Like Zakynthos Kefalonia was also affected during WW2. Their biggest tragedy is now remembered by a monument erected on the island, to commemorate around nine thousand Italian soldiers from the Acqui division who died at the hands of the Germans. Some were also removed from the island and taken to detention camps, although not all survived.
Kefalonia had been invaded by the Italians in 1941 in the same week that Zakynthos was invaded. An attack on Italy in 1943, by allies saw an armistice declared by the then Italian government on September. News travelled fast and Italian soldiers in Greece, thought that the war was finally over. The Germans immediately began to disarm Italians across Greece, invading axis territories and taking control. The ionians didn’t escape.
Throughout September 1943, the Italian armies across Greece were treated appallingly and many suffered, and the numbers of Italians dying at the hands of the Germans steadily rose.
On September 24th, The Italian General on Kefalonia was executed alongside one hundred and thirty-six other Italian officers. Reports say that they were rounded up into groups and shot with machine guns and that some panicked and tried to escape, whilst others cried out. Thirty-seven survived when the chaplain intervened.
The Germans demanded that twenty Italians take the dead Italians bodies out to sea to dump them, as the boats made their way through the waters the Germans blew up the boats killing the Italians.
This wasn’t the end of the horrors that faced the Italians on Kefalonia by the 26th September 1943 around five thousand Italians officers were tried as deserters and executed. Most were killed over a two hour period, by gunshot, in various locations such as votives, quarries or against walls. It’s rumoured that during the executions the officers were even forced to sing by the Germans. Many of the dead Italians were either dumped at sea, left where they were or burned.
It’s thought that around four thousand Italians escaped death but were instead sent to detention camps. Sadly it’s said that around three thousand of them died when their transport boats hit sea mines.
What happens to the Italian division on Kefalonia was horrific. So many men died and it’s incomprehensible that such cruelty could have taken in such an idyllic part of the world.
Today we pay our respects to our neighbour Kefalonia and to those Italian soldiers who lost their lives in such a terrible way.