Thursday, November 08, 2018


Gun Control

George Psychoundakis (1920-2006), The Cretan Runner: His Story of the German Occupation, tr. Patrick Leigh Fermor (1955; rpt. New York: NYRB Classics, 2015), page number unknown:
Not many days passed before four Germans arrived from Argyroupolis with an interpreter. They sat down at the coffee-shop, summoned the Mayor of the village, and at once began asking him questions. The first thing they asked was, had the villagers taken part in the battle against the parachutists? The Mayor answered that our village was so far away that we hardly knew that a battle had taken place. Then they asked if the village possessed any arms, but once more the Mayor said that the villages had given up all their arms to the country at the time of the Albanian war, and that only a fowling-piece or two still remained. The Germans said they must all be handed over, even fowling-pieces, and that for each gun that was withheld ten men would be shot and their houses burnt down.

'You must collect them all at the village police-station and the police will bring them to us at Argyroupolis,' they said 'and the wireless set must be handed over as well.' So the owner was called and told where and when it should be taken. Meanwhile some of the villagers had collected and were gazing at the Germans with curiosity. And the inquisitive ones were not a few, because many thought they were beholding some kind of strange animal.

The villagers thought it would be wise to hand over a few rotten and harmless guns — any old iron to deceive the Germans with — in case they had learnt that we possessed any arms. It would be best, they said, for the sporting-guns to be handed over as well lest the Germans should learn the owners' names from the list of licences in the records at Canea. So about a dozen sporting-guns were collected at the police-station, and about the same number of totally useless rifles. The good ones were hidden away as carefully as sacred relics — holy things to be used at the right time, when the signal of liberation should be given; and there were plenty, because, when the English retreated to Sphakia, even small boys had gone down to the seashore and the valleys bringing rifles back with them.

The days followed each other and news came from all over Crete of the daily brutalities committed by the Germans. Every day we learnt of new burnings and shootings and fear grew inside us but also strengthened the hatred in our souls.
From Simon Steyne's obituary of Psychoundakis:
But when I asked George why he had immediately joined the resistance in Crete, he looked at me as though I was from another planet and replied with one word: "philopatria" — love of my country.
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