Ψηλά στον Ψηλορείτη μου, μια μέρα εγώ θ'ανέβω,
εκειά που ζούνε οι αετοί, την Κρήτη ν'αγναντεύω.
With the evacuation of the last surviving remnants of the British Forces that helped defend the island, the Cretan populace was to face its greatest test. In the first months of Nazi occupation, thousands of Cretans were randomly executed to stamp out the resistance movement before it could grow. Families were sent to the concentration camps. Entire villages were burned to the ground. Yet unlike other European resistance efforts which quickly yielded to German pacification—the celebrated French and Dutch among them—Crete’s civilian population never gave up; they locked German soldiers into a state of continuous and relentless conflict in a single location for over four years, drawing in thousands of additional German troops with each passing year. By 1944, that number would exceed 100,000. Yet despite this brute force of numbers, and the brutal terror those numbers would unleash upon the population, the Cretan people never stopped fighting.
The Germans had never encountered the extent of civilian resistance that they encountered on Crete. Retribution was swift. The German High Command wanted to break the spirit of the populace and do it quickly. In this they failed and failed miserably.In retaliation for the losses they incurred, the Nazis spread punishment, terror and death on the innocent civilians of the island. More than two thousand Cretans were executed during the first month alone and twenty five thousand more later. Despite these atrocities, for the four years following the Allied withdrawal from the island, the people of Crete put up a courageous guerilla resistance, aided by a few British officers of the Special Operations Executuive and Allied troops who remained. They risked certain death to assist and protect the British soldiers left on the island. Those involved were known as the "Andartes" (the Rebels).
Cretan people of all ages joined or aided the Andartes. Children would pile rocks in the roads to slow down the German convoys. They even carried messages in their schoolbooks because it was the only place that the German soldiers never looked. These messages contained information critical to the Andartes who were hiding in the mountains and would come down for midnight raids or daytime sabotages.The German terror campaign was meant to break the fighting spirit and morale of the Andartes. Besides the random and frequent executions, German soldiers used other means to achieve their goal. They leveled many buildings in the towns and villages, destroyed religious icons, and locked hundreds of Cretans in churches for days without food or water, but nothing worked. These actions only made the Cretans more ferocious in their quest for freedom. The hierarchs, priests and monks of the Orthododox Church served with distinction in the struggle and were role models for their flock.