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This Week in History: June 10th to 16th

JUNE 10TH:

On this day in 1944, 218 men, women and children were massacred in Distomo, a small village near Delphi, by German troops during World War II. For over two hours, the Germans went door to door and killed Greek civilians using the pretext that they had come under attack by Greek guerillas. According to survivors, the German forces “bayoneted babies in their cribs, stabbed and disemboweled pregnant women, and beheaded the village priest.” As a result of this attack, a quarter of Distomo’s population died. Fritz Lautenbach, the commander of the German soldiers, was never arrested and Hans Zampel, another German commander, was acquitted after being extradited by Greece to Germany. Like other Nazi atrocities in Greece, the massacre of Distomo is considered a ‘legal dead end.’ Today, a massive memorial located on a hilltop overlooking the village commemorates those who lost their lives on June 10, 1944. The memorial contains all of the names and the skulls of some of the victims.

 

JUNE 13TH:

On this day in 1904, Nikiphoros Lytras, the Greek painter, died at the age of 72 after a short illness that is believed to have been caused by inhalation of chemical substances in the paints he used. Born on the island of Tinos, Lytras was the son of a popular marble sculptor. He was trained in Athens at the School of Arts and then at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Munich. After completing his studies, he became a professor at the Academy of Arts – a position he held for almost 40 years. In 1879, Lytras married Irene Kyriakidi, a daughter of a tradesman from Smyrna and they had six children – one of which followed in his father’s artistic footsteps. Lytras’ subjects ranged from figures of Greek mythology and Greek history, to more Asiatic themes after his travels to Asia Minor and Egypt, and finally to scenes about aging, loneliness, and the fear of death in his later years. His most well-known landscape was a depiction of the region of Lavrio.

 

JUNE 15TH:

On this day in 1946, Demis Roussos, the Greek singer and performer, was born in Alexandria, Egypt to a Greek father and an Egyptian mother of Italian origin. Demis was raised in Egypt until his parents moved to Greece in the early 1960s after losing their possessions following the Suez Crisis. Best known for his solo hits in the 1970s and 80s, Demis sold more than 60 million albums worldwide before dying at the age of 68. After ‘retiring’ from making music, Demis was famously caught up in a plane hijacking when flight TWA from Athens to Rome was hijacked by members of Hezbollah in 1985. It was reported that he and his third wife at the time were held at gunpoint for 5 days before they were released. Some of his fellow passengers endured more than two weeks in captivity. Demis said that the experience changed his life and afterwards he decided the best way he could help others and promote understanding in the world was by returning to music.

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