resulted in the slaughter of thousands of Italian soldiers. Based on the number of victims, belonging to the Italian Acquia (“Eagles”) and estimated at 2,500, this is one of the largest crimes ever committed by the German Vermacht.
Hermann Frank Mageer conducted a 15-year archive search and received dozens of eyewitness interviews to record the course of the 1st Vermacht Mountain Division, which was symbolized by the flower of adelweiss.
Through these testimonies she also recorded her actions in Cephalonia and Corfu, where hundreds of civilians were killed, more than 300 villages destroyed and Italian prisoners of war executed. The author spoke for several hours with Amos Pamaloni, the Italian officer who inspired Louis de Bernier’s hero in his book “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” which was also successfully translated into cinema. Pamaloni’s testimony is shocking and certainly has nothing to do with a captain “playing mandolin from morning until night,” as the book written about him describes him as “racist”.
On September 21, after his unit entered Frangata, German officer Alfred Richter
wrote in his diary: “Two alpinists are delivered without even throwing a bullet. They are all calm and relaxed because they believe they have saved their lives because they have voluntarily surrendered. We enter Frangata and deliver our captives. Here they face their tragic fate. In squads, they are dragged to nearby quarries and orchards and harvested by machine guns of 98. We stay in the village for two hours and all the time the machine guns and machine guns do not stop hammering. The cries reach even into the houses of the Greeks. Without taking into account the service of each soldier, everyone is executed, including wounded soldiers and priests.
Shortly afterwards in the village of Troinata 470 Germans of the Faut battle group held captive by the Italians are revolted and taken prisoner. As the 16-year-old Spyros Vangelatos recounts, the Italians “were full of joy, someone was even playing the harmonica. The song “Mama, sono tanto felice perche ritorno da te” is stuck in my memory (Mother, I’m happy because I’m coming back to you).
Then comes their massacre. “
“Blood streams were leaking from their bodies,” says military priest Formato.
“They were running on the slope and they were united in a crimson torrent. Screams filled the ethers. And then there was only one snarl, until the pile of 900 witnesses died. The Germans climbed the piles of corpses and began firing their machine guns downwards. But not even that way did they find everyone dead. The bullets did not reach those who were covered by the many corpses. There were still moans and groans. The Germans carved a ruthless trick. They shouted: “There were wounded carriers. Whoever still lives to be revealed. He will be given life and transferred to the hospital. ” Shortly thereafter, about 20 people were dragged out with great difficulty, haemorrhagic, injured, terrified. The killers chuckled and killed them with one last pistol. “