By Nick Stamatakis

This is without a doubt the best way for us, Greek-Americans, to celebrate this year’s Memorial Day! Yes, my friends, this is the introduction of MNIMI.ORG, a unique comprehensive website aiming at capturing the enormous contribution of Greeks of the World to the Historic Battles of the last century (at least since World War I and maybe even earlier)!! The modern Greek state has certainly done not much archiving these unique moments and honoring the brave Greeks who gave everything they had in the battle for Freedom.  But Christos Epperson, best known for the wonderful documentary “The 11th Day” on the Battle of Crete, has worked for many years to put together this wonderful collection of photos, official documents, videos, artifacts, biographies, and everything else you can imagine that preserve these memories!…

In full development, this will be the largest Hellenic veteran archive in the world containing over 350 interviews, thousands of images etc. Every other country has an archive like this but Greece! It will be online and free for all to access.

It starts with the battle of Crete (link here)Amazing presentation of only 10% of the material on hand!! More to be added in the next few months in honor of the 80th anniversary!…

Christos Epperson asks all of you to contact him and send your family pictures and stories to include in the directory he is building. And he would love to have your feedback and support if you can! Will be making announcements end of June on the next archive going online.

PROJECT SUMMARY:

Mnimi means ‘remembrance,’ and likewise it is a remembrance that gives the Hellenic Visual History Archive its meaning and purpose. It is a web-based archive of professionally researched and videotaped interviews of persons of Hellenic descent who have contributed to events of global historical significance. The archive will also include thousands of rare, unpublished photographs that Archangel films has used in its previous documentary film productions, and provided to museums around the world, including the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, the CIA Museum at CIA Headquarters, Britain’s Imperial War Museum, Chicago’s Hellenic Center, and the National Archives.

PHOTO BELOW (By Christos Epperson): In the first CIA operation (then it was named OSS) British guns like the one shown were dropped by American planes high in the Cretan mountains and picked up by guerillas (seen here in their eighties!…)

Greece is known throughout the world for its ancient heroes, written about and celebrated in countless works—from textbooks to comic books, from documentaries to feature films. But Greece has produced modern heroes as well—masters of science, philosophy, and military struggle every bit as brilliant and valiant as her beloved ancients. Unlike the ancients, however, Greece’s modern heroes have gone largely unknown and uncelebrated. The purpose of the Hellenic Visual History Archive is to help carry the light of the ancient pantheon forward to Greece’s modern champions so that their contributions to Western civilization can be appreciated and celebrated as widely and deeply as those of Greece’s earliest history.

We Greeks often lament that other nations and cultures have done so much to preserve and celebrate their histories, while Greeks have done so little for their own. The Shoah Foundation for Jewish history and culture is a fine example of what we Greeks should be doing for ourselves. Like the Shoah Foundation, the purpose of the Hellenic Visual History Archive is to document and archive our culture’s most important stories for current and future generations. Our purpose is to preserve these stories of Hellenic accomplishments, sacrifices, and contributions to modern civilization, and to make these stories available to the public.

PHOTO BELOW: Christos Epperson filming on location in Crete…

HELLENIC VISUAL HISTORY ARCHIVE PROJECT NARRATIVE:

Greece is known throughout the world for its ancient heroes, written about and celebrated in countless works, from textbooks to comic books, from documentaries to feature films. But Greece has produced modern heroes as well—masters of science, philosophy, and military struggle every bit as brilliant and valiant as her beloved ancients. Unlike the ancients, however, Greece’s modern heroes have gone largely unknown and uncelebrated. The purpose of the Hellenic Visual History Archive is to help carry the light of the ancient pantheon forward to the heroes of modern Hellenic history and culture so that their contributions to Western civilization can be remembered and appreciated as broadly and deeply as those of Greece’s earliest history.

THE BATTLE OF CRETE

My Friends, these days (May20-May30) we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Crete. For us Greeks nothing else can be of more significance than an anniversary that symbolizes FREEDOM in all its majestic significance… And the Battle of Crete was part of humanity’S Struggle for Freedom…

We read from MNIMI.ORG: The Battle of Crete, also Unternehmen Merkur, “Operation Mercury”, Greek: Μάχη της Κρήτης was fought during the Second World War on the Greek island of Crete. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany began an airborne invasion of Crete. Greek and other Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island. After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered heavy casualties and the Allied troops were confident that they would defeat the invasion.

The Battle of Crete was the first occasion where Fallschirmjäger (German paratroops) were used en masse, the first mainly airborne invasion in military history, the first time the Allies made significant use of intelligence from decrypted German messages from the Enigma machine, and the first time German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population.

The Battle of Crete is regularly taught at West Point military academy for all these reasons!!  Let me note here that the glorious Cretan resistance culminated in the abduction of German General Kreipe, the only abduction of a German General in WWII Europe!!

BELOW WE SELECT: 1) A FEW VERY SIGNIFICANT PHOTOS, 2) A summary Journal Of A Cretan Resistance Captain Covering the battle and Occupation and 3) The Maori who fought in the “Battle of Crete” and fell in love with a Cretan girl.

