Sep. 2, 1944: Nazis destroy Hortiatis and massacre 149 villagers

On 2 September 1944, the village of Chortiatis was destroyed by Nazi occupiers causing grief throughout all of Greece, and especially the neighboring areas of Macedonia, especially Thessaloniki. The tragic account: 149 people were burnt alive or executed. 51 residents were under 18 years of age. Of these 128 were women and children

On the morning of September 2, 1944, an ELAS detachment(guerilla group affiliated with the communist party )platoon led by Vaios Rikoudis, which was under the company commanded by Antonis Kazakos (Captain Florias), attacked two cars heading to the village of Hortiatis at Kamara. A car belonging to the Thessaloniki Water Authority was hit first and a German car following behind shortly thereafter.

After these two insurgent attacks, the inhabitants of Chortiatis sought Kazakos’ advice as to whether they should leave the village, fearing retaliation by the Germans, but he reassured them, that they had nothing to fear. So the majority of the people who were then in the village stayed in their homes (mostly women and children, since most of the men had left early to go to work). Then the guerrillas fled to Livadi and Petrokerassa, taking the prisoners with them.

Shortly thereafter, about twenty trucks arrived at Chortiatis with German soldiers and men from Fritz Schubert’s Anti- Guerrilla Force (also known as “schuberites”, that is, collaborator Greeks who killed on behalf of the Nazis) and surrounded the village. After gathering the locals they found, in the central square of the village, they began to plunder and set fire to the houses.

They then led the residents who were in locked in Stefanos Gouramanis’s bakery. While transporting them to the Gourqamanis’ bakery, one of Schubert’s men played a festive tune on the violin. After they were locked in the bakery, Schubert’s men set up a machine gun and began firing at them from a small door window. Then they set fire to burn alive those who had not been killed by the machine gunfire. Those trapped who attempted to escape the burning building were stabbed by soldiers waiting outside. Only two people were able to escape from the bakery.

Apart from the residents who were murdered in the two aforementioned parts of the village, others were murdered outside their homes and eleven were pursued and executed outside the village while trying to escape. Chortiatis’ female residents also fell victim to rape before being murdered by Schubert’s men. A total of 149 Chortiatis residents were killed that day, including 109 women and girls, and about 300 homes were burned. Fearing that the Germans would return but also flinching at the smell of burnt corpses left unburied, the residents who managed to survive did not return to the village until several days later. On September 4, Schubert’s men returned to complete the pillage of the houses they had begun two days earlier. Representatives of the Red Cross learned of Chortiatis’ slaughter on September 5 and managed to obtain permission to enter the village only on September 7.

Eleni Gouramanis-Nanakoudis was one of the few survivors of the massacre, literally escaping through the flames. Petros Tsagalis, who was then 8 years old, also managed to survive the slaughter: “… I left the bakery before they were fired upon it and set on fire … On the street I met Eleni, it was as if they had plunged her into a cauldron of blood and it was dripping all over her. She was dripping with blood! … “. They also rescued 44-year-old Maria Angelinoudis, 12-year-old Vasiliki Gouramanis, 2-year-old Soula Angelinoudis, 4-year-old Iris Zekka, and the three  Romoudis brothers.