April 27, 1941: German troops occupied Athens

“Greeks! The German occupiers are on the outskirts of Athens. Brothers and sisters, keep the front-line spirit firmly in your souls …”.

Such a radio message from the mouth of Kostas Stavropoulos on April 27, 1941, on the day the Nazi troops entered the land of ancient Athens, is still associated with the confrontation of the Greeks, which began on October 28, 1940 in the war with Italy.

April 27, 1941 year was the same sunny day as 79 years later, when the German army darkened Athens. Most, if not all, residents of the capital looked sadly out the closed windows.

At 08.00 am motorcyclists and cars 2-th armored division, led by Lieutenant Fritz Dirfling, entered Athens from the northern suburbs. The Nazi occupiers were met in a cafe “Suite” in Ampelokipi, members of the committee that officially surrendered the city to them. Four days before Athens “fell” into German hands, King George II sailed from Scaramanga to Crete with Prime Minister Tsouderos and members of the government. Historian Solon Grigoriadis describes that morning:

“It was Sunday 27 April when Athens awoke in alarm. The German army was close at hand. His motorized vanguards were already entering the city. Last night the last groups of British rushed to their bullet-riddled vehicles, heading for Rafina and Porto Raftyand passers-by greeted them and wished them “good luck.” When the Germans approached the capital, there was no real force to defend it.

Four days have passed since the king and government left for Crete. The only shadow power was the military administration of Attikoviotias (Αττικοβοιωτίας), headed by Lieutenant General Christos Kavrakos. However, in those tragic moments, absolute order reigned in Athens: no robberies, no crimes, no anarchy, as is the case in cities that have long remained in anarchy. The day was quiet, according to the Office of Army History: “On that beautiful spring morning, there was no sound of the approaching battle. Not a single German plane flew over the city.”

The trams left on time…

Distant explosions were heard only in the early hours of the morning. The bombardments were not artillery, but caused by explosions of weapons depots, and when this roar died down, a strange silence reigned in the city. Several trams and several electric trains entered the line in time. There were few passers-by on the streets, and there were few people in the numerous churches of the capital. Most Athenians literally hung around the radio, absorbing the news.

Instead of news, the radio station constantly broadcast the following order from the military leader: Since the city of Athens is not fortified, there will be no resistance, not a single shot should be fired.».

At 08:00 in the morning the first Germans appeared. It was a group of motorcyclists led by two armored cars. Motorcyclists in armor and with machine guns on their chests, revolvers and grenades. With a terrible look and a stern look, they descended from Kifisias Avenue and arrived at the Acropolis. There, two officers with an escort group climbed the Sacred Rock, where they raised the German flag. They then proceeded to the town hall, where they raised another flag. However, the official surrender of the Greek capital to them has not happened yet.”

The act of surrendering Athens was signed in a cafe!

“The battalion that arrived from Chalkis,” says Solon Grigoriadis, “received the symbolic keys to the city, and in response to this, an official Greek delegation was stationed at the intersection of Kifisias and Alexandra Avenues, which included the senior commander of Attica, Major General Christ Kavrakos, Mayors of Athens Ambrosios Plitas and Piraeus Michalis Manouskos, and colonel Konstantinos Kanellopoulos as a translator.

At 10:15 a German battalion arrived on the outskirts of the city under the command of Lieutenant Colonel von Scheiben, a brisk little officer. After formal recommendations, the Greeks and Germans were taken to the Ton mansion, where they signed a protocol on the surrender of the city in a cafe on a marble table, at 10:30 am on April 27, 1941. From that moment on, Athena belongs to the conquerors.

Exactly six months and one day have passed since October 28, 1940, and exactly three weeks since the start of the German attack on April 6. With the surrender of the capital, the occupation officially began, which lasted 1625 days, until the capital gained freedom.

For more than three years, Athens was in the zone of German occupation. Thousands of Athenians died of starvation and disease. Relatives were buried under pavement tiles. People lined up to receive meager aid from Western charities and the Red Cross.

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