Kalavryta, the Holocaust Memorial site
The Holocaust of Kalavryta (Greek: Ολοκαύτωμα των Καλαβρύτων), or the Massacre of Kalavryta (Σφαγή των Καλαβρύτων), refers to the extermination of the male population and the subsequent total destruction of the town of Kalavryta, in Greece, by German occupying forces during World War II on 13 December 1943. It is the most serious case of war crimes committed during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II. In November 1943, the German 117th Jäger Division began a mission named Unternehmen Kalavryta (Operation Kalavryta), intending to encircle Greek guerilla fighters in the mountainous area surrounding Kalavryta. During the operations, some German soldiers were killed and 77 of them, who were taken prisoners, were executed by the Greek guerillas. The Command of the German division decided to react with harsh and massive reprisal operations. The reprisals began from the coastal area of Achaea in Northern Peloponnese; Wehrmacht troops marched to the town of Kalavryta, burning villages and murdering civilians on their way. When they reached the town they locked all women and children in the town's school and ordered all male residents 12 and older to a hill just overlooking the village. There, the German troops machine-gunned down all of them. There were only 12 male survivors who were present on that day. One other boy of Kalavryta survived, but he was at school during the massacre in a near-by town. The 12 survivors told their story of survival to him, saying that after the Germans went down the line with the machine-gun, their fallen bodies were covered with other dead bodies. This way, when the Germans went through again to pick off the survivors, the few lucky ones were not further injured or killed. Allegedly, the women and children managed to free themselves from the school after a Nazi took pity on them and let them escape while the town was set ablaze. The following day the Nazi troops burnt down the Monastery of Agia Lavra, a landmark of the Greek War of Independence. In total, more than 1200 civilians were killed during the reprisal operations. About 1,000 houses were looted and burned and more than 2,000 sheep and other large domestic animals were seized by the Germans. Today the Place of Sacrifice is kept as a memorial site and the events are commemorated each year. Despite the fact that the Federal Republic of Germany has publicly acknowledged the Nazi atrocity at Kalavryta, war reparations have not been paid. On 18 April 2000, the then-president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Johannes Rau, visited the town of Kalavryta to express his feelings of shame and deep sorrow for the tragedy; however, he didn't accept responsibility on behalf of the German state and did not refer to the issue of reparations which he could not as the position is largely a ceremonial one and does not afford the president the ability to do so.
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Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.
The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.
Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".
Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.
Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights.
In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states.
Text by Steve Smith.