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PHOTO BELOW: German paratroopers entering the planes destined for Crete

PHOTOS BELOW: Parachutes over Chania, Crete… Let’s note here that triple parachutes were carrying heavy military equipment, while there were different colors of parachutes…

PHOTO BELOW: A JU-87 Stuka dive bomber is shot down near Chania, Crete…

PHOTOS BELOW: Fighting the Germans “tooth and nail”…

PHOTOS BELOW: Wars are won by the blood of the fighters…In the first photo, a regular scene: The Germans execute a resistance fighter… The second photo, an allied cemetery… Third photo: A German Cemetery… An even larger German cemetery was made by the Cretans themselves after the War.  They said that real men have to honor their dead enemies after a hard-fought battle… Yes, my friends, this is Crete… 

PHOTO BELOW:  A New Zealander native, a Maori, part of a regiment who fought in the Battle of Crete with great distinction…

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The Maori who fought in the “Battle of Crete” and fell in love with a Cretan girl.

The Maori who fought in the “Battle of Crete” and fell in love with a Cretan girl. Injury, torture by the Germans and marriage in New Zealand…

May 20, 1941. The sky of Crete was covered by hundreds of German planes. The Germans wanted to occupy the island because it was of great strategic importance. Hitler ordered the first and final air raid with paratroopers in World War II. Thousands of paratroopers began to fall from the planes. The first landed near Maleme airport in Chania. The German soldiers aimed to occupy hill 107 which was in the center of the airport. If they occupied the hill the airport would now be under their control. The next commandos would not parachute but would land with heavy weapons. To prevent this from happening, the area was defended by about 600 New Zealanders, out of a total of 7,770 who had arrived on the island along with their British and Australian allies. The 600 New Zealanders dispersed to protect an area of ​​about seven kilometers from the German threat. Despite their resistance, they were unable to repel the enemy.

Among them was Ned Nathan. Nathan belonged to the Maori tribe. He was one of 619 Maori who arrived on the island to fight. During the battle to defend Maleme, Nathan was seriously injured, mainly in the hip and in one eye. The New Zealand soldier lost consciousness and fell to the ground. His comrades-in-arms thought he was dead and abandoned him on the battlefield. Shortly afterward, Nathan woke up among dozens of corpses and seriously injured. According to legend, Cretan fighters found him, treated him, and helped him escape with others to Egypt. According to Columbia University professor George Kyriakopoulos in his book, ” The Nazi Occupation of Crete: 1941-1945,” Nathan boarded a boat in Souda. However, he failed to reach his destination. The boat was bombed by the Germans. Those who caught fell into the water to be saved. Nathan along with some others managed to swim to shore. As soon as he arrived, he fainted. He had not eaten or drunk water for days. His wounds were still fresh and he was exhausted.

The danger of the Germans taking him prisoner or killing him was great. But, at the right moment, Cretans found him and saved him. Nathan woke up at the Toraki family home in Sklavopoula. The father was a doctor and took care of his wounds. They gave him food. Nathan stayed at their house for months. They taught him the Greek language and phrases from the Cretan dialect so that he could move around freely and pretend to be Greek. The doctor’s niece, Katina, also lived in the house. Nathan fell in love with her from the first moment. However, the New Zealander did not immediately reveal his feelings. Wait for the right moment. From time to time he climbed the mountains of Crete and fought on the side of the guerrillas. According to Professor George Kyriakopoulos, he was arrested twice by the Gestapo but managed to escape because he convinced them that he was Cretan. But the third time he failed to deceive them. Someone had betrayed him. The Germans interrogated him to reveal the name of the family that had offered him shelter. Despite the torture and beatings he received, Nathan did not speak. He would never betray the people who had saved him and his beloved…

The Germans sent him to a prisoner-of-war concentration camp on the Polish-German border. He stayed there for about three years. However, from the tortures he received, his body was exhausted and he now had serious injuries. So, as soon as the war was over, he was sent to England to be treated. He had lost his sight in one eye, his jaw was broken and he had bullet wounds all over his body. When he was well, he went to Crete and revealed his love to the young Cretan girl. At the end of 1945, their marriage took place. But Nathan had to return home. As soon as he arrived in New Zealand, he spoke to the government to allow impoverished Greeks to live in their country. In the years following World War II, some 6,000 Greeks immigrated to New Zealand. Among them was Katina who managed to get close to her lover. Katina joined the Maori tribe and lived the rest of her life in New Zealand. They had three sons. They were taught the Greek language and grew up with Greek customs. From time to time they visited Greece, so that the children could learn about their second country of origin, but also to see their relatives. Ned Nathan died in 1987. Since then Katina Toraki has not returned to Greece. She died in 1996.

The original photo comes from Patricia Grace’s book “Ned & Katina: A True Love Story”…

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A summary Journal Of A Cretan Resistance Captain Covering the battle and Occupation

PHOTOS BELOW:  A Resistance for the Ages….

Those of you able to read Greek should definitely take a look at a unique part of mnimi.org, under “collections”: A Journal Of A Cretan Resistance Captain Covering the battle and Occupation…

There you have one after the other a series of journals/reports on the Battle of Crete but mostly on the three and a half years of the most glorious resistance, the world has ever seen. Here we will attempt a short summary.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Crete, it was clear to the Germans, after they had licked their wounds, that they will need a large and determined force to keep Crete under control.  From the side of the Cretans, the problem has multiple sides.  First, they knew they had to deal with a very barbaric enemy – and they already had some proof of their attacks on the civilian population.  Second, they had to protect and evacuate (to Alexandria Egypt) a large number of allied troops that were not able to leave during regular evacuation.  Third, they decided to organize sabotages and other acts of resistance against the occupying force.  The journals describe in detail many stories in all three of these fronts…

In the many pages of “The Journal” several names that are now famous: Nathenas, Bantouvas, Xylouris, and many, many others… Some of these heroes were transported by the Germans in the infamous death camps in Germany – the one in Belsen is specifically mentioned… And some died there… Glory to all these heroes!!

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