As the Greek island marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Crete a hidden gem of a museum in the town of Platanias, west of Chania, remains o poignant reminder of the three-and-a-half-year occupation of the island during the Second World War.
The War Shelter museum of Platanias consists of an underground complex of booths and tunnels that were used by the Germans to store ammunition and military materiel during the World War II.
Many decades after the war, the Platanias Church Committee and citizens of the village decided to reconstruct the war shelter and utilize it as a small World War II museum in memory of the Battle of Crete.
The German army used locals as forced labor to build the tunnels that were mainly used to store weapons and ammunition.
The tunnels have been preserved in their original form and visitors to the museum can see unique exhibits abandoned by the Germans when they withdrew from Crete. Among the old photographs, Nazi uniforms, helmets, furniture and containers used by the Germans for storing fuel.
Abandoned military hardware, such as antiaircraft missiles, mines, torpedo tubes, are also displayed at the museum.
The construction of the shelter itself is related to an interesting local story, according to the local site goplatanias.gr.
During the Battle of Crete a heavily wounded German pilot died in Platanias after he was nursed by locals for several days. The strong fear for Nazi reprisals and executions of innocent civilians forced the villagers to bury the German soldier in a secret grave near a church.
Unfortunately, some days later this exact spot was chosen by the German officer in order to begin the excavations for the shelter construction.
Mihalis Stamatakis, a smart church commissioner, persuaded the Nazis to move the tunnel entrance thus not revealing the secret soldiers grave and consequently saving the village from certain massacre.
He invoked the holiness of an olive tree that stands in the same place at the main entrance of the war shelter today.