Alimia Island and World War II

Wovon Kann Der Landser Denn Schon Träumen Er” is a quite unexpected painted writing to be seen in one of the few buildings on the inhabited Alimia island of the Dodecanese complex in Greece. The island is one of the favorite destinations for sailing boats due to the protected bay and the turquoise waters offering a beautiful quiet stay while sailing the south Dodecanese islands. It is close to the picturesque island of Chalki (or Halki) just north of the larger island of Rhodes.

View of Alimia bay, close to Chalki island.

No one lives on the island but there are still few buildings and a couple of churches. Some of the buildings were used for military purposes during the second World War and in one of them unexpected wall paintings (like old time graffiti) surprise the visitor.

View of Alimia bay from the buildings where the wall paintings are. At the bottom center of the photo, a terrace of one of the three buildings can be seen.

The three buildings were obviously used for German forces garrison during World War II and one talented soldier painted on their walls. The main painting is surrounded by the text “Wovon Kann Der Landser Denn Schon Träumen Er” showing a soldier hugging a mermaid.

The main wall painting in the buildings of Alimia island. It is also surprising how well is preserved (the building has no doors and windows) and very little is written on top.

While trying to find a translation for the text, I found out that actually is the title of a German song from the war [please note that according to YouTube: “…content … being potentially offensive or inappropriate. Viewer discretion is advised.“]. In a simplified way the title means “What can the soldier (still) dream?” and the song goes on that the soldier can dream his maid, the next reunion, his father house, his youth and so on… Back to the painting, on Alimia island, surrounded by sea and natural beauty, for a soldier to dream of a mermaid makes perfect sense. Left and right of the main painting there are two smaller ones with the left one about the arrival of a letter “Kam Ein Brief Ein” and the right one about  beer “Eins, Zwei, G’Suffa” a traditional Bavarian toast also taken from a song: “In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus“. Of course receiving letters and drinking beer were two favorite topics for soldiers.

In other rooms the wall paintings depict landscapes most probably from the soldier(s) homeland and from the scenery, in addition to the Bavarian toast, it seems very possible that they were from Bavaria and maybe from the Alps.

One of the two wall paintings depicting a traditional village.
The second wall painting with the countryside landscape and farm.

It is natural to wonder today why the Germans had permanently troops on such small, inhabited and isolated island during the war. But it seems that the Dodecanese islands played an important role on naval domination over the Mediterranean and Balkan region. As is explained in the Dodecanese Campaign Wikipedia article, the Allied forces, mostly British, wanted to capture the Italian-held Dodecanese islands and use them as bases against the German-controlled Balkans. The Allied forces wanted not only to deprive the Axis of excellent forward bases in the Mediterranean, but also apply pressure on neutral Turkey to join the war. While Alimia isn’t mentioned in any of the main battles, such a natural, protected harbor could have been used as a small base for patrols, communications and warnings against enemy activities. The Allied forces were defeated and the islands were under German occupation till the end of the war.

Greek destroyer Vasilissa Olga participated in the Battle of Leros, where she transported members of the Long Range Desert Group to the island, but unfortunately on September 26, she was attacked and sunk by 25 Junkers Ju 88 bombers in the Gulf of Lakki in Leros. (Photo taken from Wikipedia:

The nearby battle of Leros, inspired the 1957 novel The Guns of Navarone and the successful 1961 movie of the same name.

5 thoughts on “Alimia Island and World War II

  1. I was told by Greeks on Chalki that it was first a refuelling base for Italian submarines. Straffed by the Germans from Rhodes in 1943 when the Italians switched sides. I have been there and there are bullet holes on some buildings. The Germans may have inhabited it afterwards. Interesting to have a German view of the conflict. The British and the Greeks don’t remember those years as fondly.


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