Greco-Bulgarian borders. The time: 05.15, 6th April 1941. The German invasion in Greece commences. The Greek army is focused on the Albanian front. After having defeated the Italian spring attack, the Greek forces have taken control of Northern Epirus. With its image taken a serious hit, Hitler wishes to end the situation at the Balkans before turning his guns against the Soviet Union. Believing that Greece is an apple ready to fall, he sends the 12th German army, commanded by field marshal Wilhelm List. By the beginning of the attack we have the first heroic pages of the Greco-German war.
Von List commanded fifteen army groups. His main objective was to conquer the Metaxas line of fortifications, which was blocking the way of any invader from the north. The forts consisted the biggest defensive construction of Greece, covering an area from Serres to Komotini. Since it was the guard to the entrance of the Strymonas valley from Bulgaria to Greece, fort Roupel would be attacked rabidly by the German forces.
The attack commenced on the 6th April, with the German airforce starting bombing the fort with stukas airplanes, whilst boats were trying to pass the river. Both of them were unsuccessful. The Greeks defend themselves heroically and cause many losses to their foes. At the eve of the 8th April the German command asked for a truce to collect their fallen comrades.
On the 9th April the battle continues. After the end of the day, a German car with a white flag approached the fort. The Greek commander of Fort Roupel, major Georgios Douratsos sent lieutenant Ioannis Damianos with three soldiers. The Germans demanded the surrender of the fort, since Greece had surrendered. Then the Greek officer responded:
“1) The forts surrender only when they are being conquered by the enemy. 2) We do not have any order regarding any capitulation by our commanding officers 3) We accept commands and serve them only by our commanding authorities. 4) The fight will continue and any attempt to approach the fort will be crashed.”
Douratsos destroyed every document and map of the fort, whilst his soldiers having decided for a fight to the end, were begging him to not surrender the fort. Before midnight of the same day, Douratsos received the news of capitulation and commands for surrender from Athens. It was useless to continue fighting in the fort. The Greek soldiers threw their weapons at the river Strymonas, so that they wouldn’t be used by the Germans. At the morning of the 10th April 1941 fort Roupel surrendered to the Germans, who lined up a contingent of honour, asking from major Douratsos to inspect. That was the end for the Battle of the Forts and the Battle at Fort Roupel, which was not conquered, but forced to surrender, obeying orders from its higher authorities.
Today, 77 years leter, fort Roupel is open to the visitors. There is a museum, a memorial and an observatory. The visitor has the opportunity to feel the heartbeat of history itself by visiting the tunnels and the galleries of the fort, which are four kilometres long. The soldiers of the camp offer a free tour every weekend.
Lastly, every year you have the opportunity to revive the epic battle of Roupel. The festival of historic reenactment “Roupel 1941 – the revival” brings together reenactment teams and groups from Greece and all over the world to recreate the rabid attempt of the Germans to conquer the fort – symbol. There is an extensive use of real equipment, special effects and real flights from airplanes to maximise the feeling of the battle. The festival takes place at the beginning of May.
Fort Rouper is only 43 kilometres away from our hotel. You may find all the required information at the front desk!