Liberation of Nigrita, June 20, 1913

On June 20, 1913, the Greek Army liberated the city of Nigrita from the Bulgarians, during the Second Balkan War. Previously, the Bulgarian army had set fire to the city and massacred those civilians who remained in it.
Nigrita is 25 kilometers south of Serres and is built at the foot of the Vertikos mountain range. At the time of the Balkan Wars it was one of the important commercial centers of the region. On October 22, 1913, Greek scouts (a military corps of volunteer veterans of the Macedonian Struggle) liberated the city from the Ottoman Turks and installed Greek authorities in it.
With the outbreak of the Second Balkan War, on June 16, 1913, Nigrita was occupied by the Bulgarians, who acted quickly and forced the 7th Division, which was defending it, to retreat further south to avoid being encircled. The Bulgarian brigade of Drama, which launched the attack, captured not only the city, but also the ridge above it.
The holocaust
The local history of Nigrita, but also of the wider area of ​​the municipality of Visaltia, is, as we know, very rich in historical events, very important for the collective memory and self-awareness of our place. Happy, glorious, heroic events, but also tragic, painful and bloody events.
But perhaps the most tragic event that happened in this place is none other than the Nigrita holocaust, unknown to many. The term used is not accidental. It is literally a holocaust experienced by the city, the inhabitants of Nigrita and almost the whole of Visaltia during the Second Balkan War.
During the four days from June 17 to 20, 1913, events took place, which the people who lived through them, never forgot until they left this life.
The thriving town of Nigrita went up in flames.
Only the Churches were spared from the fury of the Bulgarians, but they too were damaged by bombardments and looting. The murdered Nigerians exceeded 470 while the destroyed houses were more than 1,450. But the area of ​​Visaltia "killed" more widely these days.
For example, twenty-nine women, most of them from Terpni, were murdered after being raped. The elderly Sotirios Papa Paschalis and Hatzis Vangelis (who were scraped alive) had a bitter end, while "the venerable priest Nikolaon from Tsarpistis (Terpnis), 105 years old, was slaughtered after... they extracted his eyes". In Humkos (Houmniko) they set fire to 55 houses and in Xylotros (Agia Paraskevi) 15, where they destroyed 6 civilians.
They completely occupied Mergiani (Lygaria) and 97 houses in Dimitritsi. They slaughtered civilians, set fire to and destroyed the churches in Nikoslavi (Nikokleia) and Abdamal (Sesamia)".

The liberation
The reaction of the Greek army was immediate. On the morning of June 19, the 7th Division commanded by Engineer Colonel Napoleon Sotilis set off towards Nigrita. It was the extreme right wing of the Greek army, which on the same day had launched the attack on the main defensive line of the Bulgarians on the Kalinovu-Kilkis-Lachanas axis.
In Sulovo (today's Skepasto) the 20th Regiment of the 7th Division, after a short battle, put to flight three Bulgarian battalions, reinforced by a mountain artillery. The battle cost the regiment 30 dead and 169 wounded.
The next morning (June 20), the first units of the 7th Division entered Nigrita, but the Bulgarians destroyed it before withdrawing, setting fire to houses and massacring the civilian population.
"When colonel Sotilis, after a successful battle against the enemy, entered Nigritan, he found the until recently prosperous polychne transformed into smoking ruins and a slaughterhouse. Of its 1450 houses, only 49 remained standing. Everywhere lay the mutilated and charred corpses of its slaughtered inhabitants. According to the most modest estimates upwards of 400 inhabitants were completely massacred by the Bulgarian army before its retreat,” wrote The Times of London correspondent Crawford Price of the Bulgarian atrocities in Nigrita.
It was the foreshadowing of what would prevail in Serres a week later...