A World Without Men
The Story of Kalavryta

By Herman Labuschagne

One day all the men and boys over the age of 14 in the Greek village of Kalavryta were exterminated as reprisal for the killing of 81 German soldiers. This is the story of their destruction.

The women of Kalavryta weep for the loss of the their entire male population.


If you are a woman reading this, could you imagine what that community you live in would be like if you woke up to a world that had no men at all? It happened before. On this day, 70 years ago, the women of the Greek town of Kalavryta woke up to a world that had no men.


What happened was that some partisans had first captured, and then killed 81 mostly German soldiers that had occupied their country. On the 13th of December 1943 the Nazi troops rounded up all the male inhabitants of Kalavryata from the age of 12 years up. They were herded into a large hollow beyond the town’s cemetery. Trembling, the entire male population of the village stood before the guns. They were just ordinary townsfolk and they did not know what was going on. They merely thought they were going to be deported.


Meanwhile, in the village all the women were taken to the school and shut inside. Upon that the entire town was set alight.


In the hollow, young boys cried and old men stared helplessly into the heavens. Flares were lit at the village. The gunners armed their weapons and waited for the signal. And then the machine guns opened up. When they finished their death rattle, 696 bodies lay strews across the Greek fatherland. Only 13 of them survived.


A British agent who was nearby at the time, said that at the school the wailing of the women and children “was unbearable.” On the 14th, the occupiers burnt down the Monoastery of Agia Lavra as well – just to make sure that the entire Kalavryta would be reduced to ashes. On that day, the women of Kalavryta became a community without men. A world that had, for a time at least, no future.


The German soldiers are taking a rest after having murdered the men and setting fire to the town behind them.


None of the officers who gave the orders for extermination were ever brought to justice after the war. It is hard to decide where to assign the most blame. The Germans who murdered the men in the Massacre of Kalavryta were heartless butchers. But the partisans who murdered captured soldiers performed an inhumane act as well. Yet the soldiers whom they murdered, had no right to occupy their peaceful country. It was tit-for-tat and vengeance-upon-vengeance.


The problem with an-eye-for-an-eye is that it leaves both sides blind.


“The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.: - Isaiah 59:8.