Book Hotels in Meligalas
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Meligalas (Greek: Μελιγαλάς) is a town and former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Oichalia, of which it is a municipal unit. Population 4,040 (2001).
After the Germans left southern Greece terminating the occupation of Kalamata and surrounding Messinia area, Axis Occupation of Greece (1941–1944), the town became the site of a battle between the communist-dominated Greek Resistance forces of EAM-ELAS commanded by Aris Velouchiotis and the Security Battalions that had been stationed in the town during German occupation.
The Security Battalions were forces set up by the collaborationist Prime Minister Ioannis Rallis, with the approval of the German authorities, to aid in the control of the Greek people. Under the terms of the Caserta agreement, signed by the British, the Greek Government in Exile, and Greek resistance leaders, (1e) ‘The Security Battalions are considered as instruments of the enemy. Unless they surrender according to orders issued by the GOC [General Officer Commanding] they will be treated as enemy formations’.
In September of 1944, consequent on the German forces evacuating from Messinia in the Peloponnese, ELAS disarmed the majority of collaborationist forces in the Messinian capital Kalamata. Some Battalionists, however, broke out of Kalamata and retreated to the town of Meligalas. According the greek communist party newspaper 'Rizospastis' on the way they killed 30 inhabitants of the village of Aprochomo, as well as four ELAS operatives who were allegedly fixing the village’s telephone system.
ELAS arrived in Meligalas on 11 September and after a three-day siege of the town, Meligalas fell to the hands of the Resistance forces. On the 14th, Battalionists executed all hostages they held. Following the fall of the town, some collaborators were kept as prisoners while a disputed number were executed for treason and collaboration with the occupation forces. The bodies of those who had fallen in the battle, including ELAS fighters, and those executed were thrown into a well shaft known as "pigada". Apart from the executions, some prisoners were lynched by angry inhabitants of Meligalas and other villagers round about, who had lost family members to the Battalionists. Ares Velouchiotis ruled subsequently that extra care must be taken to protect prisoners from locals.
A British Foreign Office memorandum notes: 'Ares (Velouchiotis) arrives in Kalamata from Meligalas, at the head of the III Division of ELAS, with 1000 antartes and his officers. He transfers to the city a number of prisoners, members of the Security Battalions. On the road to Kalamata a mob of non-combatants string up 12 of the prisoners and knife 14 others'.
ELAS lost approximately 200 fighters. There is however considerable dispute about the number of battalionists killed in the fighting, in subsequent executions and in the lynching by villagers, with figures ranging from 700 to several thousand. In 1945. the coroner’s office of near-by Kapsadaki announced that it had exhumed 708 bodies. On the memorial there are inscribed 787 names from 61 towns and villages. The Meligalas Victims Association gives a figure of 1,144, of whom 108 are from Meligalas, including 18 women, 18 elderly people, one youth and no children – the remaining 96.8% are men of fighting age. In the same publication of the Victim’s Association that gives a figure of 1,144 bodies, there are also references to 1,550 and more, 2,000 and 5,000.
The battle and the resulting bloodshed of unarmed civilians, retreating battalionists and alleged collaborators are aften referred to as the 'Massacre of Meligalas'. After the Occupation and the end of the Greek Civil War, Greek governments paid tribute to the fallen collaborators, a practice which ceased after the fall of the Greek military junta of 1967–1974.